Cops and dobbers: A nodal cartography of onshore migration policing in New South Wales

Leanne Weber, Amanda Wilson, Jenny Wise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Most public and scholarly debate about immigration in Australia has focused on irregular arrivals of asylum seekers by sea and the harsh system of externalised border controls designed to deter and contain them. This paper concentrates on the operation of Australia's internal borders. We present a critical account of onshore migration policing networks in the Australian state of New South Wales, which are conceptualised as a distinctive form of policing. Using the techniques of nodal cartography described by Johnston and Shearing (2003) we identify the institutions, mentalities and technologies driving the development of migration policing networks and discuss their structure and internal dynamics. We then examine the means by which chains of public and private actors are recruited to perform a migration policing role, drawing on Garland's ideas about government-at-a-distance (Garland, 1997). We identify responsibilising strategies that capitalise on overlapping organisational interests, others that are underpinned by the threat of legal sanctions, and others that are directed towards changing the behaviour of unlawful non-citizens themselves. We conclude that the Australian state is not diminished by adopting a networked approach to onshore migration policing, but instead garners significant resources which it can then invest in the construction of a multi-faceted, structurally-embedded and potentially ubiquitous border.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-50
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


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