Conditions and service provision at the Manus Island RPC
The committee heard a significant amount of evidence throughout its
inquiry in relation to the physical conditions and infrastructure in place at
the Manus Island RPC, and how these factors affected transferees. Ms
Nicole Judge, a former employee of the Salvation Army, gave the following
account to the committee of the impact detention at the Manus centre had on
When I arrived on Manus Island during September 2013, I had previously
worked on Nauru for one year. I thought I had seen it all: suicide attempts,
people jumping off buildings, people stabbing themselves, people screaming for
freedom whilst beating their heads on concrete. Unfortunately I was wrong; I
had not seen it all. Manus Island shocked me to my core. I saw sick and
defeated men crammed behind fences and being denied their basic human rights,
padlocked inside small areas in rooms often with no windows and being
mistreated by those who were employed to care for their safety.
This chapter examines the conditions and provision of services to asylum
seekers at the Manus Island RPC, and how serious deficiencies created an
environment that contributed to the unrest at the centre in February 2014.
Size and composition of the population of asylum seekers
As discussed in chapter 1, at its re-establishment in November 2012, the
Manus Island RPC was intended to be temporary and had the capacity to house
somewhere around 500 people, with the population of the centre including
families with children. From mid-2013, the total number of asylum seekers
detained at the centre increased rapidly. An official from the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection (department) explained to the committee:
The build-up of transferee numbers in the middle of last year
was sudden. In seven weeks, from 19 July 2013 to the election on 7 September
2013, the centre's population grew from 130 to 723—an increase of almost 600 per cent.
In October 2013, the number of asylum seekers detained at the centre
reached approximately 1100.
By February 2014, at the time of the incident, there were 1338 asylum seekers
at the centre of a range of nationalities, as shown in Figure 3.1.
Source: Information provided by the Department of Immigration and
A representative from the department explained that the decision to
remove families with children from Manus Island RPC and convert the centre to
one only for detaining single adult males (SAMs) was made on the basis that
accommodation at the centre was unsuitable for families.
The contract between the department and Transfield Services (the
contractor currently responsible for management of the RPC), signed in March
2014, indicates that the number of asylum seekers at facilities on Manus Island
was intended to almost double from the February 2014 level:
The current focus for the Department is on rapidly increasing
OPC infrastructure, operations and service capacity to support and effect an
increase in Transferee numbers. Manus Province is to accommodate
Changing security profile of the
The increase in the number of asylum seekers detained at Manus Island
RPC coupled with the change in the composition of the population significantly
increased security risks. G4S described the presence of families and children
at the RPC as 'a moderating influence on the behaviour of the SAMs'
This change [to a SAM only facility] was implemented early in
July 2013 and as a result, this increased the risk profile of the Centre
significantly due to the increased likelihood of tensions leading to violence
amongst a SAMs only group...This large number of adult males housed within a
Centre intended for family use posed additional security risks.
Impact on infrastructure and
The Salvation Army suggested that the change in the composition of the
population and the increased risk profile 'did not require a greater level of
complexity in our service delivery' but 'it effectively required us to make
sure the right staff were in the right place'.
However, the Salvation Army stated that the rapid increase in overall numbers
'put incredible strain on existing infrastructure':
For example, there were insufficient telephones, computers
and internet access for asylum seekers. Faith rooms for asylum seekers were
inadequate to allow them to practise their religion. Recreation spaces were
taken away to allow buildings for accommodation to be constructed.
There were insufficient dedicated education classrooms, which
meant that classrooms had to be frequently undertaken in the hot, unsheltered,
outdoor environment. There were insufficient dedicated interview rooms for case
management...There were insufficient and, in some circumstances, no interpreters
at all for certain cultural groups.
Physical facilities and environment at the RPC
The conditions and facilities at Manus Island RPC were variously
described to the committee as harsh, inadequate and inhumane.
Submitters and witnesses who had been employed at the RPC identified numerous
concerns, and in some cases expressed their shock, about the poor living
conditions including cramped and over‑heated sleeping quarters, exposure
to the weather, poor sanitation and sewage blockages, unhygienic meals and
poorly managed service of meals. Concerns were also expressed about the
provision of health—in particular mental health—services. These concerns
are set out in greater detail below.
