Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young will this afternoon demand that Immigration Minister Chris Bowen release updated versions of Serco asylum seeker training manuals, including controversial sections on the use of force.

Last week, Crikey published over 400 pages of 2009 and 2010 Serco induction training courses showing how guards — many with the same level of training as nightclub bouncers — were taught how to “hit” and “strike” asylum seekers and use pressure point tactics in the event of a detention brawl.

Crikey can now reveal that the Greens will move a motion in the Senate requesting the tabling by Thursday of all student manuals, refresher training manuals and teaching materials from 2011 and 2012, which the government has refused to release. Hanson-Young is believed to be in close consultation with the Coalition this morning to ensure they have the numbers to get the motion over the line.

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The British-owned multinational — paid $1 billion in taxpayer money to manage nine Australian lockups — and the immigration department have fought for years to prevent the release of similar manuals, citing “security” concerns and a lack of “public interest”.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said last week the 2009-10 manual published by Crikey has been superseded, but has refused to release later versions. A spokesperson for the Minister Bill Kyriakopoulos said that they could not be released for “matters of operational security”.

In a previous official response,  Bowen said that the tactics “can only be to defend, not to inflict injury”, even though the 2009-10 manuals outline in extreme detail how to use “pain”  to teach guards how to render subjects motionless.

The motion comes as a Crikey investigation shows the use of force tactics used by Serco to teach its “Client Services Officers” self-defence bear a striking similarity to those of a United States martial arts expert known as “Dr Violence”.

The Serco sections on “hitting” and pressure point jabbing tally with the written insights of hulking former federal agent Derek A Smith, who runs courses with titles like ‘Brutal Beyond Belief’ and the ‘Special Agent Combative System’. On the cover of his Brutal Beyond Belief DVD, a ninja-clad Smith poses menacingly in front of his “Dr Violence” moniker.

An analysis of Violence’s instructions shows that document contains exactly the same paragraphs used by Serco. Riffing on the “Fluid Shock Wave” principle, Violence explains that his “fighting concept” can be equated to “hammering a nail”.

In one section Violence lists a number of self-defence manoeuvres in exactly the same lexical order as Serco, including the “palm heel strike”, “straight punch”, “front thrust kick”, “knee strike” and “angle kick”.

In some cases the text differs. While Violence brags that after an angle kick “The pain is often so intense, that attackers often believe that their legs are broken”, Serco merely states the angle kick will “cause temporary motor dysfunction to the subjects [sic] affected leg”.

The proposed Senate tabling of the 2011 manuals will help to resolve questions over whether previous Use of Force instructions are still current. Kyriakopoulos told Crikey that the Dr Violence and jujitsu measures were “not in use”.

Kyriakopoulos said that the tactics recommended by Violence “are clearly not in line with use-of-force guidelines, are not the use of minimum force, or defensive – so are therefore inappropriate and not in use in detention centres. The use of force guidelines are part of the agreement the department has with Serco and they are the only guide that matter,” he said.

Specific uses of force in detention centres are governed by the broader use of force guidelines, included in a leaked Serco contract obtained by New Matilda last year. They include a section instructing the provider to “ensure that force is not used unless as a measure of last resort when all other methods have failed or have been assessed as inadequate, and then only with the reasonable level of force necessary to resolve the situation in accordance with the principles of the Immigration Detention Values…”

According to recent evidence presented to the Senate Select Committee on immigration detention, current Serco training includes modules on “Use of reasonable force in immigration detention theory”, others on “Control persons using open hand Techniques”, and a full day of training how to restrain detainees using handcuffs.

Serco is also required to train its guards in Use of Force “via a program of refresher training to be implemented at least every two years or as required to maintain the qualification”.  However, the specific permitted uses of force are not prescribed.

Elsewhere in the manuals, several how-to images feature Australian Corrective Services logos and other sections appear to mirror a number of Internet resources.

The sections on touch pressure “designed to create pain compliance” are the same as this Aussie Jujitsu website.

Sections on Cultural Diversity are very similar to this site provided by a firm called Australian Training Packages.

The section on log books and registers very closely matches this security document from Corrective Services Queensland.

The inclusion of the “assault cycle” — illustrating how a situation can escalate between  appears in a number of generic counselling books, including this one.

A section on interpersonal skills exactly matches this document on a website authored by “Professor Craig Armstrong” and this Indonesian digital media site.

Slabs of text on handling conflict are also similar– with only minor amendments — as this document issued by UK-based HR specialists OPAL Consulting and reproduced on the Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation.

Stanzas on effective negotiation very closely resemble a module on this strange marketing website.

And Serco’s search rules seem very close to this Afghanistan manual on prison reform.

Hanson-Young told Crikey this morning that she was hoping to verify “exactly what training Serco guards and subcontractors have for handling people who are traumatised and especially the needs of children and families.”

“Serco guards have told the immigration detention network inquiry they are not given mental health training. That must change because otherwise it risks maintaining an unsafe environment for both asylum seekers and Serco guards and subcontractors.”

Hanson-Young said that there were many instances of self-harm and suicide attempts among detainees but that “incidents of self-destruction” among Serco guards were less well publicised.

“The Immigration Department and Minister Bowen have a duty of care toward people in all detention facilities. We need proof that dealing with torture and trauma and preventing further damage to detainees and staff is guiding the training of all Serco ‘client service officers’ and subcontractors.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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