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Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Page: 28028


Dr Theophanous asked the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, upon notice, on 5 June 2001:

(1) Is he aware of allegations that the cause of the violent disturbances at the Port Hedland Detention Centre on 11 May 2001 was the physical assault of 16 year old boy by ACM officials, and the consequent attempt of his father and others to stop this abuse.

(2) Has he or his Department investigated this claim; if so, what can he tell the Parliament about this allegation, and about the events, which led to the subsequent violent disturbances at Port Hedland.

(3) In light of the fact that he released to the media part of the video tape of the disturbance at Port Hedland, will he release to the public and the Parliament the whole of that video tape, and any other documentation as to the events which occurred on 11 May at Port Hedland.

(4) Has he seen allegations that two persons were injured when 170 police, ACM guards and departmental officials sought to remove 22 persons from the Port Hedland Detention Centre; if so, is he able to categorically deny that this is the case; if not, what information can he provide.


Mr Ruddock (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Reconciliation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) Yes I am aware of the allegations regarding the cause of the disturbance on 11 May 2001at the Port Hedland Immigration Reception and Processing Centre.

(2) Yes. Information available to my Department shows that the disturbance was the result of tensions between two groups of detainees that had been occurring over some days prior to the disturbance. As a strategy to manage the situation and reduce the potential for violent confrontation, a decision was made by ACM, in consultation with the DIMA officials at Port Hedland, to transfer a small number of detainees from the centre to other centres. As a precursor to the transfer to other centres, 5 adult male detainees were to be transferred to the South Hedland police lock up, under the supervision of ACM. Whilst most of these detainees identified for transfer, agreed to the move, one of them objected. His teenaged son sought to intervene and was restrained from doing so by ACM officers. Other detainees watching the process from an accommodation block became agitated and commenced the disturbance by, in the first instance, breaking windows in that accommodation block. The incident involving the boy was videotaped and subsequently reviewed by police. No assault was identified.

(3) Significant parts of the incident were videotaped. In response to requests for release of the video, a decision was taken to release a small part of the video. In identifying what could be released, the following factors were taken into account:

· the need to protect the privacy and identity of those who were participating in the incident; and

· the need to ensure that release of the video, in full or in part, did not prejudice police investigations or subsequent prosecutions.

The small segment released was assessed as consistent with these requirements. It is not possible to release the video and other documents as a significant number of detainees are still the subject of court proceedings.

(4) Operation Unity was a carefully planned and executed joint operation involving ACM, WAPOL and APS staff which resulted in the safeextraction of 22 detainees from the Port Hedland IRPC to the South Hedland police lock up. All officers involved were briefed to use minimum force. Allegations have been made that one detainee suffered a broken arm and others were injured as a result of this exercise. All detainees arrested and moved to the South Hedland police lock up were seen and medically assessed by a doctor after they arrived at the lock up. The only injuries detected were self-inflicted grazes to the forehead of one detainee and a minor nick on the wrist of another, which occurred when flexicuffs were being removed. No detainee in this group, or any other detainee at the centre has a broken arm as a result of the operation on 26 May 2001.