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Child Asylum Seeker Allegedly Raped On Nauru Suing Australian Government

In what is believed to be a first, a child asylum seeker who was allegedly raped while in detention on Nauru is suing the Australian federal government for breach of care.

The boy, an Iranian asylum seeker, arrived in Australia by boat with his mother in October 2013, and was taken to Nauru.

A year later, when the boy was 10 years old, he was allegedly raped by an older male detainee three times over a six week period. Shortly after the third alleged assault, he and his mother were airlifted to Australia.

A claim has now been filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria against the Australian government and security contractors Wilson and Broadspectrum on behalf of the boy and his mum by Maurice Blackburn Lawyers, who are working pro bono.

Dimi Ioannou the principal lawyer on the case. Photo: Maurice Blackburn Lawyers.

It will be testing important legal questions regarding the duty of care owed by all three parties, said principal lawyer Dimi Ioannao.

"It raises serious questions about how the Commonwealth and the companies involved in running the detention centres have failed in their duty of care to keep these people safe," Ioannao told 10 daily.

"People in detention, particularly children, are vulnerable. You have to ensure a safe environment, and in our view, this did not occur."

According to court documents, the boy -- now 14 -- has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, has self-harmed, has difficulty eating and sleeping, and experiences disturbing nightmares.

He is undergoing medical treatment in relation to the trauma, but these incur significant out-of-pocket expenses.

Ioannao said investigations of the incident took place, but no charges have been laid. She claimed this is common for cases of sexual assault in offshore detention.

"Reports of attacks on asylum seekers are not new," she said.

The claim is seeking damages -- including aggravated damages, interest and costs -- from each of the three defendants.

"They have to ensure they provide a safe environment for people on Nauru, and they have failed to do this. They have failed to take care of this little boy," Ioannao said.

The claim has been filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria, with legal proceedings possibly taking up to two years. Photo: Getty.

Wilson Security said it was not aware of the claim, and as the matter is before the courts would not be providing further public comment. Broadspectrum was approached for comment but did not respond by time of publication.

Legal proceedings could take up to two years, although Ioannao is hopeful the case can be resolved quickly.

"These cases are important in seeking clarity in the law for people who have been harmed, and may bring claims, but they're also important in seeking to ensure that incidents like this do not happen again," she said.

"[The boy and his mother] fled Iran because they feared for their lives, and came to Australia seeking safety.

"We failed them as well."

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au