Post 10: Tapping into public opinion

Molly Grover

Upon explaining my proposal to my colleague Angela and my tutor Simone in class on Thursday, a few pieces of critical feedback began to emerge.

Firstly, Angela noted that whilst collecting petition data from commuters based on geographical location, the proposal was not targeted at the 18-25 year old age group. In light of this, Simone suggested that I reposition the project as site-specific, limited to one or two Sydney train stations dominated by students, e.g. Redfern and Central.

Simone also pointed out that Transport NSW would never allow me to use their Opal systems to create a petition against the Liberal Government’s detention policies, and thus advised that I propose a guerrilla style intervention, in which passionate students are encouraged to use their Opal cards as a form of participatory petition and protest.

Further to this, Angela mentioned that a petition staged continuously and indefinitely would lose its efficacy, as frequent users would lose motivation to repeatedly engage with the action required. Thus, it would be more effective to concentrate the intervention to one day, at peak hour during the morning and evening. This would also reduce the chance of police or transport authorities dismantling the intervention. Angela also mentioned that campaigns should be used in the lead up to the day, to engage and inform students, so that they are given adequate opportunity to decide to participate.

Simone suggested that rather than aiming to manually collect merely the numerical data of the petition, the proposal should aim to capture the data in affective forms. This could take a number of forms, including the pedestrian traffic disruption caused by the event, the sounds made by the Opal cards, the movement of the gates opening and closing, the tapping of hands on the reader, the changing LED display, or the movement of bodies through the gate.

Revised Proposition:

Tapping into public opinion: An experimental petition

Generative / participatory design

Thanks to the pervasiveness of social media in contemporary society, it is easier than ever to share your personal opinion and show support for a cause. However, with the proliferation of digital self-expression comes an element of distance from reality. Proclaiming one’s views within a circle of Facebook friends has little to no impact on society’s day-to-day operation.

Passionate and educated, students in the 18-25 year old age bracket are quick to take to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to express frustration and outrage regarding Australia’s inhumane and indefinite detention of refugees in offshore processing centres. However, the situation has not improved. Manus Island may be set to eventually close, but in the meantime, both camps remain operational, housing over 1200 refugees who have been denied any hope of settling in Australia.

What if the opinions expressed by students were collected not by the digital domain, but in a physical and public manner, in such a way that could not be ignored?

I am proposing a site-specific unauthorized intervention at two student-dominated Sydney train stations: Redfern and Central. Adorning one Opal gate in each row with signs reading “Close The Camps: Tap here to sign”, I propose to create a generative petition which harnesses public opinion in an affective manner, using a touch point from the daily commute.

Combining the functions of a petition and a protest, the data generated by this single-day intervention would be collected and documented in a number of experimental forms, including audio recording of the Opal card taps, the manual counting of participants, and photography of likely disruptions of pedestrian flow through the gates. This data would then form the basis of a campaign or exhibition.

Aiming to disrupt and delay the daily commute by channeling all student protestors through the one Opal gate, such an intervention holds the potential to be noticed by the media, in the hope of affecting policymaking and creating change, as public support for the closure of camps is expressed in a physical and disruptive manner.


Post 9: Pros and cons of collaborative brainstorming

Molly Grover

Like any process, collaborative brainstorming has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.

In this tutorial, myself and two other classmates joined forces, sharing with other our individual problem statements and then devoting time to brainstorm the associations, themes and actors that came to mind for each one.

Starting with my rough beginnings of a problem statement, we oriented our first mind map around the trauma experienced by refugees in offshore detention. An immediate strength of this process was the fresh sets of eyes offered by my two classmates. Coming from their own unique social and geographical contexts, they brought a multitude of ideas to the fore that would never have crossed my mind.

Our first mind map focused on my problem statement (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

For example, Lily brought attention to the psychologists, doctors, aid workers and other staff working in the detention camps, encouraging me to see the trauma experienced in camps as affecting more than just the detainees themselves. The ideas mapped by my classmates acted to not only challenge my own framing of the problem statement, but also trigger my own ideas in new directions.

