Fighting the good fight

Professor Louise Newman is one of Australia’s foremost experts on perinatal and infant psychiatry and president of Doctors for Refugees. She talks to 6minutes about her work.

What put you on the path of advocacy?

I’ve been involved in the mental health needs of asylum seekers for around 15 years, in particular in research into the impact of immigration-detention on child asylum seekers. I chaired the Immigration Health Advisory Group (IHAG) until it was dissolved by the Abbot government last year. This was just one of 24 committees disbanded by the government but we were the only one providing independent advice on these complex issues.

What is the purpose of Doctors for Refugees?

We are largely trying to improve understanding among medical professionals on the health impact of detention facilities in particular those on Christmas Island, Nauru and Manus. We don’t support the indefinite arbitrary detention of people.  

How many members do you have?

Up to 100 including representatives from professional bodies like the AMA, AMSA and Chilout [Children out of Detention]. Many in the medical profession feel very passionate about this issue.

Are you happy to see AMSA getting so involved?

Yes, they have made this their major social issue and they are campaigning very hard. I think a fundamental part of being a doctor is doing advocacy work.

What worries you most about the treatment of asylum seekers?