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Front gate of the Baxter asylum seeker detention centre
The front gate of Baxter Hell Strong words are needed to describe the maximum-security refugee jail: in the new Woomera detention centre, Australia's totalitarian and super-secure militarism towards refugees is exemplified

Baxter hell, indefinitely filled with indefinite detainees

Constructed in a circular fashion with a continuous facade: no outward looking windows

This is a page, specifically dealing with the Baxter detention centre. There are links to other pages on our website related to Baxter, the main centre of all asylum detainees, with some of our friends having lived inside detention - in the former Woomera and/or Curtin detention centre for more than six years, and now well into their seventh year.

Baxter is now closed...

The Baxter detention centre was closed on 21 August 2007 - not because the Howard government became 'repentant', but because there was going to be an election at the end of the year.

Now that the "neo-conservative" Howard government has been replaced by the Kevin Rudd Labor government, the "climate" is different, but no changes to mandatory detention itself have been announced. Labor intends to lock everyone up at the off-shore Christmas Island detention centre.

Make a whistle from my throat

I do not know
what will happen after I die.
I do not want to know.
But I would like the Potter to make a whistle
from the clay of my throat.
May this whistle fall into the hands
of a cheeky and naughty child
and the child to blow hard on the whistle continuously
with the suppressed and silent air of his lungs
and disrupt the sleep
of those who seem dead
to my cries.
Baxter detention centre

O Baxter

What ails you to blight the landscape fair?
Like a thorn in the desert festering away
Parched of hope in the red-baked soil
Breaking the spirit in hopeless despair
Disallowing that human touch
With your steely surrounds and voltage scare.

Who cast you to hold so tight?
To weaken that grip
In your fearsome might
Of holding to life and what is so dear
Ignoring those pleas in captivity
And slamming the door on sanity fair.

How depressing your compounds
With nothing to see
Not even the hills or saltbush to view
Only the sky with its blue hazy stare
Frustrating the eyes in disharmony
What boredom you bring for those living there.

Your solitary cell depresses e'en more
With nothing to do
Devoid of a touch or voice to warm
Only the walls so blank and so bare
Whittling away that vestige of hope
Closing the door on freedom to spare.

How could your fortress be so cruel?
Torturing the mind in mindless form
Causing to weep on foreign shores
And wallow in a pit of despair
Breaking the spirit and will to live
Smiling upon that suffering there.

What mind could form you in this barren land?
So heartless and godless and free from sight
Wrought your steel hands of vengeance out
To freedom deny such richness share
Blocking the way for desperate care
Counting not cost for those trapped there.

Tom Mann

Tom Mann is the author of Desert Sorrow and a former teacher at the Woomera detention centre

Keen to try Behavior Mod?

Related pages:

21 August 2007: An End to the Baxter detention centre - today is the last day of operations of the Baxter detention centre - but, there's no reason to celebrate. Far and far from Baxter, on Christmas Island, away from lawyers, advocates, Australian courts and those annoying stirring activists, another centre nears completion.

27 October 2005: The Kiwi who went to Baxter - Two plain clothed policemen greeted me at the gate. They asked me to accompany them. They assured me that we were just going up the road and back. I knew I had nothing more to worry about than an overlooked traffic fine so, with curiosity and without concern I complied. Ten minutes later I was being held at the Maribynong Detention Centre.

11 February 2005 - Visiting Baxter: Joy Huson and Gareth Evans visit the Baxter detention centre - "Her case exposes the treatment of people by DIMIA, the bungling by Public Services and the "I didn't know" from politicians who surely are required 'to know'."

The Isolation Unit shower in the Baxter detention centre7 February 2005: Finding Anna: when Immigration gets it really, really wrong - Astounding is the word, but I guess the story is familiar by now. 'Anna', or as we know now, Cornelia, an Australian citizen, went missing, and based on the fact that she was disoriented, spoke some German, and could not be identified, she ends up in Baxter's punishment block, after 'having been assigned' to DIMIA, the Department of Immigration, for being an alleged 'illegal immigrant'.

Photo: isolation cell in the Red One compound at Baxter - this is a cell where also Cornelia Rau was held.

21 January 2005: Ardeshir Gholipour: how we torture a distinguished Iranian - It really is astounding that Ardeshir Gholipour has spent the last five years in an Australian detention centre. He's been left to dry in Australian detention centres since 1999; he's been in the Port Hedland detention centre and now he's in Baxter.

7 January 2005: The Bakhtiyari Files - It is likely that the goings-on around the Bakhtiari case constitute one of the Howard government's biggest attempt at a refugee case management cover-up, and the fact that this was a cover-up is a lot more likely than that the Bakhtiaris were, as the Australian government stubbornly maintained, indeed Pakistanis.