For example, Lily’s suggestion of the effect of detention on a child’s moral code spurred on my own reflection on the ethics (or lack of) being taught by the practice of detention. Whilst putting your unique area of interest under the microscope can be somewhat daunting, it ultimately pays generous dividends. Simultaneously solidifying and shifting the boundaries of my problem statement, each suggestion made by my group members triggered ideas for a possible design response.

Since my two group members had developed nearly identical problem statements, we decided to combine these into a single brainstorming session, oriented around attitudes towards refugees. Inadvertently, this illuminated the close and inextricable links between the two problem statements, with one informing the other. Australian attitudes towards refugees are unquestionably affected by the trauma that those refugees experience in offshore detention.

Our second mind map focused on the problem statement of my two classmates (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Inspiring me to reverse this relationship, this brainstorm sparked the idea of harnessing public attitudes in my design response, and employing them to make change to the problem of offshore detention. In revealing this link, the brainstorming session was of great benefit to me, acting as a kind of ‘re-frame’ to my own personal work.

One interesting thing worth noting was the difference in flow between the first and second brainstorming sessions. I have often thought that it is much easier to give ideas to others than to come up with ideas for your own work, and this was certainly confirmed during these exercises. My thoughts flowed much more freely during the second brainstorming session than the first.

Upon reflection, I feel that this is most likely due to the lack of pressure or consequence when working with someone else’s idea, and the freeing effect that this has on the expression of ideas – without the need for prior critical evaluation.

From these sessions, it is very hard to identify any significant weakness to the process of collaborative brainstorming. One frustration, however, does present itself in the ambiguity of the webs of ideas produced by such a session. Never completely exhaustive, a mind map alone cannot resolve a problem, and rather functions as a mere guide for forward motion. It is up to the designer to actively choose one of the resulting ideas or themes to run with and develop further, grappling all the while with the possibility of picking a dead end.

From my own experience, however, I have found that it is in this place of risk and uncertainty that most good and meaningful work begins.

Post 8: Defining the problem space and brainstorming possible design responses

Molly Grover

Reflecting on my research and interaction with the refugee and asylum seeker issue so far throughout the semester, I was able to see a clear trend in my interest in public dissatisfaction with the Australian government’s current immigration policies, most particularly in regard to offshore processing centres. Passionate discourse around the inhumanity of the current detainment of 442 persons on Nauru and 854 persons on Manus Island reveals a growing level of discomfort amongst the Australian public. Social media hashtags such as #BringThemHere and #CloseTheCamps exemplify such sentiment.

Brainstorming session

With this key idea in mind, I then collaborated with my classmates in a group brainstorming session. Focusing firstly on refugees in detention, a number of themes recurred and became evident in our language and mapping, including mistreatment, trauma, ethics, injustice, accountability, secrecy, protest and outrage.

Focusing next on attitudes towards refugees in a more broad sense, our mapping revealed a huge dichotomy of sentiment, with recurring themes of fear, racism, selfishness and boundaries contrasting with generosity, empathy, compassion and acceptance. This reinforced to me the polarising nature of the issue and the resulting strength of opinion and sentiment from both sides of the argument.

Defining the problem statement

In light of this, I decided to keep my focus narrowed to those expressing dissatisfaction towards offshore detention policies, and used a series of framing questions to shape my problem statement.

  1. Who does the problem affect?

Most primarily, public dissatisfaction with immigration policies affects the future of the refugees and asylum seekers to whom such policies apply. Secondly, the issue affects the communities, jobs and everyday lives of Australian citizens. Further to this, public dissatisfaction affects the Australian government, most particularly its votes, its policymaking and its reputation. Lastly, the issue affects foreign governments and citizens, in their perception of Australia as a government and a people.

  1. What are the boundaries of the problem?

The boundaries of such growing public dissatisfaction are complex and networked. Secrecy and lack of media access, combined with leaked reports of deplorable conditions and incidents of abuse, represent a significant boundary. Attached to this, ethical concerns exist regarding the detrimental psychological and mental consequences of indefinite detention.