Adequacy of accommodation
After visiting the Manus Island RPC in December 2013, Amnesty International
described the centre as 'resembling a combination of a prison and a military
...a network of single-storey buildings, staff facilities and
"compounds" that house asylum seekers, all divided by fences of about
2.4 metres in height and connected by uneven dirt tracks. The structures are a
combination of World War II-era buildings with concrete walls and corrugated
iron roofs, temporary structures such as marquees and "demountables"
(similar to shipping containers), and basic buildings used as offices by staff.
Amnesty International raised particular concerns about the sleeping
quarters, describing them as 'cramped' and lacking privacy or private space.
Mr Martin Appleby, a former G4S employee working at the centre,
described the accommodation provided for asylum seekers as follows:
I was quite taken aback, as the accommodation set-up for them
was much more primitive than I had imagined, particularly by Australian
standards. Most were just in tents or old World War II huts that were made of
tin with tightly packed double-bunk beds in them. Even at that point [August
2013] they were cramped and things got worse later on as the number of
transferees rose significantly over the period I was there.
I have heard the word "inhumane" used about the
conditions in which the transferees were expected to live at the MIRPC and I
think that's probably the best description for them, especially those living in
the old World War II sheds like the P Dorm. Expecting people to live
packed like sardines into tin sheds in 35–40 degree heat with only four fans to
cool the place down just shouldn't be allowed. It's just ridiculous. Some of
the newer accommodations in Mike and Oscar were somewhat better, but the
variation in the standard of the accommodation was itself a cause of tension
between different groups of transferees.
Mr Steven Kilburn, another former G4S officer, was also concerned about
the sleeping quarters:
...one particular area in Foxtrot compound called Papa block,
which was an absolute disgrace by any standard. I wrote an extremely long
report to G4S about the fact that it breached every fire safety—I was a
fireman, previously—regulation. It was a deathtrap and a hazard to everyone who
lived in there. It was concrete; there was no air. It was just an appalling
place to put people. There were 160 people living in there. The beds were [very
close together]. They were not allowed to even put a sheet around their bed to
get any privacy, so they never got any privacy at all. The whole time they are
there, they are sleeping next to strangers.
Exposure to the weather
Several submitters with experience working at the centre told the
committee that asylum seekers were exposed to the elements and that there were
insufficient outdoor shaded areas. In particular, the committee heard evidence
that asylum seekers were often forced to queue for lengthy periods in unshaded
outdoor areas during extreme heat or rain in order to receive meals, medication
or to attend medical appointments. Mr Appleby told the committee '[t]here was
virtually no shade in any of the compounds and despite the intense heat the
guys weren't given any hats and very limited sunscreen'.
Amnesty International raised concerns about the lack of shade and
protection from the sun in its December 2013 report:
There is almost no shade to protect people from the sun, heat,
or rain, particularly in Oscar compound. International Health and Medical
Services (IHMS) staff reported that the lack of shade has led to numerous
health issues, including people collapsing from heat stroke...no action has been
taken to provide greater protection from the sun and rain despite repeated
acknowledgement of those shortcomings.
In response to concerns raised by Amnesty International about protection
from the elements at the centre, the Australian Government stated in June 2014:
At meal times, transferees may be required to queue for a
short period of time for their meals in the air-conditioned dining room.
Transferees may also wait for a short period of time for medication in shaded
Shaded communal areas are provided in each compound for use
by transferees. The design of the Manus OPC expansion works also includes large
outdoor covered recreation areas for use by transferees.
Sanitation and hygiene
Several submitters and witnesses commented on the state of sanitary
facilities at the centre. Mr Christopher Iacono, a former Salvation Army
employee, described conditions as follows:
The toilets and showers were highly unhygienic and in poor
condition. Most showers and toilets had moss and fungi growing on the walls and
floors. Many of the showers in Oscar had, had their doors damaged and [were] not
working limiting privacy greatly. The toilets were filthy with toilet paper
constantly on the floor. The floors in all the facilities were constantly wet
and there was a strong smell of sewage around the centre at all times...
Many times soap ran out in the centre. A G4S guard told me that
"we ran out of soap two days ago and are waiting for the barge to come
in". There were no washing facilities located near mess halls for asylum
seekers to wash hands before eating ever.
