Against Erasure: Digital Witnessing of Manus Island Detention Centre

Still from the video ‘Remain’ filmed on Manus Island. Picture: Hoda Afshar
Still from the video ‘Remain’ filmed on Manus Island. Picture: Hoda Afshar


Overview

This project is developing a digital representation of dismantled immigration detention centre at Lombrom, Manus Island, Papua New Guinea (PNG), for completion November 2020. Importantly, this will be the first known 3D model of the detention centre, making a significant contribution to collective knowledge about the facility and the island on which it was based. The centre was effectively a prison for approximately 1500 men from 2013 until 2017. In 2016, the PNG Supreme Court ordered it to be ‘closed,’ as its existence breached the PNG constitution. The detention camp was dismantled, as if it had never existed. Yet twelve men had died there due to violence, homicide, self-harm, suicide or untreated medical concerns. Many experienced pain and torture during their detainment. The work will function as a testament to these men, and a testimony of their suffering. It will examine the processes enabling erasure, as if the violence that occurred there never happened.

Outcomes / activities

The project is producing a virtual, interactive site of the Manus Island Detention Centre for use in teaching and learning, and for research. Other outcomes will include publications on the experience of producing the site, and will critically engage with the ‘erasure’ of sites of historical harms.

Impact

The project will:

  • provide a rich resource for researchers to engage with the manifestation and effects of Australian offshore processing sites
  • contribute to public knowledge of the impact of Australia’s harsh border protection policies, especially in offshore sites inaccessible to the Australian public
  • deliver an appreciation of the affective, physical and sensory dimensions of this site
  • reflect the University’s value of engaged research which delivers public value.

More information

Dr Claire Loughnan

Project details

Research partners

Dr Una McIlvenna (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne)
Mahnaz Alimardanian (PiiR Consulting)
Behrouz Boochani (University of Canterbury, New Zealand)
Professor Uma Kothari (School of Geography, University of Melbourne)
Dr James Parker (Institute for International Law and the Humanities, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne)
Dr Jordy Silverstein (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne)
Joel Stern (Liquid Architecture)
Arts eTeaching/eLearning Unit, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne (Sam Taylor, Mitch Buzza, Meredith Hinze)

Project team

Dr Claire Loughnan (Lecturer in Criminology, School of Social and Political Sciences, Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne) - Chief Investigator
Dr Una McIlvenna (School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne) - Chief Investigator

Contact

Dr Claire Loughnan