Constructing Voluntarism: Technologies of ‘intent management’ in Australian Border Controls

  • Leanne Weber
  • Sharon Pickering
Part of the Migration, Diasporas and Citizenship Series book series (MDC)


Australia has attracted a dubious international reputation over the last decade for its harsh policies towards asylum seekers and has become a world leader in border externalisation practices aimed at preventing their arrival. At the same time, Australian governments have also historically shown a preparedness to use their internal enforcement powers to expel non-citizens who commit criminal offences or violate their strict visa conditions. These border control practices which operate, respectively, before and after arrival reflect the external and internal manifestations of the Australian border. Although openly coercive practices such as offshore interdiction, detention and deportation are the most visible and visceral aspects of Australian border control, new forms of border governance are emerging that seek to shape individual decision-making to promote ‘voluntary’ compliance with migration management goals at both onshore and offshore locations. This governmental project is pursued through what Rose (2000: 324) describes as ‘technologies for the conduct of conduct’. A key onshore strategy is the construction of a ‘structurally embedded’ border (Weber, 2013), so that access to work and essential public services is so constrained that unlawful non-citizens are driven to report ‘voluntarily’ to authorities. With respect to the offshore border, the re-implementation in 2012 of the notorious ‘Pacific solution’ has been accompanied by propaganda campaigns aimed at discouraging asylum seekers from travelling to Australia by boat, and with strategies of persuasion intended to produce ‘voluntary’ returns amongst those who are not deterred.


Asylum Seeker Intent Management Border Control Voluntary Compliance Governmental Project 
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Copyright information

© Leanne Weber and Sharon Pickering 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leanne Weber
  • Sharon Pickering

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