Mr Appleby made similar comments:
The toilets got filthy and weren't cleaned often enough. Most
of the detainees weren't used to Western-style toilets, so that didn't help
matters. Sewage was pumped out by small pumps and it didn't take long for the
detainees to work out that if they dropped a cap into the toilets, it would
cause grief and some of them did that I think as a way of protesting. The only
hand sanitizer was for staff—the detainees didn't get any. We were only allowed
to dole out very limited amounts of shampoo and soap to them, and even the
toilet paper was given to them in individual sheets because management said
they would just use it to block up the sewage system. So the detainees had to
come and ask for toilet paper whenever they wanted it, which I found really
demeaning and embarrassing. I've never seen anything like that—they were
treated as less than children.
Mr Appleby also commented on the availability of fresh water at the
There was limited running water at the facility, even when it
worked, but it wasn't drinkable. All the detainees had to be given bottled
water for drinking, but a lot of them were using that for cleaning themselves
when they went to the toilet as well, because that was what they were used to,
which meant that the quantity for drinking was inadequate. Plus it was always warm
because the bottles were just left out on pallets in the sun, which meant they
got really hot.
Amnesty International also raised these concerns in its December 2013
report. The Australian Government responded in June 2014:
Hand soap is supplied in all toilets in all compounds and is
replenished as required...Toiletries are supplied for each transferee and are
replenished as required. Transferees are also able to purchase additional
products from the canteen.
...Remedial works have taken place to address the drainage
issues adjacent to the ablutions in the Oscar compound. The department is
working with Transfield Services to deal with drainage and other issues at the
Lombrum OPC site.
The quality and service of food at the Manus Island RPC was also
questioned by submitters. Ms Judge, a former Salvation Army employee, stated:
Food for transferees is of poor quality, I have personally
found small worms and flies baked into bread and also in meat being offered to
staff and transferees. I have found small dead flies in my bread on a daily
basis, this was such a regular occurrence it was to be expected.
Mr Appleby agreed:
The quality of the food at the facility was also shocking and
cases of diarrhoea and food poisoning were rampant...We had an isolation bay both
for staff and for the detainees and both were constantly in use.
There was a lot of unnecessary grief and tension caused in my
view by the way that the food was delivered to the transferees. In the Oscar
compound for instance...often the line was 200 metres long and people had to
queue for hours to get each meal...Every day there were tensions and arguments
about the queue and whether someone had taken someone else's place.
Concerns relating to the adequacy of healthcare services
As noted in chapter 2, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS)
is responsible for the provision of healthcare services at the Manus Island
RPC. IHMS's contract outlines performance standards for the delivery of health
care to transferees, including a requirement that a transferee must have a
consultation with a health care practitioner within 72 hours of a request for a
IHMS stated that the process for a transferee to request medical
assistance was to complete a Medical Request Form and give this to a garrison
or welfare provider staff member, who would then provide this to IHMS. An
appointment would then be booked 'on the basis of clinical acuity and an
appointment provided within 72 hours'. IHMS explained that a triage system
was employed to assess the severity of cases:
[C]ases are referred to the clinic and a senior nurse
performs the initial triage. More urgent or acute cases are brought to the
resuscitation area and managed by the emergency physician. Less acute cases are
seen in the consultation rooms by a GP...Critical cases are seen immediately. The
response times for acute events occurring in the centre are within recommended
timeframes and are clinically appropriate. This is due to the onsite presence
of clinical staff and the proximity of the medical centre to the areas of
IHMS's evidence that cases are treated appropriately and in a timely
manner was disputed strongly by other stakeholders to the inquiry. Amnesty
International expressed concern after its November 2013 visit to the centre
that the medical facility within the camp was unable to cope with the growing
demand for health and mental health services, stating:
IHMS receives around 110 appointment requests per day and
cannot meet demand for appointments...
A number of detainees raised concerns that sometimes it takes
between three and 10 days to receive a medical appointment after submitting a
request. Some felt that they needed to make several requests in order to be
taken seriously and many complained that water and paracetamol was common
treatment. The lack of ability to self-administer paracetamol for headaches or
antiseptic cream for minor cuts means asylum seekers...often have to seek many
appointments for even basic medical care. One doctor commented on the absurdity
of requiring people to return to medical appointments several times to receive
Mr Iacono contended:
Waiting times for IHMS appointments were extremely long. I
was told by management to alert asylum seekers that waiting times were a
minimum of three days at one point. Asylum seekers were told to fill in medical
request forms and wait for an appointment. Most often no appointment ever
arrived and the asylum seeker had to enter numerous requests.
