Australian Immigration Detention Centre Detainee Numbers Over Time


  1. Read First
  2. Detainee population totals for Australian immigration detention centres (IDCs) over time, using DIAC data (2009-2013)
  3. Individual Facilities
    1. Villawood Immigration Detention Centre & Sydney Immigration Residential Housing
  4. About
    1. Where does this data come from?
    2. How can I get more detail?
    3. How can I help?

Read First

The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) regularly publishes data on how many people are in each of its immigration detention centres (IDCs) to its website. Unfortunately, rather than leaving the previous period’s data available, when DIAC publishes the most recent period it removes access to the previous period’s data (see update below). This makes it difficult to identify how detainee numbers change over time, because you can only ever access the most current figures. This page is a project to capture the data DIAC publishes over time and collect historic data and present it together in a table format so that the public, especially journalists and researchers, can quickly understand the history of populations in Australia's detention centres.

Update: After this page was published in April 2013, DIAC have not removed previous data. As of 24th April 2013, both January 2013 and February 2013 figures are accessible at DIAC's website. This is a positive sign of some change in attitude, but does not diminish the need to aggregate what is available. It is too early to tell if DIAC will maintain this practice as its publishing schedule for these figures has varied significantly since 2007. We see this as encouragement for individuals to publish and clarify government data and a demonstration of the effect they can have on government departments' open data practice

Please note that the figures in the ‘Total in IDCs’ column are not the total number of people in immigration detention but the total number of people in immigration detention centres. There are always significant numbers of additional people detained in 'alternate places of detention' (APODs) and in community detention that contribute to the complete total number of people in immigration detention.

You can find the system-wide totals in the source documents.

We aim to extend this table to reflect more complete information (such as the non IDC locations and the percentage of detainees which were children) as soon as time allows. If you have information that may help the project, please contribute.

Neither this table nor the source documents contain figures for detainees at facilities at Manus Island, Papua New Guinea or Nauru. This is another area which we would like to expand this table to include.

Detainee population totals for Australian immigration detention centres (IDCs) over time, using DIAC data (2009-2013)

Date Christmas Island IDC Curtin IDC Maribyrnong IDC Northern IDC (Darwin) Perth IDC Pontville IDC Scherger IDC Villawood IDC Wickham Point IDC Yongah Hill IDC Total in IDCs
28-Feb-13 608 473 86 441 31 312 384 901 242 3478
31-Jan-13 323 748 83 279 21 510 380 878 243 3465
30-Sep-12 1066 1135 96 397 28 439 347 1376 581 5492
30-Jun-12 754 899 89 50 35 420 293 1292 88 3920
31-May-12 764 830 95 88 18 379 278 1038 3490
31-Mar-12 128 950 81 119 26 0 427 335 823 2889
29-Feb-12 551 956 93 193 32 132 272 344 468 3041
31-Jan-12 440 856 78 203 34 312 283 375 450 3031
30-Nov-11 693 973 83 305 29 251 219 361 2914
31-Oct-11 629 957 92 341 25 200 293 372 2909
20-May-11 1145 1430 91 501 39 589 330 4125
13-May-11 1146 1430 90 499 39 589 330 4123
15-Apr-11 1167 1402 92 497 46 562 392 4158
11-Mar-11 1831 1197 80 478 49 299 358 4292
04-Feb-11 1829 1153 73 481 49 295 339 4219
30-Sep-10 1925 752 96 367 43 309 3492
30-Jul-10 1913 459 62 498 50 271 3253
17-Jul-2009 566 24 1 13 165 769
This data has been aggregated from documents posted by DIAC to

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre & Sydney Immigration Residential Housing

Because Sydney IRH is based at Villawood IDC, they have been group together here. You can see the figures for individual facilites in the table below, or the combined figure in the far right total column.

Villawood Immigration Detention Centre

Villawood IDC, managed by Serco Australia Pty Ltd (Australian branch of the UK based multinational Serco Group), is located in western Sydney at 15 Birmingham Avenue, Villawood NSW 2163, and has an operating capacity of 379 detainees and a contingency capacity of 480 (as of 29th April 2013).

Villawood IDC has 3 main sections:

Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (IRH) is adjacent to Villawood IDC and comes under the same management, though it is often characterised as a separate facility.

An immigration processing facility was first opened at Villawood in 1976. Prior to that time it was called the Westbridge Migrant Hostel, which was opened in 1946 to provide accommodation for new migrants. The facility was initially run by the Federal Government but management was outsourced in 2003 to G4S. In 2009 G4S lost the contract and Serco took over the facility.

Sydney Immigration Residential Housing

Sydney IRH is adjacent to Villawood IRC in western, Sydney, and comes under the same management, though it is often characterised as a separate facility.

According to DIAC's website 'Placement in immigration residential housing allows people in immigration detention to live in a more domestic environment and permits a greater degree of autonomy over their life while remaining formally in immigration detention.'

Detainee population breakdown, for Villawood IDC & Sydney IRH 2010-2013

Download this table as a spreadsheet file (.csv)

Villawood IDCSydney IRH
DateMenWomenChildrenTotal Villawood IDCMenWomenChildrenTotal Sydney IRHCombined Total
This data has been aggregated from documents posted by DIAC to

Where does this data come from?

The data for this table comes from The Australian Government Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC), who publish information on detainee numbers for the current period on its website’s Immigration Detention Statistics page.

Unfortunately, instead of leaving the previous period’s data available, when DIAC publishes the most recent figures they remove the previous period’s data. This makes it difficult to identify trends or compare current numbers to previous periods’. (note that since 24th April 2013, DIAC have not removed previous periods data)

Using the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, a number of documents containing the data from previous periods were collected. We performed a Way Back Machine search for documents within the /managing-australias-borders/detention/_pdf/ on DIAC’s web server and also for older versions of the page where they publish required data, Immigration Detention Statistics. The results you get from these searches can require a lot of sifting. The Way Back Machine may not have captured the actual document, but rather ended up at a 404 (no-results) page for that url when it took its snapshot.

Additional documents were found by googling variations on the generic file name and title of document required: Immigration Detention Statistics Summary

Adding more past dates to this table now relies on collecting the data from people who may have downloaded it while it was available, or from DIAC themselves.

As new data becomes available on DIAC’s website it will be copied to the table. You can follow an rss feed of changes to DIAC’s Detention Statistics page, which should provide notices for when it is updated with the latest data.

RSS feed for changes to DIAC Immigration Detention Statistics page

How can I get more detail?

Currently the table on this page only covers the total number of detainees in detention centres. The tables in the source documents contain more information, including the gender breakdown and the numbers of children detained when the data was recorded. The source documents also include information for Immigration Residential Housing, Immigration Transit Accommodation and Alternative Places of Detention (APODs).

We plan to expand this page with more information as soon as time allows.

How can I help?

This table needs to be extended to include a wider range of dates and also a more complete list of detention centres in operation during those periods.

You can help gather the data required by finding the necessary data and sending it in. The most obvious source are documents previously posted to DIAC’s Detention Statistics page. Only data that can be verified as originating from original DIAC records will be published here. If you have more data for this table please:

  1. Email with the data attached or get in contact on Twitter to @DetentionLogs.
  2. Fork the repository on GitHub, expand it yourself and send a pull request. Remember to add the source documents into the source documents folder.