Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

800 protest at Baxter detention centre

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nicki Jonas, Secretary Melbourne City Branch, reports from the protest that took place at the Baxter detention center in South Australia over the weekend of Easter 2003.


Easter weekend saw over 800 people make the long journey to the Baxter detention centre to protest against the mandatory detention of refugees in Australia.

Police were obviously under strict instruction to leave nothing to chance after the successful break out of over 50 refugees last year at Woomera. Subsequently over 2000 state, federal and private security forces were assembled for the event. Despite the unnecessarily high level of aggression shown by the police and the impenetrable layout of the compound, the protesters were successful in reaching the perimeter of the detention centre on several occasions sending a strong message of solidarity to those inside.

Baxter is a $40 million state of the art detention centre boasting security more high tech than that used in Australian prisons. The security system of the complex consists of a high voltage electric fence, razor wire and motion sensors. The detainees inside are monitored by closed-circuit surveillance cameras at all times. The most notable feature that sets Baxter apart from other detention centres is that the detainees are unable to see out. High concrete walls surround the compound making the only available view the sky directly above. The 300 detainees currently being held in Baxter are totally isolated with the compound situated approximately 270-km north of Adelaide just outside Port Augusta in the South Australian desert.

Baxter is jointly administered by the Department of Immigration and Australian Correctional Management, a US owned private prison operator which made over $100 million profit last year alone from Australian detention centres. The privatisation of these institutions also means that human rights organisations, lawyers and psychiatrist’s are powerless to intervene on behalf of the detainees, despite numerous reports of mistreatment and physiological trauma.

Many workers are starting to question the Howard governments stance on asylum seekers, and are coming to realise that rising unemployment, the winding back of Medicare and increased higher education fees are not the fault of desperate refugees as the federal government would have us believe. Australia is not ‘full up’, the tiny amount of refugees that have reached our shores are not stealing our jobs and keeping our kids out of public hospitals and schools. These are the results of the profit first system of capitalism that we live in today.

More boats are now starting to arrive and we can expect to see this issue back in the spotlight. You can be sure that the likes of Howard and Ruddock will be using this chance to divert workers attention away from the attacks on our living standards through racist ‘divide and rule’ tactics in an attempt to split the working class. We need be clear that we have more in common with a fellow worker fleeing from a repressive regime than we do with our bosses and the people that represent them.

We need to educate ourselves and build community support through our workplaces and schools to strengthen the campaign for refugees and put pressure on the Howard Government to close the camps and end mandatory detention in Australia. Today repressive measures are used against refugees, tomorrow they could be used against workers trying to save their jobs or students protesting for an equal opportunity education.

– No to Mandatory Detention
– Close down the Detention Centres
– No private ownership of prisons or policing
– Free English classes for all migrants and refugee
– For a socialist world with freedom of movement for all people


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