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Submission to the National

Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention from

Allan Clifton



at the WIRPC


at the WIRPC


of children




and Activities


I, Allan Clifton

of [address removed], Centre Manager, do solemnly and sincerely declare

as follows:


1. I make this

statement for the purposes of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity

Commission’s Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention.

2. I am presently

employed by Australasian Correctional Management (ACM) as the Centre

Manager of the Perth Immigration Detention Centre (PIDC). I am on extended

leave from that position as I am unfit for work at present.

3. I have been

employed by ACM since 1997 and was the Operations Manager at the Woomera

Immigration Reception and Processing Centre (WIRPC) from May 2000 to

June 2001.

4. I have previously

worked for ACM at the Fulham Correction Centre, a 612 bed medium and

minimum security facility.

5. From 1990 to

1997 I worked as a prison officer and a senior prison officer at prisons

and remand centres in Victoria: HM Prison Pentridge (maximum security);

Melbourne Remand Centre (maximum security); HM Prison Sale (medium security

and protection prisoners) and Morwell River Prison Farm (minimum security).

6. Work at the

WIRPC was extremely stressful. Staff, including myself, were subjected

to threats and violence and witnesses extreme events such as the riots

that took place. Staff did not receive adequate support from ACM. As

a result of the stress to which I was exposed at WIRPC, I developed

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and major depression and this

was diagnosed in November 2000. I have no prior history of PTSD or depression.

I returned to work after 3 weeks on leave and continued to work until

March 2002 when I ceased working and was again diagnosed as suffering

from PTSD.


at the WIRPC

7. There was no

focus on children at the WIRPC and it was an environment unsuited to

children. By way of example, when I commenced work at the WIRPC there

were about 1,400 detainees and only 2 people working in the programmes

department to provide activities and education.

8. After about

October/November 2000 when there was increased media focus on the operations

of the WIRPC, ACM started to put more effort into the care and welfare

of children, and more teaching and programme staff were employed.

Resources and Standards

9. I was aware

that it was regular practice for figures in ACM reports to DIMIA to

be inflated - such as hours of education and programmes delivered. Services

were not being delivered adequately or at all, but figures were produced

to say that they were. This took place the whole time I was there.

10. When there

were audits or inspections, things were improved temporarily, but they

returned to what were generally inadequate standards soon after. I was

aware for some penalties being imposed by DIMIA on ACM for breaching

the contract to operate Woomera, but these did not reflect the degree

to which the contract were breached.

11. I did not think

that DIMIA really kept a close enough eye on what ACM was doing, and

had the wool pulled over their eyes in relation to the contractual obligations

which were often not met in relation to the conditions of detention.

Ultimately, ACM was used to running prisons and was a business run for

profit. They were therefore unused to providing appropriate services

in this context, especially for children, and to do so would have cost

them money. I expect that this would be a problem with any private contractor.

12. For those of

us working on the ground at the WIRPC, there were simply not the resources

to provide the services or level of services that we were expected to

provide. The head office would demand results and workers were worried

that they would be sacked if they did not create the appearance that

the services were being provided.

13. Staff in Woomera

were trying to provide services to detainees but were not given the

support or resources. We had to develop policies to deal with things

such as child protection, unaccompanied minors and dealing with high

risk detainees with no input or support from head office.

14. We had a fair

degree of autonomy from the ACM head office provided we were within

our budget. But I did not believe that they really had an understanding

of what was going on on the ground at the WIRPC. This hamstrung our

ability to run the centre generally and also to ensure security.

15. I recall the

circumstances surrounding the riot in August 2000:

Detainees were frustrated

about the visa process. There were problems with property damage and I

was trying to keep a lid on it by talking to detainees. But then things

escalated and fences were being pushed over and detainees were threatening

to break out. We identified who we thought were the ring-leaders and they

were taken into Sierra Compound where they were isolated from the rest

of the detainees.

Detainees raised

with me that they believed that some of the people we had removed to Sierra

Compound may not have been involved in the disturbance, and they were

very unhappy about their removal to Sierra. They were, incidentally, also

very unhappy with those who had caused the disturbance.

I accepted that some

of those removed may not have been involved in the disturbance and I wanted

to release them into the general population. I negotiated with the detainees

in the main compound and agreed to speak to my superiors to see if they

could be released. I was of the view that the situation could continue

to escalate if it was not handled carefully.

