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Serco: cautionary tales of Big Society in action

Two Serco guards have been stood down pending an investigation by the Australian Federal Police into allegations of assault at Villawood detention centre on October 2nd, 2012. Greens immigration spokeswoman, Sarah Hanson-Young, told reporters her party had been concerned for a long time about a “lack of appropriate training for the staff who run the detention centres.” She said a prison manual had been found to be used to train Serco detention centre staff and she questioned the appropriateness of using trained prison guards to look after “very vulnerable and, mentally fragile refugees”. (The Western Australian, 2012).

In the lead up to the alleged assault, the mentally-impaired asylum-seeker was subjected to the use of force 44-times during his 12-month detention at Villawood and was involved in 189 “incidents”. (Taylor, 2012)

A prisoner who was supposed to be secured to a bed and under watch by Serco guards was able to escape 20-metres down a corridor of Royal Perth Hospital with a blood-filled syringe past four patient rooms and the nursing station. The police were called and the prisoner was restrained before anyone could be harmed. United Voice assistant secretary Carolyn Smith said the occurrence was symptomatic of Serco’s practice of putting “profit over quality of services”, a practice which often results in understaffing. (Lampathakis, 2012)

Internal documents and emails from Serco security managers informing their superiors of concerns over widespread security guard staff shortages in WA courts were leaked to The Sunday Times in early October. According to the documents, every court was experiencing shortages and one metropolitan court operated with half the number of staff recommended in the Serco manual. The documents also revealed broken communication and metal detector equipment and that appropriate training for the X-ray machines had not been provided to all officers. (Robertson, 2012)


Lampathakis, P. (2012, October 13). Serco under fire after prisoner escapes with syringe in RPH. Herald Sun. Melbourne, Vic. Retrieved from

Robertson, K. (2012, October 6). Revealed: How Serco’s security service is slipping. The Australian. Retrieved from

Taylor, P. (2012, October 15). Asylum-seeker involved in 189 incidents before alleged assault by guards. The Australian. Retrieved from

The Western Australian. (2012, October 14). Two Villawood guards stood down. The Western Australian. Perth, WA. Retrieved from