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Immigration Department pays $1 million compensation to Save the Children workers fired from Nauru

The Turnbull government has paid an estimated $1 million in compensation and formally apologised to nine charity workers who were ejected from Nauru in 2014 after unsubstantiated claims of political activism and impropriety.

The Save the Children cohort was removed from the island under former immigration minister Scott Morrison, who cited an intelligence report accusing the group of encouraging asylum seekers to self-harm in order to be brought to Australia.

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The Treasurer refuses to say sorry to Save the Children staff he wrongly accused of encouraging asylum seekers to harm themselves. Courtesy ABC News 24.

Subsequent reviews found that decision was "not justified" and was based on "no conclusive evidence", and called on the government to compensate the charity and its workers. Last week's settlement to individual former employees is in addition to the undisclosed sum paid last year to Save the Children itself.

In a statement, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said it regretted the hurt, embarrassment and reputational damage its actions had caused the nine workers.

The compensation paid was designed to "place the SCA employees in the position they would have been in, had the removal letter not been issued", the department said.

The workers were removed from Nauru in October 2014 and Save the Children's contract expired a year later. The final settlement was confidential but Fairfax Media understands the figure is close to $1 million, including several months of lost wages and reparations for mental illness, travel bans and injury of reputation.


The group's lawyer, David Shaw, of Holding Redlich, previously indicated he would seek a compensation package between $750,000 and $900,000. On Tuesday, he told Fairfax Media he was "very satisfied with the financial arrangements and the statement of regret" published by the department.

In its statement, the department admitted it "did not provide SCA or any of the employees with detailed reasons for the removal direction". The department also acknowledged "that at the time of the removal direction and subsequently, it had no reason to cause doubt to be cast on the SCA employees' reputation".

Save the Children Australia chief executive Paul Ronalds said no amount of money could fully compensate the injuries suffered but he hoped the settlement and apology would "provide some degree of closure" for his former employees.

"We are pleased that this traumatic and drawn-out saga is now coming to an end for some of the most committed people who ever worked on our Nauru program," he said.

"These nine people dedicated themselves to educating and protecting some of the world's most vulnerable children in the toughest of circumstances, and the idea that they would ever fabricate cases of abuse or encourage children to hurt themselves is - and always was - absurd."

Mr Morrison last year refused to apologise for the allegations, even after the government paid the first tranche of compensation to Save the Children. In a memorable interview on the ABC's Insiders program, he maintained he had always used the world "allegedly" regarding claims about the workers.

Earlier this month, a damning Commonwealth audit accused the Department of Immigration of handing over billions of dollars to private contractors on Nauru and Manus Island without proper authorisation or departmental records, and of failing to ensure value-for-money when making such payments.

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