ICS Seminar Series - Michelle Peterie

Date: Thursday, 18 November 2021
Time: 11.30 a.m.–1.00 p.m.
Venue: The seminar will be hosted online via Zoom. Please RSVP to e.blight@westernsydney.edu.au by 17 November, 5:00 p.m., to receive the Zoom details.

Harm by Design: The Collateral Impacts of Immigration Detention in Australia

Presenter: Dr Michelle Peterie

Discussant: Dr Sally Clark


People incarcerated in immigration detention facilities experience significant reduction in physical, emotional and social health. These harms have been recognised across the world, and are particularly well documented in relation to Australia’s detention system. Immigration detention, however, also imposes harm beyond that on the detainee. Drawing on over 70 in-depth interviews conducted between 2015 and 2020, this talk describes the under-recognised impacts of detention policies and practices on the loved ones and supporters of people incarcerated in Australia’s detention system. It maps the escalating rules and intimidating security procedures that surround visiting detention in Australia. And it shows that visitors are positioned within detention spaces as quasi-prisoners. They are frustrated in their efforts to offer substantive help. The emotional impact of this positioning pushes some to despair and galvanises others in resistance. Ultimately, this presentation offers a new perspective on how deterrence is operationalised in Australia’s detention system, arguing that high rates of visitor attrition are not accidental. They are the result of a broader institutional effort to increase detainee isolation and desperation.


Dr Michelle Peterie is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Sydney, where she co-leads the Sydney Centre for Healthy Societies’ research theme on Work, Education and Welfare. Michelle has previously held Postdoctoral Research Fellowships at the University of Queensland and the University of Wollongong. She is a past co-convener of The Australian Sociological Association's Sociology of Emotions and Affect thematic group, and an Associate Editor of the Australian Journal of Social Issues. Michelle is the author or co-author of thirty journal articles and book chapters, many concerning the impacts of government policies and discourses on the health of individuals, communities and society. She is the author of Visiting Immigration Detention: Care and Cruelty in Australia’s Asylum Seeker Prisons (Bristol, 2022), the co-author of Compulsory Income Management in Australia and New Zealand: More Harm than Good? (Policy, 2022), and the co-editor of Emotions in Late Modernity (Routledge, 2019). Details at www.michellepeterie.com.