The Department of Immigration and Border Protection has been forced into another embarassing apology and another settlement payment over its erroneous claims that Save the Children staff had encouraged protest activity in the Nauru detention centre in 2014.

In May last year, the department apologised and made a confidential financial settlement with the charity organisation Save the Children after the department removed nine Save the Children workers from Nauru in 2014, alleging that the staff had encouraged asylum seekers in the Nauru detention centre to protest against their detainment. After their removal, then-minister Scott Morrison launched an independent review into the claims, and found there was no real evidence to back it up. The review suggested that the department had pushed Transfield to indict Save the Children workers.

Now, eight months later, the department has amended the wording of its original apology to extend from apologising for the detriment suffered by Save the Children to Save the Children employees, and specifically that it “regrets any hurt and embarrassment caused to SCA employees”.

Accompanying the new statement is another financial settlement for the employees themselves, again confidential, although the ABC has reported it is estimated to be worth $1 million in total

Morrison has steadfastly refused to apologise to Save the Children or the nine employees in the past, despite claiming they had “allegedly coached self-harm”. In May last year he told the ABC he was working on the best evidence he had at the time.

Former SCA staffer Natasha Blucher told a parliamentary inquiry in 2015 that she was distraught over the claims that she had encouraged self harm.

“I was signing incident reports desperately supporting caseworkers to try to give them strategies to talk their clients down from self-harm or from suicidal ideation, and I was going to bed at night terrified that I would wake up in the morning and find that more clients had harmed themselves. And then to be told that I was accused of having tried to facilitate that was beyond comprehension.”

Crikey attempted to get a hold of the original settlement the department made with Save the Children, but the Freedom of Information request was rejected on the grounds that the settlement detail was on a “need-to-know” basis. 

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
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