During the eight months Roma has been held in an Australian immigration detention centre, the 11-year-old has been to school for only a fortnight.
The sores on her arms won’t heal in the tropical heat of Christmas Island and her eyes are red from phosphate dust.
Roma is one of the 1000 children in immigration detention around the country. Another 177 are detained in an Australian-run facility on Nauru.
Her plight has been highlighted by Gillian Triggs, head of the Australian Human Rights Commission, which is conducting an inquiry into children in detention.
It is the second time the commission has looked at the issue.
Its first inquiry, during the Howard government years, resulted in the release of all children from detention centres.
Professor Triggs instigated the latest investigation because numbers rose even higher under the most recent Labor governments.
But she’s prepared to cut the Abbott government some slack, in the form of a challenge to Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.
If the minister has managed to release all children in detention by September, Prof Triggs will be delighted to pulp the commission’s report.
“Whether we get to that stage, I don’t know,” she told the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday.
That’s because the political environment and public sentiment differ greatly from the previous inquiry in 2004.
Back then, many Australians regarded detention of children as unacceptable.
Now, after the demonising of asylum seekers, many of them honestly believed there was good reason for keeping them detained, Prof Triggs said.
They struggled to connect with the plight of asylum seekers because of negative reporting.
“We don’t understand them as human beings,” Prof Triggs said.
The commission’s inquiry team will visit children at Darwin’s detention centre on Thursday.