‘I hated them, and I wanted to run them over. I wanted to strangle them. I thought “This is me, a compassionate person turning into an absolute monster”. These words by a former Australian immigration detention guard in 2008, convey the impact that immigration detention has those working in these places, and not just on refugees held in detention. In the Australian setting, detention sites have typically been characterized by unremitting violence and the mistreatment and neglect of those detained. But this also affects those implementing this policy. Many staff have resigned in despair, suffered psychological harm or turned to substance abuse as an outcome of the ethical distress of working in these sites. This seminar explores immigration detention practices and laws in Australia, through the prism of ‘office-holding’ and institutional conduct to reveal the ethical degradation of institutional life and practices which both enable this policy, and which is generated by it.
Claire is a lecturer in Criminology at the University of Melbourne, Her research interests are in border protection, immigration detention and the modes, practices and effects of spaces of confinement and control, broadly speaking, including youth detention, prisons and aged care. She is a team member of an international, interdisciplinary network - The Comparative Network on the Externalisation of Refugee Protection, researching the impact of the externalisation of refugee protection in the Asia Pacific/Australian region and in Europe and Northern Africa. Claire is also examining the carceral expansion characterising Australia's policy of offshore detention, through the work of Iranian journalist, writer and refugee, Behrouz Boochani.