The Western Australian Police Headquarters Building: Surveillance, Power and the Authoritarian State

Jon Stratton


There has been little cultural studies work concerned with Perth’s built environment. This contribution examines a building that has been a focus in the distribution of governmental power across Perth and Western Australia more generally. The building that until recently housed the Western Australian Police Headquarters was opened in 1975. It stands at Perth’s eastern gateway looking outwards across the River Swan and the Causeway which crosses it. The use of the Police Headquarters building spanned the time during which Western Australia’s economy became increasingly dependent on mining and other resource-related extraction industries. During this same time Western Australia’s government became increasingly authoritarian. This essay argues that the Police Headquarters building can be understood as expressing this authoritarian shift. One element of this can be found in the building’s use of the International Style. At the same time, and consonant with this transformation, the positioning and form of the building enabled a structure of surveillance which has been a key aspect of modern government.

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