'Fabricated Security Space': The Manus Regional Processing Centre and gendered discourse between Australia and Papua New Guinea




Rooney, Nayahamui Michelle

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Canberra, ACT: Dept. of Pacific Affairs, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, The Australian National University


Global processes such as mass human migration because of conflict or natural disasters, geopolitical rivalries, climate-induced insecurity and other forces have heightened policy focus on security. This has included securitisation processes, wherein issues that may have previously been regarded as social or humanitarian challenges are increasingly viewed as security threats. This paper draws on feminist security studies and the analytical frame of a ‘fabricated security space’ to examine the gendered dimensions of the security and securitisation discourses in the bilateral relationship between Australia and Papua New Guinea (PNG) between 2012 and 2019. Specifically, I focus on Australia’s offshore detention of asylum seekers in the Manus Regional Processing Centre (RPC) during this period as one aspect of this bilateral relationship. The Australian policy and resultant highly secured detention centre complex were superimposed onto PNG’s own diverse and complex social fabric of security characterised by gendered social relationships. The Manus RPC complex, and the actors who arrived with it, set in motion a chain reaction that increasingly revealed the porous nature of this fabricated security space, leading to the undermining of bilateral efforts to address insecurity in the sense of high levels of crime, ethnic violence and gender-based violence in PNG. A key lesson from this period is the need to better appreciate relationality and mutuality in security discourse. Practices, events and discourses in and about each country are simultaneously and relationally shaped by factors domestic, bilateral and beyond, and each country’s contexts. While each country may deal individually with security as a national issue, this case study highlights how practices, policies, events and discourses can flow beyond national borders to shape the bilateral relationship between two countries and the security discourses within each country. This materialises into a range of outcomes that in turn feed back to shape the discourse.



Security, Manus Island, PNG



Department of Pacific Affairs working paper series


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Open Access

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