On August 13, 22 people set out on a 1600 kilometre return trip from Perth—the Compassion Caravan to Leonora Alternative Place of Detention (Leonora APOD). This is an excerpt from one person’s account of the visit.
“The centre itself looks like the sort of prison camp you would expect to see in a third world country. There is nothing but red dirt and dongas, surrounded by high block-out fences and guards standing to attention at intervals around the perimeter. We were separated by padlocked gates, a double fence, a 100 metre wide dry moat and a plethora of stony-faced guards. They have made a deliberate barrier to stop the world seeing in and the detainees seeing out.
“The people inside had heard we were coming and were very obviously excited. Children were hoisted up on shoulders in order to see over the compound walls and faces popped up over the fences. They were waving homemade signs, one reading ‘Welcome to Leonora Family Rejection Centre’. The children started … shouting ‘Hi!’ and cheering. We responded with ‘Azadi!’ (freedom!) and blew party whistles. We laid the toys outside the fence and an army of guards came and took them inside. We received no information on how the donations would be distributed or even if they would be. The detention centre manager responded to most requests with, ‘I don’t have to answer that.’
“The media are denied access to the centre …visitors must give 24 hours notice and have the name of the person they want to visit. They can be refused if the name is incorrectly spelled. They can also be denied entry on the discretion of the centre manager without a given reason.”