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PAST CASE: Doctors4Refugees challenge 'gag laws' about conditions in offshore detention

In 2015 the Australian Government introduced gag laws that penalised Australian doctors with up to two years in jail for speaking out about horrific conditions faced by 1262 men, women and children in offshore detention on Manus Island and Nauru. When the Government ignored the condemnation of the laws by refugee rights organisations, doctors, and lawyers - Grata was able to step in and support doctors to force change. 

Doctors4Refugees and their lawyers at the Fitzroy Legal Service needed to get a High Court challenge off the ground and the Grata community chipped in to make sure the case got to court. Doctors4Refugees and their legal team sought to challenge the secrecy provisions in the Act, arguing they created an impermissible burden on the implied freedom of political communication.

After a long legal battle and facing defeat in court, the Government finally removed the secrecy laws that criminalised doctors for talking about abuses on Manus and Nauru.  

Refugees trapped on Manus Island protest against human rights abuses

Since the gag laws were removed, Doctors have become the most effective advocates for reform in this area. They were instrumental in getting legislation such as the Medivac Bill passed to make sure that men, women and children trapped in offshore detention can receive access to adequate healthcare treatment. 

This would not have been possible without the Grata Community chipping in to unlock the court. The case shows the power of the movement, when paired with litigation, to hold the Government accountable to the law.

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