Investigation launched, toddler has four teeth removed
FEDERAL workplace authority Comcare is investigating the Department of Home Affairs' treatment of two Biloela-born toddlers who have been detained in Melbourne for 18 months.
The investigation comes as concerns grow for Priya and Nades and their daughters Tharunicaa, 2, and Kopika, 4, after Tharunicaa had surgery for the removal of four rotten teeth last Thursday.
A complaint about ongoing concerns for the family was lodged by former Worksafe Victoria prosecutor Max Costello.
A Comcare spokesman said the authority was investigating the Department's compliance with the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, but would not comment further.
The Tamil family has been locked up at Broadmeadows Residential Precinct at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation since March last year, after Priya's bridging visas expired.
Family friend Angela Fredericks said she was relieved the complaint had been taken seriously.
"At the end of the day we want the family to come back to Biloela and for those girls to get the education and support and health services they deserve," she said.
Australian Border Force said treatment of Broadmeadows residents was in line with Australia's international human rights obligations.
In a statement released on Sunday, a Border Force spokesperson refuted claims the girls were not receiving adequate health and dental care and said families at Broadmeadows were offered "comprehensive medical care, including mental health and dental care".
The family faces deportation to Sri Lanka, but they have received assurances this will not happen until after an asylum application is lodged for their youngest daughter.
Ms Fredericks said with a bar on new asylum applications, the family and supporters remain in limbo.
"Priya and Nades have lost their ability to parent while they've been in there," she said.
"They're doing an amazing job with what they've got... Kopika hops on the phone to me and she can recite the alphabet ... they continue to teach these girls under extraordinary circumstances."
Ms Fredericks said Tharunicaa's worsening dental health, due to a vitamin deficiency, was "heartbreaking" and would serve as a reminder of the family's detainment.
During the operation, doctors removed four teeth and covered a further four with sealant, to prevent them from also rotting.
"It's devastating ... Tharunicaa is going to spend her childhood with that constant reminder of what she's gone through until her adult teeth come through at age seven or eight," she said.
Ms Fredericks said there was hope for the family's release, with Labor's immigration spokesperson Kristina Kenneally, Victorian Children's Commissioner Liana Buchanan and influential broadcaster Alan Jones calling for their return to Biloela.