Post 5: Approaches to Design for Change, Design-led Ethnography.

Informal Interview

The  interview took place in a small city park, conducted and carried out in a conversational manner with a peer interviewee who I will refer to as C.C. The purpose of this primary research was to gain a general insight into some of the Australian public’s perspectives in a political landscape and the level of awareness they had in regards to this issue. The questions were constructed in a manner that was open and easy to be explored by the interviewee, so I could better understand what they thought about the subject in more of a holistic sense.

Question 1. What is your stance regarding asylum seekers and refugees? Do you believe them to be illegitimate or legal? Why?

“The choice to choose a legal pathway doesn’t exist for these people – they risk their lives trying to find somewhere safe. They are aware that they won’t be accepted into the country any time soon, so we (as the Australian public)should be more compassionate because all refugees are trying to escape something. This is their last option. That is why we need to be compassionate.

Also because they are coming from the Middle East or South East Asia, there is an inherent racism in the way we treat these refugees – if it were white European individuals displaced from their country, such as England, they would not be having as much of a hard time making their way here.

Their (the boat people) method is not legal. They don’t have proper documentation or anything, but I don’t think that’s what we should be focusing on. I think the legal pathway takes too long and with everyone being very nitpicky and tightening their border security, the legal pathway via visas are pretty much out of the question for these refugees.”

Question 2. Do you feel that the government is justified in their current stance against the asylum seekers?

“No, because there is absolutely no way that a country with the resources we have can’t accept these people. We have enough resources, but we are not allocating and using these resources in an efficient way. The whole system is broken – they should be fixing the system and looking at why we can’t bring in more refugees. They should be looking at things long term instead of short term. By turning these people away, they (Australian government) are not helping the situation. People will go to another country if they can’t find a way. The government should not be putting people in jail for trying to escape danger.

Also, if they have nothing to hide, why do they have these laws preventing people from visiting the centres? The government can’t be justified in these decisions because they are just not bothering to reform, it’s just making things worse.”

Question 3. Are you aware of any current policies implemented regarding the refugees? 

“I know that if you come illegally by boat you will be turned away, put in mandatory detention for an unknown period of time. I know that people involved with the detention centres in professional proximity can’t release any information under the new law.”

Question 4. What is your opinion on these policies? Why?

“It is very harsh – as a country it shows that we are scared of them or that we have not enough resources to take care of them – contrasting against the Australian values of life in looking out for each other. We are just wasting money, tax payer money on keeping these people at bay when we could be spending it to help them integrate into the Australian society. They have been there for years now, it should not be taking this long to check and clear the legitimacy of their refugee stances. 

It (The Border Force Act) also makes no sense because if the government is so proud, so justified and so right about their current decisions, they should not be making any attempts to hide information.”

Question 5. If you were in charge of developing these policies, what changes would you make? 

“Obviously we can’t accept everybody because then everyone will be coming to Australia. 

But mandatory detention should not be the way to go – the more reasonable option would be to invest in policies that would rehabilitate refugees to join our society. 

Refugees are willing to work, they want to build a new life – particularly people with university degrees, they can easily be introduced to the Australian society and culture. I don’t know how to find the middle ground here, but we should not be putting people on detention for an indefinite amount of time.”


From the interview, C.C didn’t know too much about the specifics regarding the Australian political context – but she was aware of Australia’s current treatment of refugees, expressing her strong opinion in criticising the government’s general reluctancy in taking action. She admitted that she didn’t know as much as she should, and that her only source regarding these news was through social network like Facebook, keeping up to date by following newspaper pages.

Probe – First Attempt

Initially in setting up the probe, I focused on trying to estimate the general level of empathy from a group of friends and try relating that to how much they know about the current political situation of Australia. So for the activity, I introduced them to a site called “Carryology,” that photographed items refugees brought with them overseas, and asked them three questions:

1.Do you feel like this post has changed your perspective on refugees in any way?

2.Which individual in this list moved you the most?

3. Do you keep up with the current political debate in Australia regarding refugees and asylum seekers?

First Response – ‘E’.

1.Do you feel like this post has changed your perspective on refugees in any way?

“I feel as though my perspective has stayed the same. I was already quite aware at the struggles of refugees and how we take our lives for granted. However, it does take posts such as “a family” to really cement how much of a struggle they have to go through.”

2.Which individual in this list moved you the most?

“Definitely “a family”. Even though it’s not really an individual. The fact that their will to live has completely diminished really saddened me. Sharing those possessions between 31 people is so hard to imagine.”

3. Do you keep up with the current political debate in Australia regarding refugees and asylum seekers?

” No – I only hear about it from time to time from sources like the AM radio and the TV – and they only talk about the very negative things that could happen to Australia if we let the refugees come in, like “Oh my God, the refugees are going to take over Australia!” EVEN THOUGH we only take in what like not even 2000 a year? Or some ridiculously tiny number. We don’t hear much about what is really going on, because the media doesn’t want us to – especially fucking people like Steve Price and that Johns guy on morning radio – they say shit and try to justify what they say.”