24 December 2004: Baxter hunger strike reaches medical emergency stage - and ends for Arabs - Reports of the sixteen hunger strikers, although the wording is minimal, indicate that the strike has reached a stage where critical organs start to be damaged beyond recovery. A supporter in Port Augusta wrote yesterday evening: "I just received a message from a hunger striker in Baxter...

20 December 2004: Hungerstrike in the shadow of Bakhtiari case - The hungerstrike at the Baxter detention centre is still on. Fifteen men are still part of the team, even while the attention of all of Australia focuses on the Bakhtiari family. My advice is, don't stop what you're doing, what you're planning and what you stand for, because the leopard hasn't changed its spots.

17 December 2004: Baxter, Bakhtiyari and bullshit: the battle over DIMIA's accountability - The start of this fifth report on the Baxter hungerstrike makes for depressing reading, but I intend that to be the case. I could have easily spared you and myself this introduction, which may come across as just an unwelcome diversion into matters not directly related to the strike.

16 December 2004: Baxter: eleven days on a tin roof, Orwellian lawyers in the Courts - Day 11 for the first man on the roof of the Baxter gymnasium, and temperatures at Port Augusta are soaring towards the Centigrade mark: as I look at the temperature at local time in SA of 16:00pm,'s gauge stands at 35 C. The Department of Immigration has gone silent; Your Right To Know does not play a role.

14 December 2004: Baxter hungerstrike: health deteriorates, calls for independent intervention - The situation in the Baxter detention centre is deteriorating. Two of the men who had stiched their lips, were taken to the Port Augusta hospital yesterday. Independent from the hunger strike, lawyers for another man who takes part in the hunger strike, filed an order in the court for the man to be released from the Baxter centre for a full and independent psychiatric assessment.

12 December 2004: Baxter Iranians start second week of hungerstrike - The hunger strike at the Baxter detention centre has entered its second week, and as the Iranians slowly loose their mind and their physical strength, Project SafeCom remains adamant that the reasons for this hunger strike point squarely at the feet of...

lip stitching5-25 December 2004: The hunger strike of the Iranians at the Baxter detention centre - In the excruciating desparation of being locked up for up to five years, the Iranians started a hunger strike in December 2004. Up to 27 men were involved, and Project SafeCom's office was operational during the entire period, while we kept in touch with the supporters' network around the men, and briefed reporters to keep the issue in the news. We wrote seven reports.

The UK Guardian and Baxter

The Guardian ran a report of a first-hand visit to Baxter and the conditions within. (Posted to this page of our website in March 2003) The report stated:

More from Baxter:

20 November 2005: Chris Rau: Try follow the money trail... - " thing I keep getting back to, and that all of us should emphasise, is the potential for a public outcry if you follow the money trail. Forget human rights; forget the abuses that are still going on ... people simply don't want to know."

18 August 2005: When the Baxter fence closes: life after permanent detention - Life after Petro Georgiou seems to have changed considerably with detention centres running near-emtpy for asylum seekers. But, has it improved?

5 August 2005: The 2005 Senate Inquiry into the Migration Act - The two submissions Project SafeCom sent in for the Inquiry: Removals from Australia should be in line with Convention demands; The primary refugee determination system and also the RRT determinations have led to prolong the sheer agony of asylum seekers....

3 August 2005: Ensnared in a time warp; uninvited refugees inside Australia's immigration detention centres - "... immigration detention deprived children of their social development and excluded them from educational and developmental opportunities. They became Australia's little prisoners."

20 July 2005: David Marr and The Palmer Report - The Palmer Report, or the report of the Inquiry into the circumstances of the Immigration Detention of Cornelia Rau, is damning. And so is David Marrr's analysis from the Sydney Morning Herald.

5 July 2005: Christine Rau: my sister's 309 days - "Cornelia has had a terrible ordeal and is understandably angry about it. She was locked up in isolation, has said she felt treated like a caged animal, for the crime of mental illness which led her to lie about her identity."

5 July 2005 - Amnesty International: The impact of indefinite detention: the case to change Australia's mandatory detention regime - By implementing the model for change proposed, the government would meet its international legal obligations, protect human rights of asylum-seekers, and go some way towards introducing a humane immigration policy.

12 June 2005: A summary of the Georgiou Bills - This is a copy of communication sent by Petro Georgiou MP to all MP's in the Coalition government on 24 May this year. The communication summarises the two Bills tabled in the Coalition party room that same date.

14 June 2005: Countering the Kooyong breakout: Howard supporters and their anti-Georgiou camp strategies - Since the February speech in Parliament by Petro Georgiou, several front-benchers in the Howard government have been beavering away in an effort to control the damage.