Many asylum seekers had skin conditions caused by the
constant wetness, humidity and aforementioned unhygienic cleaning facilities.
While I was on Manus I witnessed cases of scabies, typhoid, regular
gastroenteritis, rashes and skin infections...
At numerous times over my 5 months on Manus island
anti-malarial drugs had been exhausted and could not be handed out. Asylum
seekers were very concerned about mosquito born [sic] diseases and any side
effects of the anti-malarial medication. Asylum seekers and staff also
questioned the safety of breathing in the mosquito fogging fumes that were used
every 2‑3 days across all compounds all without receiving adequate
Ms Judge also commented on the state of healthcare provision at the
Transferees and staff suffer regularly from foot infections.
I have seen small cuts turn into large infections over the matter of days
before access to medical services is approved. Very often medical provisions is
panadol and water. Transferees may have to wait several days to receive panadol
for an ailment, prompting staff to hide medicinal products such as panadol in
their pockets to treat transferees headaches and pain. Staff are threatened
that they will lose their job for offering transferees panadol or hydralyte
medication for dehydration.
Vector control and 'fogging'
Some submitters and witnesses expressed concern that the 'fogging'
practices used at the centre to control mosquito populations resulted in
transferees suffering respiratory problems or asthma attacks.
IHMS responded to these concerns as follows:
The risks associated with normal fogging operations is very
minimal as the amount of insecticide used (concentration per unit of space) is
actually no greater than what is contained in commercial household insecticide
On occasion, there will be individuals who might be sensitive
to the spray (more likely the hydrocarbon carrier than the insecticide), for
example presenting with breathing problems or minor skin irritation. This might
be more perceived than real and would normally be very transient in nature.
IHMS representatives contended that the fogging program at the centre
had been very effective in limiting mosquito-borne disease:
We have had vector control now almost since we started on
Manus. We have done a phenomenal job there, with the department's support. We
have only had three cases of malaria in almost 18 months. That is
extraordinary...Of those three cases, we think that two came in from outside—they
were in PNGers. We think only one was actually caught inside.
Provision of mental health services
Evidence presented to the committee from individuals with experience
working at the centre included accounts of transferees engaging in self-harm,
suicide attempts and displaying symptoms of poor mental health. Ms Judge
Mental health problems are widespread, transferees often
speak of ending their life, and how they would like to end their life. I
regularly engage with transferees to convince them that their life is still
worth living. Transferees often self harm and attempt suicide. I personally saw
a Iranian transferee cut his wrists in Delta compound, his injuries looked
significant and there was a great deal of blood loss. Mentally ill transferees
are held in 'Delta 9' where they are monitored by security guards. This area
has no recreational facilities, poor lighting, it is cramped, and their rooms
have no windows. The gate is boarded up so transferees cannot see outside this
area. I have heard transferees screaming inside this area, and shaking the
fence as I walked past.
IHMS representatives informed the committee that transferees undergo
mental health screening three monthly while in immigration detention.
IHMS stated that, based on transferee screening at the Manus Island RPC from
April to June 2014, 27 per cent of the transferee population reported high
or very high levels of psychological distress.
Data provided by IHMS showed that between January and April 2014, there were on
average 25 new cases each month of transferees being diagnosed with a mental
illness by a psychiatrist or GP at the centre.
Adequacy of services for dealing
with mental health issues
Amnesty International's report stated that, as at November 2013, IHMS's
mental health team at the Manus Island RPC consisted of seven staff.
IHMS noted that by the time of the incidents in February 2014, its mental
health team on Manus Island comprised 11 staff, including six mental
health nurses, one psychiatrist, one psychologist and three counsellors.
IHMS also confirmed that since the incident, the mental health team has
increased by seven positions, being additional mental health nurses and
Dr Mark Parrish, IHMS's Regional Medical Director, expanded on the way
IHMS's mental health team operates at the Manus facility:
It is very similar to a community mental health service in
Australia. Our team does a lot of outreach clinics in the compounds. We have a
number of classes that we run with groups and sometimes with individuals who we
do outreach services to. For the percentage we have particular concerns with we
will take a closer interest and manage them. If necessary they will be seen by
a general practitioner and if necessary they will be seen by a psychiatrist and
if necessary they will be on medication to help them with their conditions.
