Panel 7: Unaccompanied Minors
Many children under 18 years arrived at Enterprise without family. These children were referred to as unaccompanied minors. Children who entered Australia to live with a close relative other than parents, designated ‘Detached Minors’, stayed at Enterprise for two weeks to have full medical checks, before joining their relatives.
Other children who did not have an adult relative to be reunited with became designated as ‘Unattached Minors’. The Minister of Immigration became the legal guardian of these children. In 1984 nearly one in ten of the total Indo-Chinese intake were refugee minors
There were up to 22 unaccompanied minors at Enterprise at any one time. The children were under the care of house parents and accommodated in 10 units along one corridor of one of the housing blocks, Anise and Derick Cumberbatch became house parents six weeks after their arrival from South Africa in May 1979 and remained in that position for 23 months. At first Anise and Derick managed to trace a number of the children’ parents and helped them with sponsorship applications but later the sponsorship costs became too prohibitive to continue this assistance.
Isabel Santos was appointed house-mother in 1982 and remained in that position for 6 years. In that period she estimates she cared for 565 young people and formed very strong relationships with them. She thought of herself ‘as their mother.’ In 1991 Isabel was awarded the Order of Australia Medal for her work with refugee children.
Many of the young refugees had special problems integrating into the wider community after leaving Enterprise. Accommodation was hard to find, there were few support services and they became isolated without the stability of close supportive family.
“I looked after them as a mother should do. I asked for a fridge so I could give them something when they came home from school. The Manager said, ‘No’. I said, ‘I am their mother and they will get what they want. And I got a fridge … I went with them and the interpreters in the bus to Fairfield Hospital for health checks and x-rays.” - Isobel Santos, house-mother
“Isobel loved us like daughters, I’ll never forget Enterprise or my ‘Mum’.” - Thu Nguyen, Vietnamese resident
“We attended all the parent teacher nights. Teachers often got a surprise to see a South African person attending on behalf of Vietnamese children.” - Anisa Cumberbatch, house mother, South Africa
“I gave them permission to go and visit friends. But I always insisted that I talked to the person they were visiting and insisted on a time when they should be back” - Isobel Santos, house-mother
House Parents Derick and Anisa Cumberbatch (far left) with hostel staff;