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Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Impact Fund: Asylum Seeker Health Rights During COVID-19

Impact Fund: Asylum Seeker Health Rights During COVID-19

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project is working to secure humane standards of medical and mental health car...





01/07/2020 > 30/06/2021


  • Tackling Inequality - Public policy / research / advocacy
  • Tackling Inequality - Health and wellbeing


  • Asylum seekers, refugees, migrants and people from CALD backgrounds


The Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s (PIAC) Asylum Seeker Health Rights Project is working to secure humane standards of medical and mental health care for asylum seekers detained onshore in Australia’s harsh immigration detention network.

Since the project commenced in 2016 our legal casework and individual advocacy has secured urgent medical care for many individual clients and underpinned our systemic policy engagement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has required PIAC to respond urgently to the dangers presented by the virus for immigration detainees.

There are approximately 1,400 men and women held in overcrowded detention centres and alternative places of detention throughout Australia. They are unable to practice the physical distancing that is required to minimise the risks of infection: often sleeping in shared rooms with up to six people, eating in crowded food halls, sharing bathroom facilities and interacting constantly with external staff and other people in the centres. The Commonwealth Department of Health’s own advice states that people in detention are one of several groups most at risk of contracting the virus.

We are working in collaboration with our partners in the sector to get people out of these unsafe conditions. This involves:

  • behind-the-scenes engagement with the Human Rights Commissioner, Ombudsman and other stakeholders to influence the government
  • a coordinated media campaign, including a joint call for action
  • leading the sector’s engagement with medical and health experts, including the Australasian Society for Infectious Diseases and the Australasian College for Infection and Prevention Control
  • undertaking coordinated casework for priority clients to provide the foundation for strategic litigation.


Our experience in the project makes us particularly well placed to seek outcomes that minimise the health risks to asylum seekers in immigration detention from COVID-19. Expert medical opinion recommends that the ‘absolute minimum necessary step’ is that all immigration detainees should be held in single rooms with their own bathroom facilities.

We aim to achieve:

• urgently improved conditions in detention centres and places of detention to minimise the risk of infection, including changes to accommodation arrangements, while minimising the use of conditions akin to solitary confinement
• the reduction in numbers of people detained, through release of detainees into the community with appropriate support
• continuing to build the case for long-term legislative reform through political engagement, media and public debate.

Profile of Public Interest Advocacy Centre

Public Interest Advocacy Centre

PIAC tackles difficult social problems that impact on the lives of many Australians. We conduct test cases and strategic litigation in the public interest, and provide legal assistance, policy advice and training to create positive change to the lives of people who are disadvantaged and marginalised. PIAC continues to be an influential and principled voice in public debate on the rights of people in onshore immigration detention.


TOTAL BUDGET: $150,000
Funding sourceAmount
Impact Fund pledge$15,000
Funding gap to reach Impact Fund target$40,000
Expense itemAmount
Senior Solicitor position$50,000

Support Impact Fund: Asylum Seeker Health Rights During COVID-19

Got a question about this project or ready to contribute? Contact our Philanthropy & Impact Team.


As a broker of change, we invite social change initiatives to apply for funding. Eligible proposals are shared with our giving community via our Granting Opportunities directory.