KASAMA Vol. 17 No. 2 / April-May-June 2003 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network
ON 26 SEPTEMBER 2001 A YOUNG VIETNAMESE WOMAN DIED IN SYDNEY AT THE VILLAWOOD DETENTION CENTRE. PUONGTONG SIMAPLEE WAS TRAFFICKED TO AUSTRALIA FOR PROSTITUTION AT THE AGE OF 12. SHE LIVED A LIFE OF SEXUAL SERVITUDE UNTIL SHE WAS 20 WHEN SHE WAS DETAINED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF IMMIGRATION. PROJECT RESPECT WAS GIVEN LEGAL STANDING AT THE CORONIAL INQUIRY HELD AT THE WESTMEAD CORONERS COURT IN NSW.
Extracts from the Project Respect Newsletter - 15 May 2003
During the inquiry, the court heard that Ms Simaplee was sick almost three days. Her failure to improve was not adequately noted or responded to. She was so weak at times that she could not reach the toilet and was forced to vomit and defecate in a bucket. Rather than this sounding warning bells for the security officers, a guard carrying out half hourly observations made her clean up after herself. Another detention officer found the smell from her room so distasteful that she would not enter the room. At no time was the possibility of taking Ms Simaplee to hospital discussed. Disturbingly, according to one medical expert, 'simple measures' could have saved Ms Simaplee's life.
Coroner Carl Milovanovich handed down his findings on April 24. He raised important concerns about the medical care Ms Simaplee received and made three important recommendations:
The Coroner closed his findings by 'endorsing' the comments of legal representatives that DIMIA and ACM 'facilities should consider establishing some form of dialogue with organisations such as Project Respect which might assist in identifying, assessing and providing the appropriate medical, community and translator services to women who might be identified as being victims of trafficking'.
Since the findings have been released, three doctors in NSW have lodged a medical negligence complaint against ACM with the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission.
If you would like a copy of the Coroners Findings, contact Project Respect.
Service for the dead
Puongtong Simaplee died alone at the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, and her body was later cremated. Trafficking researcher Dr Liz Hoban was concerned that religious rites of death had not been carried out for Ms Simaplee, and so on ANZAC day, the day after the Coroners findings were handed down, a service for the dead was held for Ms Simaplee at the Wat Buddharangse Buddhist Temple in Annandale, Sydney. In Buddhism, the monks presiding at the service explained, the ceremony for the dead eases the passage of the departed person to their next life. Ken Inthakesone, who helped Project Respect organise the service, told The Australian newspaper that, 'this is so her soul will be more comfortable in the next life than she was in this one'.
The Thai community gathered for this special service, and was joined by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward, Ms Tanya Plibersek MP, Mr Chris Payne (former Australian Federal Police agent) and Kathleen Maltzahn (Project Respect) and Liz Hoban.
Wing Secures Criminal Justice Visa
In April, The Australian newspaper highlighted the case of 'Wing', a Thai woman who had helped five trafficked women escape. She was imprisoned in the Villawood Immigration Detention Centre, as her visa had lapsed, and despite giving extensive information to the Australian Federal Police over many months, seemed destined for deportation.
Through the Women's Rights Action Network of Australia (WRANA) 'Rights on Line' alert, Project Respect sent out a request for letters to urge Mr Ruddock to give Wing a Criminal Justice Visa. Thank you to the people who wrote letters of support for 'Wing' - the campaign was successful.
Due in large part to The Australian expose, and the subsequent political pressure, 'Wing' has been given a Criminal Justice Visa, which allows her to stay to help police investigations.
The Project Respect Annual Report
Learn about the project's
legal, media, lobbying and health initiatives.
If you would like a copy contact:
PO Box 1323, Collingwood, Victoria 3066, Australia
Ph: 61 3 9416 3401
Fax: 61 3 9417 0833
Mobile: 0408 142 155
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