What refugees bring when they run for their lives

Second Response – ‘C’.

1.Do you feel like this post has changed your perspective on refugees in any way?

“I don’t think it has changed my perspective dramatically, I always knew it’d be tough to be a refugee. In the article, some seemed like they were able to bring a lot more than others and it surprised me that the last person had so little. It surprised me that so few of them brought food, although I am unsure of the circumstances whether the smugglers provide them a little for the journey.”

2.Which individual in this list moved you the most?

“The 6-year-old child moved me the most. Mostly because he was very young and I realize the hardships he will have to face at such a young age. And although he probably didn’t know the full extent of the situation he was in, he seemed refreshingly cheerful. It really hit home to me that anyone, young or old, may be forced to become a refugee, and it saddens me that a child so young has to experience this.”

3. Do you keep up with the current political debate in Australia regarding refugees and asylum seekers?

“No – I am aware that our current behaviour (Australia) is pretty shit, and I guess I only keep up to date via facebook videos posted by news pages and charity organisations, and through my friends who are active in humanitarian fields.”

What refugees bring when they run for their lives

Third Response – ‘C.C’

1.Do you feel like this post has changed your perspective on refugees in any way?
“It just reaffirms that everyone is human with emotions and wants and desires and needs – its reflected in the things they bring. It’s quite sad that the general public need to see pictures of these regular, every day items belonging to the refugees to truly realise that they are people, human beings who are exactly like them in their needs and wants.”
2.Which individual in this list moved you the most?
“Omran and his marshmellows were striking – from a critical perspective, it shows how people, how human beings cling to creature comforts to cultivate that slim chance of hope, hope that everything will turn out for the better.”
3. Do you keep up with the current political debate in Australia regarding refugees and asylum seekers?
“I guess not as much as I need to be, because my only sources of information on this matter is mostly just facebook updates from the Sydney Morning Herald or occasional news when I walk by the TV. “

What refugees bring when they run for their lives

Probe – Second Attempt.

I started another probe however as I felt that this first probe went on a tangent from the interview, focusing too much on crowd empathy rather than relating the emotional response to the topic of their personal political awareness. I asked C.C again if she was willing to take on another activity, and thankfully she agreed.

Taking on from the first exercise assigned from the orientation week, I asked C.C to research the recent articles and analyse 1 text that interested her the most.

She summarised the article into a few key points that she found to be of critical significance, pointing out what the article revealed and how it chose to do so.

  •  “The sheer helplessness of the refugees – how they can accept their circumstance even though it’s so unfair that their own government who is supposed to protect their citizens is instead killing them.”
  • “‘Syria is gone, Syria no longer exists’ → again, the government who can stand to watch their own citizens dying and fleeing and do nothing about it.”
  • “’Europe is better…’ the fact that they are saying this but the many European countries are actively trying to prevent refugees entering their borders → the fact that he still has that little bit of hope after all he’s lost.”
  • “The fact that Hammed Hussein can find humour in ‘death jackets’ → how refuges arriving is so commonplace that hes become desensitized to it.”
  • “All countries are trying to get rid of refugees → nobody wants them.”
  • “The power of language: the article uses the word ‘migrants’ which to me implies it’s a choice they’re making to leave their own country and resettle elsewhere whereas ‘refugee’ sounds like they had no other choice.”
  • “The fate of thousands of refugees is in the hands of the EU who are bickering and wanting to be petty at each other like a bunch of children.”

C.C thought that the article, while it kept her up to date with what is currently going on from Syria and what was being done by the Syrian government, the fact that these human emotions and experiences were largely being ignored. We as the privileged would sympathise temporarily whilst reading related articles, but lose attention after time. I thought this was an interesting idea that could be further explored in a future visual development.

Initially I was a little lost in setting up the probe – if I had to do it again, I’d try to gain insight into the general perspective of a specific age range, with mixed gender and races probably through a survey instead of receiving direct response from each individuals interviewed. That way I could include a whole lot more of questions set up in chronological order to really understand their general perspective and opinions in these matters.

My 5 point summary and thought gained through this research form is:

  1. The general emotional response to the political landscape is a deeply harboured distrust towards the apathy of the governments involved in the global refugee crisis.
  2. Whilst the audience is moved by the stories of refugees, our privilege makes us very prone to short lived interest and apathy.
  3. The polarised political views that could instigate confrontation may also be a factor that hinders people from developing a deeper involvement.
  4. People are more likely to be engaged and empathise at a deeper level when they are presented with a tangible form of connection.
  5. Also a general distrust in journalism – polarised views being spread through radio like an old fashioned war time propaganda.



Carryology 2015, ‘What’s in my Bag::What Refugees Bring When They Run for Their Lives’, viewed 5th September 2016,

Mardell, M 2016, ‘Refugee Crisis Impossible to Handle in Turkey,’ BBC World News, viewed 5th September 2016,