17 April 2005: Non-violence at the 2005 Baxter protests: Khristo Newall and the 'grappling hook incident' - Five Perth protesters who went to Baxter for Easter conduct a deliberate breach of the law in a conscious act of non-violent disturbance.

8 March 2005: Life in detention, for seven years - the story of Peter Qasim, Australia's longest-serving detained asylum seeker, continues to make headlines, and some dusty aspects start to unravel. Not even inch by inch, but millimeter by millimeter.

27 February 2005 - Life after Cornelia Rau: a People's Inquiry into Detention? - "last Saturday the Mick Palmer Inquiry Call for Submissions appeared in The Weekend Australian. While I think this should be called the "Mickey Mouse Inquiry", it may be a useful vehicle for some people to submit material."

27 February 2005 - Talking about Cornelia - a Statement by detainees in Baxter, about Cornelia Rau, who was "lost" inside Australia as 'Anna', classed as an 'illegal immigrant' without any evidence for this by Department of Immigration staff.

10 June 2004: Our own custom-made Evin Prison at Baxter - In Australia we have our own "Evin Prison", where we keep, for the rest of their lives if need be, a considerable number of Iranians. An article by Jack Smit, Project SafeCom's Coordinator.

Peter Qasim9 September 2004:  Australia's National Shame: Peter Qasim - Today will see a dismal anniversary marked across Australia, with the passing of six years in detention for a 30-year-old man from Indian Kashmir, Peter Qasim. Peter remains the longest detained asylum seeker in immigration detention, and following the recent Full High Court decision, there are no guarantees that he will not eventually die of old age in the future: he may remain in detention for the rest of his life.


A letter from detainees at Baxter

To the Australian community

From the detainees
Baxter detention centre
South Australia

In good faith we would like to express our deep concern about our miserable situation. For a long time we have been stuck in detention.

We are of different races, different nationalities, different languages. All of us escaped our countries because of persecution or war.

Unfortunately, our applications for protection visas have failed. The government policy is so hard, so tough - they don't want to grant us protection, even on humanitarian grounds.

At the same time they are threatening to deport us to our countries of origin. If we return to our countries, it will put our lives in great danger. But after death, we cannot talk to any social organisations such as Amnesty International or the Red Cross. Only our dead bodies can prove that we have been persecuted.

We are so confused, we don't know what we can do. We came to Australia for protection but we have got only detention. If we remain in Australia, we will be productive citizens in the future. We will never regret, never look back. We will live in harmony.

We are humbly requesting the Australian people: Please help us. Consider us as human beings. Solve our ordeal. We will be grateful to you forever.

Don't think that we are illegal in Australia. We are legal. When we came to your waters, we knocked on your door. We informed the government that we were asylum seekers, that we wanted to enter your country.

So by order of the Government, naval forces brought us to the mainland. So we are not illegal. Of course, when we entered your country, most of us had no legal papers. You should understand that people who are really refugees, it is not possible for them to access passports or any legal documentation.

Everywhere, when a refugee goes to any country, they cannot go the "proper" way. Look at Europe - refugees cross borders without papers, always from third world countries. In their country they cannot stay for fear of persecution. So they have to move without papers. If anyone can access legal documents and a passport, and use them to cross through immigration and customs, they have no problems. That's why original refugees come without papers.

If you look in our eyes you will see naked pain. We are treated very harshly. They humiliate us every waking moment. They harass us. Sometimes they even bash us, use teargas on us. It was beyond our imagination that such a civilised liberal democratic country could do this to us.

It is our desperate desire, by any means, to be released from this detention.

Baxter Detention Centre,
March 2003

Ruddock's "Reintegration package"

25 January, 2003

It seems that the effectiveness of the refined punishment in White 1 compound (strip searches, handcuffs and tear gas, removal of furniture, constant room searches etc) has come to the fore, with many detainees relinquishing under the pressure from DIMIA and ACM, and signing deportation papers. Most of these people will not be returned to their country of origin. DIMIA employees are now working weekends to attend to the Immigration department's demands to pressure detainees into returning to their homelands, regardless of the stage of the detainees' application processes.

If it works in White 1, why not try it in Red 3? Approx 15 detainees were dragged from their beds, by ACM guards in riot gear and gas masks, at approx 5am, 2 days ago.They were handcuffed and taken to Blue 3 compound, which has been worked on by the same interior designer that did such fabulous work on W1 comp .... no furniture, mattresses, mirrors, curtains, and definitely no contact with the outside world. Details are sketchy at this stage, as you can imagine .... more to follow, as the truth is unveiled....

Found at the ::B A X T E R W A T C H  N E T:: website (no longer online)