Teacher who worked at school for asylum seekers on Nauru says conditions are cruel, inhumane
Fears children who may be sent back from mainland to Nauru will be traumatised
Describes parents' 'in absolute tears' when Nauru school closed
Last week the High Court threw out a challenge to offshore detention, ruling that asylum seekers now in Australia may have to return to Nauru.
Evan Davis was contracted to teach the children of asylum seekers at an Australian-funded school on the island from 2014 until the school was closed in the middle of last year.
I remember when it was announced that the school was closing, the parents were in absolute tears because … they said in their own words, 'this is the last good thing that we have on this island'.
Evan Davis, teacher
"Ever since I came back, and I've been back in Australia since July, I don't think a day goes past where I don't think about these students," Mr Davis told PM.
"But I also just constantly think about the damage that we're doing to them by detaining them on the island, and also the damage that we'll be doing to these people if we return them.
"So I just can't live with myself with the thought that I've witnessed this.
"I'm probably one of the few people that has actually had the privilege of teaching these students and getting to know them and I just think that the Australian public should realise what's happening to these people."
"I mean our attendance rate was excellent, the kids would always been waiting for us at the bus stop in the morning where we picked them up from the camp," he said.
"I look at those kids and you could see the next generation of doctors and teachers and nurses and any opportunity that they have has been robbed of them.
"So I find it really hard to reconcile that imposing that type of abuse and creating that type of trauma on these students is justified under the fact that it has stopped the boats."
Mr Davis spoke to PM on the day the Australian Human Rights Commission released a report into the condition of children at Wickham Point Detention Centre in Darwin.
'We have no hope, we have no future'
The report's authors found the children, most of whom had spent months in Nauru, were among the most traumatised they had ever seen.
Mr Davis agreed that the detention system on Nauru was inhumane.
"It was quite obvious abuse," he said.
"The kids, towards the end of my tenure there, I found that the kids were becoming very, very depressed.
"I mean, we could still motivate them to do work but essentially once they left school, they went back to camp and they sat around, they said that they were depressed, they quite often talked about thoughts of suicide, of self-harm."
"I remember when it was announced that the school was closing, the parents were in absolute tears because … they said in their own words, 'this is the last good thing that we have on this island'.
"'This is the only good thing that we have on this island, this is the only thing that we look forward to, and as a consequence, taking that away from us means that we have nothing now, we have no hope, we have no future, we don't know what's happening.'
"I mean, some of these people have been in detention close to two years now.
"Even if they are released, they're still stuck on the island, which is only a very, very small island, and there's nothing for them to do."
Mr Davis said he felt compelled to speak out, even though he was risking a two-year jail term.
"It's a cruel. It's an inhumane way of treating people, and there's no question about it that these young people, and also the parents as well, are suffering greatly as a result of the policies and the way they're being treated," he said.
"And I just think that it's irresponsible for someone who knows about this not to speak up about it."
....and here in Victoria
They are dropped off at school in a white van, and escorted to the gates every morning by two burly guards.
And when the last bell rings, the guards return the students to Broadmeadows detention centre, where they live behind barbed wire with their families.
"It is about time that we showed a bit of compassion for these young people," principal Paul Dingle said.
"We want all young people to learn and be better citizens. These students have expressed their joy at being at school, being able to interact with peers in a relatively free environment and to be learning. It would a traumatic experience to have that cut off and for them to have to go back to place like Nauru."
The high school students are among 267 asylum seekers who came to Australia for medical treatment with their families, and could be returned to immigration detention in Nauru within days.
It follows a High Court ruling last week that Australia's offshore processing of asylum seekers was lawful.
Mr Dingle is responsible for the students when they attend the multicultural school, and said it was one of the few places where they feel like normal kids.
They wear the school blazer and tie, play basketball at lunch and chat with their friends in the library. Many of their classmates are unaware of their uncertain future, or the fact that they live in detention. "They are very hardworking, young people and really keen to take advantage of what is offered," he said.
Staff are distressed about the student's future, and the prospect that they may not turn up to school one day soon.
There is growing pressure on the Turnbull government to let the group of asylum seekers remain in Australia. A Department of Immigration spokeswoman said that 48 children of school age were subject to return to Nauru.
Premier Daniel Andrews has called on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to let the group settle in Victoria, and said the state would accept full responsibility for their education, health, housing and welfare services.