NAURU BURNING: An uprising and its aftermath


“Mark Isaacs’s insight into the events that led up to the riot and fire at the Nauru refugee detention centre, and its aftermath, should concern every Australian. This book is graphic evidence of dark practices directly linked to Australia’s immigration and border protection policies. It is a shameful story that needed to be told.  Mark Isaacs has rightly taken a stand against a policy of secrecy and lack of scrutiny that may have hidden the truth forever.”  – Tim Costello, CEO, World Vision Australia

In Nauru Burning: An uprising and its aftermath, Mark Isaacs goes behind the veil of secrecy around Australia’s offshore immigration detention centres to reveal a climate of fear and hopelessness, culminating in the riot and fire which destroyed much of the Nauru regional processing centre in July 2013. The book reveals how the tinderbox ignited and examines the investigation into who was responsible. It is the story of the fight of the men in detention to prove their innocence, and of the workers who tried to help them.

Ultimately, it is a comment on the lack of accountability and oversight for service providers in the deliberately remote and closed environment of Australia’s offshore detention centres.

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About the author

 Mark Isaacs is a writer, community worker, adventurer, campaigner for social justice and author of The Undesirables: Inside Nauru (Hardie Grant, 2014), an account of his work with asylum seekers inside the Nauru Regional Processing Centre.

Mark has written for publications including Foreign PolicyWorld Policy JournalHuffington PostVICE and New Matilda. He continues to work with asylum seekers and refugees for a settlement service in Sydney.
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Published on
May 20, 2016
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History / Australia & New Zealand
History / Oceania
Political Science / World / Australian & Oceanian
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  <p> When it comes to asylum seekers on Nauru, we learn only what the Australian government wants us to know. In the wake of The Nauru Files, see eyewitness accounts of what is happening inside the Nauru detention centre through <i>The Undesirables. </i> <p>
<p> Mark Isaacs went to work inside the Nauru detention centre in 2012. As a Salvation Army employee, he provided humanitarian aid to the men interned in the camp. What hesaw there moved him to write this book. </p>

<p> <i>The Undesirables </i> chronicles his time on Nauru, detailing daily life and the stories of the men held there; the self-harm, suicide attempts, and riots; the rare moments of joy; the moments of deep despair. He takes us behind the gates of Nauru and humanises a political debate usually ruled by misleading rhetoric. </p>
<p> In a strange twist of fate, Mark’s father, Professor David Isaacs, travelled to Nauru in December 2014 to investigate how children were treated in detention. This revised edition of The Undesirables reveals the human rights abuses Professor Isaacs discovered on Nauru, and interrogates how little has changed for people in detention. </p>

<p> <b>Mark Isaacs <b> is a writer, a community worker, an adventurer, and a campaigner for social justice. He resigned from the Salvation Army in June 2013 and spoke out publicly against the government’s No Advantage policy. After returning from Nauru, Mark worked at an asylum seeker settlement agency in Sydney. Mark appeared in Eva Orner’s 2016 documentary <i>Chasing Asylum </i>and has written for <i>Foreign Policy</i>, <i>World Policy Journa</i>l, <i>Huffington Post</i>, <i>New Internationalist</i>, <i>Mamamia</i>, <i>New Matilda</i> and <i>VICE</i>. </p>
long will we be here?' one man asked.</i>

<i>Nobody could answer him. Nobody knew. The intention was clear:
this was the No Advantage policy. Take them to a distant island, lock them
away, punish them, forget about them. Criminals were given a sentence to
serve; these men were not even given that. Lost hope ebbed out of the men in
uncontrollable sobs and tears. </i>

Queue jumper, boat person, illegals. Asylum seekers are contentious
front-page news but obtaining information about Australia’s regional
processing centres is increasingly difficult. We learn only what the
government wants us to know.

<b>Mark Isaacs<b> worked for the Salvation Army inside the
Nauru Detention Centre soon after it re-opened in 2012. He provided
humanitarian aid to the men interned in the camp. What he saw there moved him
to speak out.

<i>The Undesirables</i> chronicles his time on Nauru detailing
daily life and the stories of the men held there; the self-harm, suicide
attempts, and riots; the rare moments of joy; the moments of deep

<p>Mark's eyewitness account humanises a political debate usually
ruled by misleading rhetoric.</p>

<b>About the author</b>

Mark Isaacs became impassioned by the asylum seeker debate after a visit to
Villawood Detention Centre while writing for Oxfam. Months later, in October
2012, Mark was employed by the Salvation Army to work at the regional
processing centre in Nauru. While there, Mark established the Recreations
program and Oceans program for asylum seekers. He eventually resigned from
the Salvation Army in June 2013 and spoke out publicly against the
government's No Advantage policy. 

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