In relation specifically to psychiatric services available, the
department provided the following information:
Full time psychiatric services have been available at the
Manus OPC from 21 January 2014. There is a single full time position which is
filled on rotation using the fly-in fly-out model, typically providing a five
day per week service of approximately 38 hours each week. Since the end of
February, there has been regular provision of psychiatric services although the
health services provider has at times, found it difficult to recruit suitable
staff. To further support health services on Manus, including psychiatric
consultations, telemedicine infrastructure has been established on Manus and is
currently [June 2014] undergoing testing.
IHMS provided additional information about the frequency of visits by
the psychiatrist to the Manus Island RPC, stating that there were five visiting
psychiatrist visits in the six months prior to the February 2014 disturbances
at the centre, and there has been an increase since the events with nine visits
occurring in the subsequent six month period.
Security infrastructure at the centre and related issues
Given the violence that occurred during the disturbances at
the Manus Island RPC in February 2014, the nature and adequacy
of security infrastructure and services at the centre was a key issue discussed
during the inquiry.
G4S representatives discussed the importance of security infrastructure
at a facility such as the Manus Island RPC:
In a facility housing over 1,300 single adult males—and
tensions rising—proper security infrastructure is essential. Fencing in
particular is critical as it provides the first line of defence during any
riotous behaviour. It prevents transferees from exiting the centre in a
controlled manner. It protects transferees from external threats, and, when
there is a large-scale unrest, internal fencing prevents the congregation of
large groups of transferees into unmanageable numbers.
Risk assessments and requests for
infrastructure upgrades from G4S
G4S informed the committee that it provided a risk assessment of the
centre to the department in June 2013, highlighting that security
infrastructure including internal and external fencing at the centre was
inadequate for the facility.
The department did not act on this initial risk assessment by G4S. The
department offered the following explanation about the lack of action in
response to this request:
...the department's view at that time was that the centre under
the then government's policy was a temporary centre pending the construction of
the new centre, the permanent centre at East Lorengau, and that an appropriate
response was not to make significant investment in infrastructure when there
were alternative responses possible through the deployment of personnel to meet
the security requirements.
The committee heard that G4S provided additional requests to the
department in relation to the need to improve security infrastructure at the
centre in October 2013, December 2013 and January 2014.
No construction work on security infrastructure upgrades had been completed at
the time of the incidents in February 2014.
G4S argued that, had proper security infrastructure been in place at the
centre at the time of the disturbances, including appropriate fencing, 'the
severe injuries and the fatality would probably not have occurred'.
Force protection review
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection (minister) first
visited the RPC in September 2013 and following that first visit commissioned
the 'force protection review', which took place in October 2013.
An unclassified summary of the report's recommendations and their
implementation at the centre was provided to the committee at a public hearing
on 11 July 2014.
The report summary noted nine issues requiring attention, namely:
the need for service provider personal safety training;
inadequate service provider staffing depth, requiring changes to
ensure sufficient staff levels at all times;
inadequate physical security fencing and lighting;
personnel security and access procedures;
search warrant processes at the centre;
the need to relocate a logistics hub located within the centre to
an external location;
a review of the centre's incident management practices;
community engagement to improve external facilities including
provincial police accommodation, Lombrum hospital and road maintenance; and
ensuring potable water self-sufficiency at the centre.
The report summary provided to the committee noted the progress made in
each of these areas, both as at the time of the incident on 16 February 2014,
and as at 23 June 2014. It states that as at 16 February 2014, only one of
these issues had been completely addressed (access to potable water), with the
other eight areas being 'partially complete'. By June 2014 a further three
areas had been fully addressed (service provider safety training, staffing
depth, and personnel security and access procedures), with the remaining five
areas having been progressed further but not yet fully completed.
The minster has stated that he approved construction of additional
infrastructure including security fencing at the centre 'immediately' after he
received the recommendations of the Force Security Review:
When I became Minister I visited Manus Island within the
first fortnight and instructed General Campbell to undertake a security review.
That again recommended that that security infrastructure fencing and lighting,
CCTV be put in place. I authorised that immediately. In November  the
resources were made available through the cabinet process. It is a source of
frustration that these things take longer frankly than I think they should but
that was authorised and that was endorsed and the action was being taken.
Implementation of security
Departmental officials stated that infrastructure projects at the Manus
Island RPC can require a timeframe of up to six months to complete.
