The Tampa 10 years on -  time for change

The Tampa case, 2001
The Tampa case, 2001

Ten years after the Tampa, asylum seekers still need access to an effective remedy.

Held almost ten years to the day from when the MV Tampa rescued 433 asylum seekers in the Indian Ocean, this year's PILCH Law and Social Change Dialogue discussed those events, the legal interventions that followed and the current state of Australian laws and public debate on refugees and asylum seekers.

- Time for change

When the High Court ruled last year that offshore asylum seekers have the right to exercise judicial review, it provided hope for many people in remote Immigration Detention Centres across the country. However, as the months have rolled on, it has become clear that this hope was misguided.

In February this year, the Government allocated $107.7 million over four years to support the new process for determination of refugee status for ‘offshore entry persons'. However, the Government did not allocate any of this funding for interpreter services or legal advice to enable offshore asylum seekers to seek judicial review of unsuccessful applications for refugee status. Detention, particularly when indefinite or prolonged, has a detrimental impact on the mental health of people who have suffered torture and trauma. This impact is magnified when their only access to an effective legal remedy is hampered by limited access to lawyers and interpreters.

David Marr, Julian Burnside QC, Debbie Mortimer SC and Fiona McLeay. Photo by Tim Herbert -
David Marr, Julian Burnside QC, Debbie Mortimer SC and Fiona McLeay. Photo by Tim Herbert -

- Support our work

Support our work with asylum seekers.

Australia has obligations to protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in Australia, regardless of how or where they arrive and whether they arrive with or without a visa.

You can show your support of PILCH's work with asylum seekers by writing to the Minister for Immigration Chris Bowen MP to let him know that you call on the Government to:

  • Allocate funding to Legal Aid Commissions for direct legal services to enable offshore asylum seekers to effectively exercise their judicial review right
  • Change the Translator and Interpreter Service National Interpreting Guideline to enable the service to be provided to asylum seekers and refugees, and
  • Codify number four of the Government's Immigration Detention Values into law - this states that Detention that is indefinite or otherwise arbitrary is not acceptable and the length and conditions of detention, including the appropriateness of both the accommodation and the services provided, would be subject to regular review.

Become a Friend of PILCH.

For $70 per year (of $100 for two years) you will contribute financially to our work and get priority bookings for our flagship sell out events - the Annual Human Rights Dinner (in conjunction with the Human Rights Law Centre) and the Law and Social Change Dialogue. We will also keep you informed about opportunities to get involved with PILCH and our work.


PILCH is seeking further funding for our Asylum Seeker Project. Your donation to PILCH will help us to continue this important work. You can donate online or contact [email protected].

- About the Dialogue

The Law and Social Change Dialogue is an annual PILCH event held at the State Library of Victoria. This year's Dialogue, which featured prominent human rights lawyers Julian Burnside QC and Debbie Mortimer SC, and was moderated by renowned journalist David Marr, was a sold out event. A video recording of this year's Dialogue will be available shortly.

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