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Behind The Wire


“Client (child) suspected overdose.”

This is all we know about an incident which occurred in an Australian detention centre on May 19, 2011.

How did a child come to overdose in detention? What became of this “client”? The Department of Immigration has announced they intend to refuse a raft of Freedom of Information requests, made by you, about this and many other incidents that have occurred in Australia’s detention centres.

Behind The Wire, the latest interactive data visualisation from The Global Mail, invites readers to explore more than 7,600 incident reports filed by staff at the detention facilities. Any user can “flag” incidents making them appear brighter on the page. Users can also “Adopt-An-Incident”, through a simple online process for filing a Freedom of Information (FOI) request with DIAC, to access a more detailed report on an incident. The enterprise is a collaboration with, Detention Logs, New Matilda and Guardian Australia.

Explore the interactive here.

<p>The Global Mail</p>

The Global Mail

In the 12 days following the launch of Behind The Wire, you flagged thousands of incidents. Users also filed some 100 FOI requests for 85 unique detailed incident reports (read more about what you have flagged here).

The department, however, would treat all these as a single request, according to DIAC’s June 24 reply to those various people who made requests. The reply, signed by FOI director, Linda Rossiter, signalled that DIAC intended to refuse access to all the documents requested. You can read the letter here.

The letter suggests the reports are "substantially the same" in subject matter. Therefore, the 85 requests for the details of 85 different incidents, are being treated as "a single request", the letter states. Taken together, the work involved in fulfilling these requests "would substantially and unreasonably divert the resources of the department.”


Incidents yet to be adopted include this one:

“Client refused to feed her children” from August 27, 2010.

And this, from March 16, 2011:

“Redacted Requested ‘Please Kill Me.’”

Would DIAC consider these “substantially the same” too? Would they refuse access to this information, about what goes on in the centres run on behalf of the Australian public? There is only one way to find out – more FOI requests.

These records are still largely unexplored — with your help, we can find the stories buried within.

Just go to to continue exploring the detention logs, keep sharing, and “adopt” incidents with the simple FOI process — you can help us all better understand more about this deeply contested area of Australian public life.

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