About Woomera

To its backers, Woomera detention centre played a “humane yet crucial role in housing the growing numbers of boat people landing on Australia’s shores”. To its critics, this heavily guarded cluster of buildings, ringed by red desert and razor wire, represented the “dead heart of asylum-seeker policy”.

Woomera opened for business less than four years ago. Built for 400 people, it soon housed more than 1400. It became notorious for riots, protests and breakouts by desperate detainees. There were claims that mental illness and self-harm were rife and as the allegations mounted, TV cameras recorded protests at the perimeter fence. Press reports warned of detainees’ declining health and morale. Yet when Woomera was quietly placed in mothballs last month, its full story remained to be told…