Villawood 15d - Control and Visibility


The Rooftop Protest: Reclaiming Control and Visibility

A lead pencil drawing of people protesting on the roof of a building in Villawood IDC. A banner on the roof says 'We need help' and fences are drawn in the background.

[imagecaption] ‘Rooftop Protest’ by ‘V’.  Villawood is a site marked by both death and resistance. Rooftop protests have frequently been undertaken by different communities to make visible their complaints and exercise a degree of power and control in an environment that attempts to deny it.[/imagecaption]


‘DIAC needs to view riots and unrest as a consequence of systems failure and not just take punitive action but address the underlying contributing issues… Detainees are driven to express themselves and the injustices that have been perpetrated against them, making a statement of personal control when all other control has been taken away.’

Suicide Prevention Australia

In 2016 Behrouz Boochani climbed a tree in the Manus Island prison as a form of political protest. In his contribution to ‘They Cannot Take the Sky’, he eloquently articulates the experience of how this act allowed him to reclaim power, he writes, ‘I wrote a letter saying that today I am a free man because I have enough power and I am outside this system. On top of this tree I was above the fences, and I was outside the prison…If I come down I will lose my power and you don’t have enough power to tell me to come down’. While the circumstances surrounding Behrouz’s protest and those undertaken in the Villawood prison differ,  similar principles underpin these acts of protest and refusal.



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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.