Doctors of Detention

Doctors of Detention is a campaign by Crossing Borders to increase awareness about refugee and asylum seeker health within healthcare professionals as well as the general public. As part of the campaign, we will be sharing one-on-one interviews with doctors who treat refugees and asylum seekers, to hear about their experiences. Quotes from the interviews will be released on the Crossing Borders Australia Facebook page, along with full transcripts of the interviews here.

If you have any enquiries, feel free to email us at

Interview 1: Dr Barri Phatarfod

Dr Barri Phatarfod is the co-founder and convener of Doctors4Refugees.


Doctors4Refugees is an organisation that oversees the healthcare provided to people in detention, both offshore and onshore. Unfortunately, despite the minister’s claims that the treatment provided to people on Manus Island and Nauru is broadly comparable to that the provided in the Australian community, the reality is not the case. Doctors 4 Refugees has been able to obtain the medical files of a number of people held in offshore detention and quite a few onshore, obvious with the patients’ permission, and we can see a number of cases where the healthcare that they have been given deviates quite significantly from any acceptable level of what you would see in Australia or any other first world country. And the situation doesn’t change when people have been found to be refugee and leave detention. Continue reading

Interview 2: Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM

Professor Elizabeth Elliott AM, is a Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and a consultant paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead. She has worked with the Australian Human Rights Commission around the National Inquiry into children in immigration detention.

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I’m Professor Elizabeth Elliott, I’m a Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the University of Sydney and a consultant paediatrician at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead and in the last year or two, I’ve been involved with the Australian Human Rights Commission, particularly in relation to the inquiry into children in immigration detention. As a result of that, I visited Christmas Island and Wickham Point detention centres with the Commission. Continue reading

Interview 3: Professor Jon Jureidini

Professor Jon Jureidini is head of department of psychological medicine, Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide and professor in the disciplines of psychiatry and paediatrics at the University of Adelaide.

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The most recent case I’ve been involved in where someone has been in immigration detention is actually a couple of years ago now, because there’s no detention centres in Adelaide anymore. So this was at Inverbrackie detention centre, which on the whole was probably the nicest detention centre in the system if you just look at the quality of accommodation that was available. And I saw a couple of children, one I think about 2 and the other about 6 or 7 who were extremely damaged by their experience both in transition to Australia but more worryingly by the experience of being in immigration detention. Continue reading

Interview 4: Dr Jill Devlin

Dr Jill Devlin is a Psychiatry Registrar based in Victoria.


Hi, my name is Jill, I’m a psychiatry doctor and I’d like to share the story of a patient of mine who I will call Siddeek. Details of this story have been altered for the sake of privacy.
Siddeek is a 45 year old man who immigrated to Australia five years ago after fleeing persecution in the Middle East, this is the story that he told me. Siddeek is from a minority group and the village where he grew up was violently attacked and he lost a lot of family members and he spent months travelling across the Middle East to find safety in Istanbul. Continue reading

Interview 5: Christine Cummins RN

Christine Cummins spent five years on Christmas Island as a Torture & Trauma counsellor working with asylum seekers detained in the immigration detention centre. She is a Credentialed Mental Health Nurse with experience working in crisis intervention and community case management. Chris has worked as a volunteer nurse in Sri Lanka and in Iran working with Afghan refugees. Since returning to Bendigo Victoria, Chris has been talking publicly about her experience to raise awareness of the plight of asylum seekers and to re-humanise the demonised.


Over a five year period I worked with hundreds of asylum seekers of many nationalities, yet Jamila was a standout memory to me. Working in the Torture and Trauma Counselling Service on Christmas Island I was granted privileged access to many personal stories. Continue reading