With permission from Sarah Smith, here is a copy of a letter she has sent to Peter Dutton:

“Dear Minister Dutton

You may have seen my article, published by The Guardian, last Thursday, May 5 2016. I have included a link here for your reference.


Today I became the latest advocate to be officially diagnosed with Vicarious Trauma, due to what I’m witnessing my friends suffer in detention on Manus and Nauru, and what my friends here are suffering after having been detained in Australia’s offshore ‘regional processing centres’.

The counsellor who diagnosed me has a friend who is a former security guard on Nauru, and who is now completely psychologically broken from his time there- despite having actively served in the military for 20 years in conflict zones, and emerging from that role trauma-free.

Minister, if hardened soldiers are being traumatized by what is occurring in offshore detention, and if people who have never been there are being traumatized by what they’re witnessing from the safety of their own homes, you can’t possibly claim that offshore detention is not a gross breach of international human rights laws. Manus and Nauru regional processing centres are, by the textbook definition of the term, torturing people. Nobody burns themselves to death so they can leave a country; they burn themselves to death because it is preferable to what they would otherwise be forced to endure.

I strongly urge you to close these centres immediately and bring all refugees to Australia for visa processing.

After many of us spent Mother’s Day talking women on Nauru out of suicide, I also take great offence at the suggestion you have ‘intelligence’ that advocates are coaching refugees to self-harm. This is untrue and defamatory, and I demand you provide evidence of this supposed intelligence, or issue a public retraction and apology to all who you defamed with this statement.

I expect a prompt response from your department.


Sarah Smith
Refugee Advocate

Great letter.  Absolutely right.