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Experiences of teaching in a detention centre
Title : Experiences of teaching in a detention centre Experiences of teaching in a detention centre
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Creator : Petersons, Inese, 1947-
Source : Petersons, Inese, OH 636/2
Date of creation : ca. 2007
Additional Creator : Murchie, Allison
Format : Oral History
Contributor : State Library of South Australia
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Copyright : This item is reproduced courtesy of Inese Petersons. It may be printed or saved for research or study. Use for any other purpose requires written permission from Inese Petersons and the State Library of South Australia. To request approval, complete the Permission to publish form.
Description :

Interview with Inese Petersons, teacher, in which she details conditions under which detainees lived in Woomera detention centre in 2001.

Inese Petersons was an Education Officer at the Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre from May to August 2001.

This extract from her oral history interview details the conditions under which detainees lived while waiting for their visas to be processed, and in particular the delay in processing some Afghani applications.

Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (IRPC) was commissioned in November 1999 to detain an influx of 'unlawful non-citizens' while a decision was being made on their asylum applications. Since 1958 it has been mandatory in Australia that foreigners entering the country illegally must be detained until their applications have received due process. In 1999 there was an increase in 'boat people' seeking asylum, and as Port Hedland and Curtain were filled to capacity, an additional centre was required for detainees.

Woomera IRPC was located in a remote desert area 486 km north of Adelaide. Originally planned to accommodate several hundred people, by the early 2000s about 1,600 including women and children, were being held there. The majority of detainees were of Middle Eastern origin, including Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians. The facility was surrounded by barbed wire and layers of fencing.

The Woomera detention centre was the site of more protests and violence than any other centre. Riots, fires, hunger strikes, attempted suicides, self-harm and breakouts occurred. Inmates protested about the extended length of time the authorities took to process them, living conditions, the imprisoning of women and children, and the isolation of the centre. Tear gas and water cannons were used to subdue rioters.

In March 2002, an estimated 1,000 protesters who had traveled to Woomera, tore down razor wire and helped almost 50 inmates to escape. There was considerable national and international criticism of government policy, treatment of detainees, and living conditions at centres.

In April 2003 Woomera IRPC was closed down. Detainees were transferred to the new Baxter facility near Port Augusta. Some remained at Woomera Residential Housing Project.

Related names :

Petersons, Inese, 1947-

Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre

Period : 2001-
Place : Woomera (S. Aust.)
Region : Flinders Ranges and Far North - Outback
Further reading :

Australia. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. Report of an inquiry into a complaint by Ms KJ concerning events at Woomera Immigration Reception and Processing Centre between 29-30 March 2002 , Sydney: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2004

McKay, Dave and Cherry McKay. The worst of Woomera , Sydney South: Ross Parry, 2002

Mann, Tom. Desertsorrow: asylum seekers at Woomera , Kent Town, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 2003

Thorne, Sandy. Beyond the razor wire: is Australia, where everything's free : the true story of a detention officer's experiences at Woomera and Curtin Illegal Immigrant Camps and at a Queensland maximum security prison , Lightning Ridge, N.S.W.: S. Thorne, c2003



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