ben moretti on Fri, 12 Jul 2002 21:35:56 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Worst of Woomera - Freedom? - Part 2

by Dave McKay (as related by Cherry McKay and Robin and Christine Dunn) 


"Freedom is more than escape from custody," I argued eloquently at the 
tribal counsel organised by demonstrators following the breakout. Some 
thirty escapees had made it to our camp, and they were now hiding in 
various tents. I was campaigning for them to be returned to custody.

"They say they'll kill themselves before they'll return!" someone 
argued. Nothing eloquent about it, but the truth in what was said was 

Suicide is the last resort for someone who has exhausted all other 
avenues of escape. It is also the ultimate insult to a system which has 
tried everything it can to break the will of those who resist.

It angers those of us who live on, because there is no one we can punish 
for what has happened, and the last thing we want to do is to question 
our own role in such an apparently meaningless death. So we usually take 
our anger out on someone else, like the guards did to the prisoners who 
failed to escape.

Could the "war against terrorism" be a bit like that? We would never 
think of using bombs to wage a war against the common cold. So how can 
bombs ever wipe out terrorism? How would we ever know that such a war 
has been won? This supposed war has locked Australia and the West into a 
plan for world domination that will never be finished. Such wars have 
often led to genocide, as people imagine terror to be lurking almost 


Martha was transferred from the detention centre to a home in the 
township of Woomera in a much publicised bid to meet the Labor Party's 
demand for women and children to be taken out of the prison. But women 
and children in the township are still under constant guard, and they 
have to leave their husands/fathers to do it.

There is no end in sight for Martha and her family. They will be held 
indefinitely like this, unless they agree to return voluntarily to Iran.

The hopelessness of her situation led Martha to attempt suicide. Her 10 
year old son also tried to harm himself. Suicide attempts are 
commonplace at Woomera, averaging around one a week. But the Department 
of Immigration solution is not to give proper psychiatric care or to 
consider the causes of depression.

Martha and her son were, instead, returned to the source of their 
despair, back behind the razor wire. Worse, they were put in the 
punishment compound, where no TV, no telephone, and no toys are allowed. 
Like some Eighteenth Century insane asylum, our Government calls this a 

One by one families released to the town are being quietly returned to 
prison as punishment for various "behaviour problems". The untrained 
guards, some of whom would truly like to help, have only threats and 
punishments to use as tools in dealing with the highly complex 
psychological problems that these deeply traumatised people possess.

ben moretti

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