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, Mark worked for the Salvation Army performing support work and humanitarian aid for asylum seekers in the Nauru Regional Processing Centre (RPC). Mark was hired without qualifications or experience on the basis of a phone conversation. He was made to sign a deed of confidentiality that said he 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 he received before starting work was how not to talk to a journalist.

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

He 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 his role in Nauru, he spoke out publicly against Australia’s offshore detention policy. He wrote about his experiences and Hardie Grant supported this vision, publishing The Undesirables: Inside Nauru in March 2014.

The Undesirables: Inside Nauru is an account of his 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

Study Guide

Reviews and Excerpts

Please leave your own review of the book at Goodreads.

“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 contact Mark.

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