Nauru Files Reading is a durational performance involving the reading of the Nauru Files, a database of over 2000 incident reports leaked to the Guardian Australia
from the Australian refugee detention centre in the Republic of Nauru. The Australian government detains refugees indefinitely on Christmas Island and on two remote Pacific islands, Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea) as part of its offshore detention policy designed to deter refugees from arriving in Australia by boat. More than 500 refugees are detained on Nauru, including many children. These refugees are from countries including Iran, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Refugees on Nauru are regularly subjected to abuse, violence, sexual assault and rape. Self-harm and suicide attempts are common. Two refugees have died on Nauru. Omid was a 23 year old refugee from Iran who died after self-immolating and receiving inadequate treatment in April 2016. Rakib was a 23 year old refugee from Bangladesh who died in May 2016 after overdosing on paracetamol. A 19 year old Somali refugee, Hodan, self-immolated in April 2016 and survived with burns to 70% of her body.
Nauru Files Reading is an unsanctioned live performance in defiance of Australia’s offshore detention of refugees. An oral intervention, Nauru Files Reading will produce a sound archive of documented incidents of abuse, self-harm, humiliation and squalor that is the everyday life for refugees on Nauru. In response to the Australian government’s refusal to close the camps and bring the detained refugees to Australia, this performance is a gesture of solidarity towards the detained refugees. The duration, monotony and repetition entailed in the reading of each file echoes the normalisation of the violence and tedium endured by refugees in indefinite detention.
Australia House, London, the performance site for Nauru Files Reading, marks Australian diplomatic territory in the heart of the colonial motherland. The narrative of abuse exposed by Nauru Files Reading directly contradicts the image the Australian High Commission seeks to convey of Australia as a progressive nation and a desirable destination for tourists, students, highly-skilled workers and international investors. Nauru Files Reading embodies the ongoing racist violence that has defined the settler colony of Australia since its inception.