Landmark court decision will bring sick refugee child and family to Australia for medical treatment

3 July 2018
A sick two-year-old refugee girl will be flown to Australia within 48 hours for urgent medical treatment, following a Federal Court decision handed down today.

In the landmark decision, Justice Bernard Murphy’s court orders will see the sick girl’s family reunited in Australia, after the girl and her mother were separated from the father last month.

Jennifer Kanis, social justice practice manager at Maurice Blackburn, which represented the girl and her family on the case, said this morning’s decision was a great outcome.

“This is a landmark decision in that we are for the first time seeing a separated refugee family be reunited in Australia for urgent medical treatment,” she said.

“The family are thrilled that they will shortly be together again to support each other while their little girl undergoes the medical tests and treatment she needs in Australia.”

The girl, who was born in Nauru, was living in immigration detention with her mother and father on Nauru when she became critically ill in June, with doctors recommending an evacuation to a tertiary hospital with a first-world paediatric intensive care unit.

Despite this recommendation, the girl and her mother were transferred to Papua New Guinea where she was admitted to a private hospital which does not have the facilities or specialists needed to properly treat her. Her father was left on Nauru.

“It’s a sad indictment that we have had to seek court action to get the Government to do the right thing and bring this girl and her family to Australia,” Ms Kanis said.

“This very young child has been diagnosed with herpes encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain caused by a virus that can cause scarring and damage to the brain. While her condition has been brought under control in PNG, the illness has a very high risk of relapse and permanent brain injury.

“The delay in bringing her to Australia has already compromised her treatment, and it’s disappointing that we had to go to the court to get Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his department to do the right thing.

“It is shameful that the Minister and the Department continue to blatantly disregard the health and wellbeing of children under their care. This is the second time this year we have had to go to court to ensure a child receives proper medical care.

“We hope this decision will force the Government to stop denying refugee children the medical care they need.”

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