Port Hedland Detention Centre (fmr)


Town of Port Hedland

Place Number



Dempster St Cooke Point

Location Details

Other Name(s)

BHP single men's quarters

Local Government

Port Hedland



Construction Date

Constructed from 1960, Constructed from 1991

Demolition Year


Statutory Heritage Listings

Type Status Date Documents
(no listings)

Heritage Council Decisions and Deliberations

Type Status Date Documents
RHP - Assessed - Does not meet Register conditions Current 11 Dec 2020 HCWebsite.Listing+ListingDocument

Other Heritage Listings and Surveys

Type Status Date Grading/Management
Municipal Inventory Adopted 28 Nov 2007 Category 3

Statement of Significance

Port Hedland detention centre is significant as a marker in modern Australian history, demonstrating Australia’s refugee and ‘boat people’ policies and human rights issues.

Physical Description

Masonry building seat least two stories in height, surrounded by barbed wire topped security fences.


The BHP single men’s quarters, built by the Mt Newman Mining Company to ease accommodation difficulties in the boom years of the 1960-1970 period, were converted into an immigration centre in 1991. In 1992, Chinese Boat people at the detention centre staged a protest and jumped from the 8 metre high roof, and in 1995, 60 Sino-Vietnamese boat people protested on the roof for 15 days before being lifted from the roof by cherry picker and suffering exhaustion. In July 1999 the media were allowed into the Immigration Reception Processing Centre for the first time since it’s opening. In November 1999 the Department of Immigration failed to approve a second Reception and Processing Centre for illegal immigrants in Port Hedland, with additional facilities established in Derby. In June 2000 a number of detainees escaped the Port Hedland Detention Centre at Cooke Point, and the Curtin Detention centre, with detainees both taken into custody and deported. Following the breakout locals renewed calls to re-locate the centre to near the airport, away from the residential area and schools. There was widespread support for the Detention Centre being moved, backed by council votes and petitions. In April 2001 the Port Hedland Detention Centre, with a holding capacity of 820, housed 400 detainees, with 669 by August. Escapes, protests and riots continued over the months, with protests largely against deportations and processing and detention times, and protests were also staged by anti-detention activists visiting thecentres. A planned security upgrade and previous money spent on the Port Hedland Detention Centre meant that a move was unlikely. In the interim however, refugees who’s status was refused were moved elsewhere. On 31 December 2001, 20 ringleaders set fire to the building causing $3 million damage. In September 2002 the Baxter Detention Centre near Port Augusta was opened and detainees were transferred from Woomera, Port Hedland and Curtin Detention Centre’s, except for emergency’s. At this time Port Hedland had 170 detainees. In July 2002 a $3.3 million isolation block upgrade commenced at the Port Hedland Detention Centre, and was completed in June 2003. By the end of 2003 there was a significant fall in numbers of detainees in detention centres around Australia, with only 1176 around Australia and 145 at Port Hedland. No new asylum seekers had arrived illegally on the mainland since August 2001, and none offshore since December 2001. In May 2004, the last 17 detainees were removed from Port Hedland Detention Centre. In 2007 it is no longer a detention centre.


Integrity: High degree Authenticity: High degree




Ref ID No Ref Name Ref Source Ref Date
A Bloeman & T Parker; "Hedland Voices: a visual and oral record celebrating the first hundred years of the Town of Port Hedland 1896-1996". Town of Port Hedland/Port Hedland Historical Society 1997
The West Australian p. 6 29 May 2004,
"Town of Port Hedland Cultural and Heritage trail."

Place Type

Individual Building or Group


Epoch General Specific
Present Use VACANT\UNUSED Vacant\Unused
Original Use MINING Housing or Quarters

Architectural Styles


Construction Materials

Type General Specific
Wall METAL Corrugated Iron
Wall BRICK Common Brick

Historic Themes

General Specific
OCCUPATIONS Mining {incl. mineral processing}
SOCIAL & CIVIC ACTIVITIES Government & politics
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Workers {incl. Aboriginal, convict}
DEMOGRAPHIC SETTLEMENT & MOBILITY Immigration, emigration & refugees

Creation Date

07 Feb 2008

Publish place record online (inHerit):


Last Update

20 Jun 2019


This information is provided voluntarily as a public service. The information provided is made available in good faith and is derived from sources believed to be reliable and accurate. However, the information is provided solely on the basis that readers will be responsible for making their own assessment of the matters discussed herein and are advised to verify all relevant representations, statements and information.