Mr Mark Cormack, a Deputy Secretary at the department, defended the
time taken to commence and implement infrastructure upgrades at the centre:
It is important to note...that in any facility—onshore or
offshore—building infrastructure takes time. This is further complicated when
you are trying to build in another sovereign country, especially in tropical
situations where little mainstream infrastructure already exists. There will be
impacts on time frames due to local conditions such as weather and rising sea
levels, and there are major logistical challenges in bringing in machinery,
materials and specialist workers over long distances to largely unmaintained
sea and air arrival infrastructure.
At a public hearing on 10 June 2014, Mr Martin Bowles PSM, Secretary of
the department, explained that security infrastructure upgrades were still in
progress at that time:
[E]nhancements to security are well underway with survey and
design of an upgraded fencing solution completed and construction work
commenced. Consultants and a contractor have been engaged to design and manage
the construction of a new logistics hub; critical infrastructure such as water
production, water storage, fuel storage and communications will be moved to
this logistics hub. CCTV and improved lighting solutions are being developed to
provide coverage of critical areas. Lighting, including mobile lighting, is
being continually enhanced.
The minister provided further information in relation to the progress of
infrastructure upgrades at Manus Island on 10 September 2014:
On Manus, the Australian Government has delivered a
significant upgrade to the Lorengau Hospital, including supply of a range of
dental and medical equipment, including a digital x-ray device, a machine to
test blood samples quickly and an incubator. We are upgrading security
infrastructure. The exterior fencing upgrade has been completed and work
continues on the interior fencing, lighting and CCTV. We are also currently
refurbishing ablution blocks, staff housing, establishing a new medical
facility and relocating the logistics block.
Representatives from Transfield informed the committee that Transfield
was not responsible for delivering infrastructure upgrades, which were managed
through separate contracts. Transfield did note that the department had
requested comment from Transfield 'on a number of occasions on designs [and]
other aspects of the infrastructure that they propose to deliver'.
Transfield also informed the committee that it had taken opportunities to
provide suggestions to the department for 'minor operational improvements to infrastructure'
at the centre.
Tension between PNG locals and asylum seekers
It was apparent as early as August 2012, when the then Australian Government
announced it would be re-opening Manus Island RPC, that some PNG locals had
concerns about the centre (see chapter 1). Poor communication by both the PNG
and Australian governments with PNG locals together with their exclusion from
the construction of the centre served only to exacerbate these concerns and
resulted in blockades of the airport and the road leading to the RPC in
In addition to these concerns known from the outset, during the course
of the inquiry the committee heard that there was animosity between asylum
seekers and PNG locals. It was suggested that this was based on cultural and
and appears to have been exacerbated by misinformation and misunderstanding on
both sides. Ms Judge believed that the catalyst for the events of 16–18
February was 'significant anger towards the operations of the centre, its staff
and asylum seekers' by the local community which she described as 'a direct
threat to the centre's overall safety from outside, not from the inside'.
Mr Iacono had a similar view:
The threat posed by the PNG nationals was very real and was
often the source of intimidation used by G4S against asylum seekers. Stories of
cannibalism being rampant, of high levels of criminal activity especially
towards foreigners, as well as of the high level of HIV in the PNG population
were told to asylum seekers constantly. In September the asylum seekers learnt
of a fatal attack against a group of Australian trekkers in PNG. They had been
attacked by locals armed with machetes. This scared the asylum seekers and
reinforced the belief that they would not be safe anywhere in PNG.
Both Ms Judge and Mr Iacono described an incident on 18 October 2013
between PNG police and PNG navy personnel in which firearms were discharged and
staff at the RPC were evacuated but 'asylum seekers were left to fend for
Mr Iacono stated that 'the asylum seekers they were shaken and afraid at
having been left alone. From this day forward, asylum seekers were very wary of
PNG nationals and questioned their own safety'.
Ms Judge said of the incident:
This left me and my colleagues wondering how it would be
possible to run from weapon fire inside a padlocked compound. After this event
it was commonly and openly discussed that, in the event of a potential riot or
protest, PNG police or nationals would fire weapons into the compounds, which
would most likely result in deaths.
