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Mark Isaacs: Nauru: an insider’s account of Australia’s offshore detention policy


Former asylum seeker processing centre volunteer Mark Isaacs sidesteps the media spin to expose the harsh realities of life on Nauru, in this first-hand account of oppression, haphazard organisation and human disaster.

Mark Isaacs was 24 when, as a Salvation Army volunteer, he was abruptly despatched to Nauru in October 2012. The Pacific Solution had just been reintroduced and people were needed to staff the asylum seeker processing centre. Alongside a collection of unqualified misfits, Isaacs was horrified to witness the oppressive conditions asylum seekers faced. Two years later, his book The Undesirables recounts his first-hand experiences of the pitiful accommodations, shoddy organisation and vindictive surveillance on the island, as well as how he and his fellow volunteers dealt with anger, confusion and suicide attempts among the internees.

In this prescient Lunchbox/Soapbox event, Mark Isaacs speaks to the heart of this divisive issue by giving an insight into what really goes on inside Australia’s asylum seeker detention centres, unfiltered by media bias.


We love exploring ideas at the Wheeler Centre, and encouraging others to do the same. That’s why every Thursday lunchtime we hand the microphone over to the great thinkers, dreamers and orators of our time.

With a dazzling range of passionate speakers and unusual topics, our soapbox provides a platform for the eclectic, topical and enlightening stories you won’t hear elsewhere. This is the most memorable lunch break you’ll have all week.

If you’re in need of sustenance of body as well as mind, the MOAT lunch cart will be serving delicious $10 lunchboxes in the performance space from 12.20pm.



Mark Isaacs

Mark Isaacs is a writer, a researcher, a photographer and a community worker. Mark is president of PEN Sydney, an affiliate of PEN International, a worldwide association of writers which defends freedom of expression and campaigns on behalf of writers who have been silenced by persecution or impriso... Read more


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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.