I called head office

and was told by the Detention Services National Operations Manager at

the time “Fuck ‘em. ACM does not back down, take them on”.

I warned that there would be a riot if nothing was done, and I did not

believe that we had enough staffing resources to handle the situation,

but I was ignored. After I communicated the decision to the detainees,

there was a riot with fires and extensive property damage. Several staff

were injured during this incident . (nil detainees were injured)


at the WIRPC

16. There were

not enough staff at the WIRPC. There were 80 staff for 1,400 detainees

when I started there. I raised this with head office but I was ignored.

The staff numbers were, to my knowledge, in breach of the ACM contract

with DIMIA and we were told to “fudge” the figures

17. Staff received

inadequate training. Officers with no previous experience were given

4 weeks of intensive training (6x 12 hour days per week) and lacked

the necessary skills to effectively manage detainees. Staff working

in areas such as Programmes did not receive any training at all beyond

an induction.

18. Training in

the needs of children and child protection was inadequate and I felt

that I lacked experience and training with children in a detention environment.

General awareness of security of children was poor. There was also inadequate

training in report writing.

19. There were

also problems with continuity and consistency because staff were on

a 6 week rotation.

20. There was never

a policy to call detainees by their numbers. Initially this was done

when there were very large numbers of people. In part this was because

it was difficult for staff to pronounce some of the names. It was also

because some detainees wished to remain anonymous and others had used

aliases and this meant that sometimes people did not realise when they

were being called. There was, after a time, a direction that people

be called by name and this was complied with.


of children

21. I was very

concerned about children’s safety when there were riots and disturbances.

When there was a riot, the centre was locked down and kids were in the

thick of it. It was difficult to get children out because parents often

did not want to be separated from them. Staff, particularly nurses,

tried their best to keep children safe. However, from an organisational

perspective, there were no efforts made to prevent children from seeing


22. There were

concerns raised by programmes and medical staff about child abuse from

male detainees. We therefore trained staff in the requirements of mandatory

notification and built up a relationship with FAYS that I regarded as


23. Not until about

the end of 2001 were families able to be accommodated in a compound

separate from the single men. I was of the view that this should have

been the arrangement from the beginning, but it took over 12 months

to get it to happen.

24. The compound

across the road from the WIRPC could also have been used to accommodate

children and families.

25. During the

time I worked at the WIRPC, I do not recall any incidents of self-harm

amongst children.

26. When I started

work at the WIRPC there was no policy or plan for the care of unaccompanied

minors and they received little special care. A plan was initiated from

within the WIRPC which ultimately resulted in unaccompanied minors being,

in my view, properly cared for.



27. The standard

of health care could have been better. The medical centre at the WIRPC

was operating in a small demountable. The staff tried hard but kept

changing over regularly and appeared to be working with inadequate facilities.

I raised this concern repeatedly with the head office.

28. It appeared

that appropriate levels of medical supplies were available but I was

criticised on a number of occasions for calling ambulances when people

required urgent medical treatment as this was a large expense. However,

it did not stop me from continuing to do so.

29. I was also

aware of argument between DIMIA and ACM over who would pay for hospital

care required for detainees, but I was not of the view that care was

ultimately withheld for this reason.

30. There was no

regular health screening of children and I felt that not enough attention

was given to the health needs of children. There was not, for example,

a designated child psychologist.


and Activities

31. When I first

started working at the WIRPC education was virtually non-existent. By

the time I left there was a structured programme of about two hours

in the morning and two in the afternoon.

32. However, I

was of the view that schooling within the WIRPC was ineffective because

there were too many distractions. Schooling in the community was canvassed

as an option, but there was opposition from the community. I didn’t

think that ACM really made an effort to try to explain to locals how

it would work and address their concerns.

33. It would also

have been possible to have used the compound across the road for schooling,

but this was not pursued.

34. There were

not enough excursions provided. Children were lucky to get out of the

centre on an excursion once a month on average. In the early days I

had tried to get children out to Breen Park in Woomera more regularly.

35. I recall the

Woomera Management team arguing with the ACM head office in Sydney to

set up a playground and play equipment for children, but they did not

want to spend the money on it. The children had to play on a soccer

pitch that was just gravel.

I make this solemn

declaration by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959

as amended and subject to the penalties provided by that Act for the making

of false statements in statutory declarations, conscientiously believing

the statements contained in this declaration to be true in every particular.

Signed on

1 July 2002


Updated 30 June 2003.