Ms Judge recalled another incident in which PNG locals armed with
machetes attempted to invade the RPC. According to Ms Judge, this event
heightened asylum seekers' fears about PNG locals:
Again, on my second rotation, an attempted invasion into
Delta compound by locals armed with machetes occurred. I was told I could not
evacuate. I was told by an expatriate G4S guard that I was safer inside with
the asylum seekers as my security. At this time, the asylum seekers told me
they would protect me from any threat from the outside. On top of these events
and comments to transferees by staff that PNG nationals were cannibals and
murderous people, local PNG nationals walked outside the facility daily
carrying machetes, evoking fear into the transferees. PNG navy police regularly
stood outside the centre in numbers chewing the stimulant betel nut, waiting
for any form of disturbance, minor or not, for the opportunity to showcase
their authority of numbers.
Miss Judge continued:
The attacks on asylum seekers [in February 2014] were not
unpredictable and unforeseen. The attacks were not due to asylum seekers
insulting PNG nationals in February or asylum seekers feeling discontent with
their processing time frames. The attacks were due to the entire system. The
attacks were due to the lack of due care for asylum seekers' safety and
wellbeing, the acceptance by staff that PNG was just a dangerous place and that
there was nothing we could do to change that. With reports going unheard and
incidents being covered up, with no-one really to report to and the threat of
danger being from outside, I am unsure of how anyone can guarantee the asylum
seekers' safety. Regardless of how high fences are built around the centre, how
many CCTV cameras are installed or how many extra guards are employed, I do not
believe anything can change the fact that the key threat to the asylum seekers
safety is, in fact, simply being detained on Manus Island.
Mr Steven Kilburn cautioned that improving conditions and the standard
of living for asylum seekers detained at Manus Island RPC could be a further
source of tension between PNG locals and asylum seekers,
and further warned that asylum seekers re-settled in PNG 'would never be safe':
Anyone who has ever spent any time in PNG understands that
PNG is a bit different to Australia in that it is the landowners—the
landholders—that really have the power. It is not all just government land and
the government decides what it is going to do with it without negotiating with
the landholders. There are a number of things that G4S wanted done, but they
had to get permission from the landholders to do...
I had a conversation with a group of local people and Papua
New Guinean guards. I said to them: "What's going to happen when these
people are released from here and go and live in the community?" They
said, "That's never going to happen."...I said, "Okay, just
imagine that it happens." Their words were—I do not want to use their
actual words, but let us put it this way: they made it quite clear that those
people will never be safe. They will have to watch over their shoulder the
whole time they are there because they are not going to let them live in Manus
Island. So when I hear the plan that, supposedly, we are going to put 13 in a
compound closer to town and start the process, I will tell you now that is
going to end in violence. We knew this was going to end in violence. I will
tell you that what is going to end in even worse violence is when they try to
impose those people into the local community. Unless there is some massive
payoff those people are in danger; there is nothing surer.
In addition to the animosity of PNG locals towards the RPC generally and
cultural and religious tension between asylum seekers and PNG locals, Mr
Kilburn identified environmental management in the RPC surrounds as a further
source of friction. In particular, Mr Kilburn described resentment amongst
locals as a result of waste from the RPC being inappropriately disposed of and
dumped in the bush:
...People told me about the environmental damage that the site
is doing. Everything is disposable—every knife, fork, cup. We go through
thousands and thousands and thousands of disposable plates, knives, forks and
bottles of water every day. There are no facilities on Manus Island for
recycling. There is no proper transfer station. It all gets taken away and
dumped in the bush. People are resentful about that...The locals are resentful of
the fact that we are destroying their island basically and just turning it into
a tip. There is bubbling tension going on the whole time, all the way through.
Educational modules presented to
asylum seekers at the Manus Island RPC
The Salvation Army was responsible for delivering educational modules to
asylum seekers at the Manus Island RPC about life in Papua New Guinea, which
were developed jointly with the department and PNG officials. These modules
were delivered through a series of PowerPoint presentations, copies of which
were provided to the committee, and covered topics including: the land and
people of PNG; family life in PNG; public health issues; living, working and
learning in PNG; public safety; and law and policing.
The module covering public safety in Papua New Guinea included
information on criminal gangs, tribal wars, risks associated with going out
after dark, and guidance on appropriate attire for women.
It was suggested at a public hearing of the committee that one module also
included information to the effect that PNG police may request bribes, or
commit crimes themselves in return for bribes, and that this information
contributed to transferees' fear of PNG locals; 
however, this was not corroborated in the PowerPoint versions of the modules
provided to the committee.
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