Another boundary presents itself in the form of Australia’s international obligations, based on not only the human right to seek asylum, but also on the government’s signature of the UN Refugee Convention.

At odds with this boundary is yet another boundary: the agenda of the Australian government. Despite announcing plans to close the Manus Island detention centre (with no specified date), the possibility of bringing current detainees to Australia for settlement has been firmly ruled out. Neither of the two major parties possesses the will to grant these 1296 persons residency and protection in Australia.

Perhaps the most significant boundary of the issue is the displacement crisis itself, without which there would be no influx of refugees to begin with. Such migrations of scale inevitably bring risks along with them, regarding the receiving country’s economic stability, cultural identity and safety.

Due to the range of opinions present within the citizen body, public dissatisfaction with the government’s immigration policies can arguably never be fully resolved.

However, when focusing on the issue of offshore detention, resolution of the issue could look like closure of the camps, resettlement of the 1296 persons Australia, and thus a successful end to protests and campaigns such as #CloseTheCamps and #BringThemHere.

If offshore detention is not addressed, the volume of the outrage is only likely to increase. If the camps are closed, but the refugees are not allowed to settle in Australia, our country’s international reputation and relations will arguably be damaged, by the government’s unwillingness to exercise compassion towards those whom they have undoubtedly mistreated.

  1. When does the problem occur? When does it need to be fixed?

The expression of public discomfort with offshore detention procedures is only increasing as time goes on. The recent leakage of the Nauru Files has further amplified the demand for action. This issue needs to be addressed by the government immediately, so that those detained may be granted protection and the hope of a new life.

  1. Where is the problem occurring?

Whilst the root of passionate anti-detention sentiment is being caused by the detainment occurring on Manus Island and Nauru, the resulting problem is occurring in the disconnect between the will of the government and the will of many passionate Australians. Furthermore, my previous Twitter scraping exercise revealed that this sense of dissatisfaction extends beyond the borders of our own country, with users from a multitude of other nations expressing disdain for Australia’s offshore detention situation.

  1. Why is it important that the problem is fixed? What impact does it have on all stakeholders?

From the perspective of campaigners against offshore detention, the camps must be closed for the sake of morality, ethics, and an end to refugee mistreatment and trauma. From the perspective of the government, fixing the problem will stop what has become a major economic drain. Furthermore, relations with Papua New Guinea will be improved.

On the converse, relations with Nauru are likely to worsen if the camps are closed, as the small country will no longer receive support and funding from the Australian government. Most importantly, the closing of the camps will be most beneficial for the detainees themselves, who hope for permanent protection and settlement in Australia or elsewhere, in order to build a new life.

Summary of 5 possibilities

This framing of the problem statement brought to light a number of possibilities for the development of a design response.

  1. Visualising and deploying public will in order to bring about political change.

Using either data visualisation or generative design practices, there is great potential to harness passionate public sentiment expressed on social media (both Australian and international). Thoughtful formatting and deployment of such discourse could do much to increase government attention, concern and action towards the issue of offshore detention. Possible formats could include a generative Twitter bot, a graphic data visualisation, or a cartographic Google Earth map.

  1. Investigating language used in the refugee and asylum seeker debate.

Once again using data visualisation and/or generative design practices, there is interesting potential to highlight and analyse the dichotomy of attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers, with particular focus given to language and semantics. Does one side of the argument have more of a tendency to use derogatory language or verbally abuse other actors in the debate? This could reveal interesting insights regarding the social interactions between those who do not agree.

  1. Investigating the trajectory of social media sentiment.

On social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, passionate arguments created by one user are often disseminated with momentum across circles and groups of users all over the world, using re-tweet or sharing functions. Once again using data visualisation practices, interesting potential lies in the idea of mapping the trajectory of online statements, as well as the resulting breadth, or lack, of unique thought amongst the digital community.

  1. Highlighting the inhumanity of indefinite detention

An increase in public support and for the closure of offshore detention centres may be achievable through the poignant communication of aspects of the issue. By highlighting details such as the ever-increasing time elapsed in detention, the personalities and aspirations of those detained, or the secrecy of the government, emotion and outrage may be evoked amongst the public, thus increasing the potential for change.

