The Abbott government has established a three-member expert panel to provide advice on child protection inside Australian mainland and offshore detention centres.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton will also announce on Saturday that six Australian Federal Police officers will also be sent to Nauru to advise local police on investigating sexual abuse cases.
Both developments are part of the government’s response to the damning findings of the Moss Review into allegations of sexual abuse inside the Nauru detention centre, which was released in March.
The review, conducted by former integrity commissioner Philip Moss, found evidence of rape, sexual assault of minors and guards trading marijuana for sexual favours from female detainees. It also cleared Save the Children staff of claims they had coached detainees to embarrass the Abbott government.
The three-member panel is made up of John Lawler, the former chief executive of the Australian Crime Commission, Margaret Allison, a former director-general of the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services in Queensland and Dominic Downie, a public servant of 35 years’ experience.
Although the government dismissed a Human Rights Commission report into children in detention as politically motivated, Mr Dutton said the panel had been created and AFP sent to Nauru as a result of the Moss findings.
“As I indicated at the time, prior to the release of the Moss Review I directed the [department] secretary to take an even more active role in responding to allegations than was recommended by Mr Moss,” he said.
“The department is progressing all of the recommendations of the Moss Review and I’m pleased that I can announce it is undertaking this additional work to examine the adequacy and appropriateness of the responses of the department and its service providers to allegations of abuse involving a child.”
Some of the AFP officers will provide advice to the Nauru Police Force on sexual assault investigations and others will provide advice in relation to the allegations of unrest in February and March 2.
Mr Dutton said the child protection panel will work to strengthen policies and procedures relating to the safety and welfare of children in detention, reporting to the secretary of the Immigration Department.
The panel will also reviewing allegations dating back to 2008 to ensure they have been handled appropriately by the department and service providers.
“I am confident that departmental and service provider staff members always have the best interests of children at heart but, there are always opportunities to strengthen the tools and processes in place to adequately record, monitor and follow up these sorts of allegations,” said Mr Dutton.