The Undesirables

The Undesirables

In August 2012, Julia Gillard and the Australian Labor Party reintroduced the Pacific Solution; an Australian government policy of transporting asylum seekers who attempt to arrive to Australia by boat to Pacific Island processing centres.

From September 2012 to June 2013, I worked for the Salvation Army performing support work and humanitarian aid for asylum seekers in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre (RPC). I was hired without qualifications or experience on the basis of a phone conversation. I was made to sign a deed of confidentiality that said I could not talk to anyone about what happened in the course of my work for all time. The media was banned from entering the centre and the only training I received before starting work was how not to talk to a journalist.

 During my time in the Nauru RPC, I worked intimately with men referred to by large parts of Australia as ‘queue jumpers’, ‘illegals’, and ‘economic migrants’. I listened to their stories and came to know their characters.

I watched many men’s mental health deteriorate due to the stresses of indefinite detention. I witnessed the cause of and aftermath of self-harm, suicide attempts, and violent altercations.

After resigning from my role in Nauru, I spoke out publicly against Australia’s offshore detention policy. I wrote about my experiences and Hardie Grant supported this vision, publishing my manuscript, The Undesirables: Inside Nauru, in March 2014.

The Undesirables: Inside Nauru is an account of my experiences inside the Nauru RPC; a window into the dark and mysterious world of offshore processing, a world purposefully curtained from the public eye.

The book is now available for purchase from this website, from most major bookstores and independents in Australia, and as an e-book.

Download The Undesirables Teachers' Resource

The Undesirables Study Guide

“This book may be the only chance Australian citizens have to learn what our government is doing to boat people held on Nauru.” – Julian Burnside AO QC, Officer of Order of Australia, Sydney Peace Prize winner

The Undesirables, an account from within the asylum seeker system, is all the more powerful a record for the unpretentious voice of the author. The tale Mark Isaacs tells is angry but disarming, since Isaacs himself is a bewildered pilgrim…The Undesirables is packed with surprising instances of sometimes small-scale but continual attrition of the spirits of the detained.” Tom Keneally, Author, Man Booker Prize winner, Miles Franklin Award winner

“Your book is not only a compelling read but also a powerful expose of the truth about the pain we are inflicting on the most needy.  The horrors of indefinite incarceration under the hideous conditions of Nauru have been revealed with great skill, empathy and insight. It is a must read for all Australians.” – Robin de Crespigny, Author of The People Smuggler

“A powerful testament to the act of bearing witness, The Undesirables shows the grim and unjust reality of deterrence at any cost.” – Lucy Van, Readings

Booking Events and Interviews

If you are interested in booking a speaking event or arranging an interview please feel free to contact me.

Past Events


Thursday 24 April – Newtown Library, Sydney

Monday 28 April – RAC Melbourne Public Forum

Tuesday 29 April – Melbourne University

Tuesday 29 April – Readings Book Store, Melbourne

Wednesday 30 April – John Davis Music Book Store, Adelaide

Sunday 4 May – Great Lakes Rural Australians for Refugees, Forster

Thursday 8 May – Wheeler Centre, Melbourne

Friday 9 May – 9.30am 2SM interview with John Laws, Sydney

Monday 12 May – States of emergency: colonialism and post-colonialism, University of Technology, Sydney

Monday 12 May – Wednesday 14 May – ERA for Change – Edmund Rice Advocacy, Brisbane

Wednesday 14 May – Gleebooks, Sydney

Friday 16 May – Paediatric Refugee Health Conference, Westmead Children’s Hospital, Sydney

Friday 23 May – ERA for Change – Edmund Rice Advocacy, Brisbane

Saturday 24 May – Sydney Writers’ Festival

Tuesday 27 May – Public Health, Human Rights and Asylum Seeker Detention Symposium, University of NSW

Wednesday 28 May – Friday 30 May – Darwin Asylum Seeker Support and Advocacy Network with Julian Burnside

Monday 2 June – Amnesty Parramatta, Sydney

Friday 6 June – Practice and Policy Conference, State Library of Queensland, Brisbane

Saturday 14 June – Fundraiser for Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Petersham Bowling Club, Sydney

Sunday 15 June – Blue Mountains Amnesty Group, Springwood Sports Club, Springwood

Monday 16 June – Wednesday 18 June – Amnesty International, Tasmania

Thursday 19 June – Newcastle Regional Library

Friday 20 June – Sunday 22 June – Apollo Bay Rural Australians for Refugees, Festival of Hope for Refugees

Tuesday 24 June – Parliament House, Canberra

Tuesday 8 July – Refugee Action Committee, Canberra

Thursday 21 August – ‘Understanding the Representation of Asylum Seekers and Refugees in the Media’, Crossing Borders, 7pm, Monash Caulfield Campus, Melbourne

Friday 22 August – ‘Seeking Asylum’, Melbourne Writers’ Festival

Sunday 24 August – ‘Aid Workers’, Melbourne Writers’ Festival

Wednesday 27 August – Student Voices: Journeys of Hope, Survival, and Belonging with Tom Keneally and Rosie Scott, Miller Technology High School 

Monday 1 September – John McPhee Seminar, Clinical Unit in Ethics and Health Law, Royal Newcastle Centre, John Hunter Hospital, Newcastle

Wednesday 3 September – Balmain Community Event

Thursday 4 September – Refugee Health Awareness Symposium, Crossing Borders for Health, Notre Dame University

Saturday 6 September – Brisbane Writers’ Festival

Sunday 7 September – Buddies Refugee Support Group, Sunshine Coast

Tuesday 9 September – 6.30pm Amnesty Eastern SuburbsBerkelouws Books

Saturday 13 September – 7pm, Pecha Kucha, Forster

Thursday 18 September – Golden Key Intellectual Engagement Event, Parramatta campus, University of Western Sydney

Friday 19 – Monday 22 September – Amnesty North Queensland, Townsville, Cairns, Magnetic Island

Friday 3 October – Fourth National Conference on the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees, Sydney

Saturday, 4 October – 12:00pm, Mandatory Attention, The Hunter Design School, Young Writers’ Festival, Newcastle

Saturday, 4 October – 2.00pm, Justice, Hunter Design School, Young Writers’ Festival, Newcastle

Saturday 4 October – 4.00pm, Slacktivism vs Street Protests: the Future of Civil Disobedience, Hunter Design School, Young Writers’ Festival, Newcastle

Sunday 12 October – Refugee Conference, Macquarie University, Sydney

Monday 27 October – Tuesday 28 October – Wagga Wagga and Griffith

Friday 31 October – Alexandria Park Community School

Saturday 1 November – Welcome to Our Place Community Dinner, Gosford Anglican Parish

Monday 3 November – Monday 24 November – Refugee Writing Program, Settlement Services International

Tuesday 11 November – Thursday 13 November – Curtin University, Perth

Monday 17 November – A Country Too Far / The Undesirables Refugee Forum, Holroyd High School

Saturday 29 November – Peace Conference, United Nations Association of Australia

Sunday 7 December – Road to Refuge Book Club, Melbourne

Thursday 11 December – Holroyd High School Presentation Day

Tuesday 16 December – Normanhurst Boys High Presentation night


Saturday 31 January – Amnesty International Berry Local Action GroupBerry, NSW South Coast

Monday 14 September – Kincumber High School, Kincumber, NSW

Sunday 11 October – Refugee Action Collective Rally, Brisbane, Queensland

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