KASAMA Vol. 19 No. 4 / October-November-December 2005 / Solidarity Philippines Australia Network

Vivian Returns to Australia

Vivian Alvarez Solon arrived in Sydney from Manila on friday, November 18 accompanied by her sister and Australian Government officials. In the afternoon Vivian and her legal team spoke with the media.

Vivian Alvarez Solon Looking tired and frail, Vivian sat quietly, occasionally shifting position in her wheelchair to ease the constant pain she suffers from her spinal injury. She let her lawyers do the talking. The legal team of Sydney-based lawyers George Newhouse, Harry Freedman and former Federal Court Judge and Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission president Marcus Einfeld Q.C. have worked on a pro bono basis representing Vivian.

Since the ‘discovery’ on the 8th of May this year of her whereabouts in the Philippines, Vivian’s legal team negotiated for 28 weeks with Australian officials the terms of Vivian’s return to Australia. Considerations of her interim accommodation, welfare, which member of her family would accompany her as well as an arbitration process, all took time, careful planning and coordination.

At last, at the press conference, Marcus Einfeld was pleased to announce that “there will be a binding arbitration of the dispute of the compensation claim between Vivian and the Commonwealth Government conducted by former Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Anthony Mason.” Vivian will not have to suffer years of pointless litigation and appeals whilst living in abject poverty and without any means of support for herself or her children.

Vivian’s sons were able to travel down to Sydney on separate days to be with their mother just before Christmas. Should she decide to return to live in Brisbane, the Filipino community here have made preparations to welcome her and give what support is wanted.

Vivian’s deportation and the detention of Cornelia Rau sparked off government investigations into 221 cases of suspected maladministration and deceit by Immigration Department officials. Procedures in detention centres are also under review and promises have been made to improve access to medical services for mentally and emotionally disturbed detainees.

The media’s role in bringing public attention to this issue was recognised by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC). ABC TV’s current events program Lateline won the Human Rights Award for Television for their series of stories about Vivian. The judges said it was “an outstanding entry which exposed human rights abuses and flaws in the machinations of the [Immigration] Department and had effected significant changes to Government policy. They said that the Lateline team generated probably the biggest television story of the year on human rights injustice and was a standout winner for its investigative excellence, balance and impact.” Andra Jackson of The Age was given the Human Rights Print Media Award for her series of articles which resulted in the identification of Cornelia Rau. Lateline also received the Investigative Journalism Walkley Award for its coverage of Vivian’s deportation.

Dee Dicen Hunt

Further reading:

Comprehensive list of links to Kasama articles about Vivian’s case, submissions from CPCA-Brisbane and Justice Alliance for Vivian to the Senate Inquiry into the administration and operation of the 1958 Migration Act and links to other documents including the Palmer Inquiry Report and the Senate DFAT Committee Interim Report “The removal, search for and discovery of Ms Vivian Solon”.