  1. Gathering the opinion of the wider community regarding detention

Writing letters to local MPs is often a time-consuming process. Petitions, on the other hand, are quick and easy, yet usually not pervasive or wide-reaching enough to gather the signatures of all those who care about the issue. Here lies potential for a generative system or service design, in which a petition or pre-written letter is integrated into an aspect of daily life, so as to be exposed to a larger percentage of the population, whilst still being simple and convenient.

Draft Proposal: Generative System / Visualisation
Collecting and visualising support for #CloseTheCamps using participatory practices

Thanks to the pervasiveness of richly networked digital communities in contemporary society, it is easier than ever to share your personal opinion and show support for a cause. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter provide a place for discussion to be initiated and disseminated like never before. However, with this proliferation of digital self-expression comes an element of detachment and distance. Proclaiming your views within the circle of your limited digital community has little resonance in your real, physical, day-to-day life.

In the case of Australia’s current offshore processing policies, many Australians take to social media to express their frustration and outrage regarding the inhumane and indefinite detention of innocent asylum seekers. However, it can be argued that there are just as many who do not. Whether they are not opposed to the issue, unaware of it, or simply not one to post their opinions online, social media is not an exhaustive indicator of public opinion within a geographical community.

In order to measure the opinions of my local community regarding offshore detention, I propose to create a generative petition system using Opal card gates at train stations throughout the Sydney region. By attaching a sign to half of the open Opal gates reading “Close The Camps: Tap here to sign” (or similar), commuters and public transport users will be offered the choice to show their support in a very physical and immediate manner.

By placing the interaction within a part of their existing daily routine, the users are not inconvenienced and are thus highly likely to participate. Furthermore, the system also holds potential to engender change in this portion of the community, by bringing the issue to their attention in a way that is not reliant on the political positions (or lack of) of their online friends and followers. Those who may have been previously apathetic towards the issue are now prompted to make an active decision, or at least think about the situation in more depth as they continue their commute.

Applied over a number of days and locations, this system will provide a data set rich with potential for both campaigning and visualisation. Using an algorithm to collect the number of taps registered through each gate, a quantitative petition is generated, pertaining to both time and geographical location.

This then has the potential to be visualized using an automated program, forming a live, active petition in support of closing refugee camps. If brought to the attention of the Australian government, this sort of participatory system could potentially affect policymaking and create change, as the scale of public support for the closure of the camps is expressed and reinforced by the daily movement of commuters throughout the city.

Post 7: Collaboration, controversy and issue mapping

Molly Grover

In the Week 5 tutorial, I teamed up with my classmates Lily and Britt, undertaking collaborative mapping exercises in order to further develop my understanding of the refugee and asylum seeker issue.

Mapping task 1

Revisiting the stakeholder maps we had developed in Week 3, we decided to build and expand upon a select few branches of stakeholders that were shared by all three of our individual maps. Aiming for greater specificity, we delved into identifying exactly who the actors (both human and non-human) were within these networks.

Beginning with the media, we identified the sub-branch of social media, comprised of platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other online forums. We next brainstormed television, newspaper and online sources which possessed particular relevance to the issue, including but not limited to The Australian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The New Matilda, The Bolt Report, The ABC and SBS. We were also able to categorise most of the above media sources as either commercial, independent or government funded.

Using the same method of breakdown, we delved into several more stakeholders, including policy, propaganda, the government, the Australian public, religion, censorship, and international bodies.

Our collaborative map, focusing and expanding upon a select few stakeholders from our individual maps (Copyright 2016 Britt Thiel, Lily Hodgson & Molly Grover).


This processing of revisiting and analysing numerous stakeholders revealed many small, yet incredibly important actors within the network, which we would most probably have never noticed without this kind of collaborative brainstorming. For example, language has a fundamental effect on the public discourse surrounding the refugee issue, however this actor was only reached by dissecting the media, a branch only briefly mentioned in our original individual maps.

Furthermore, connections between such stakeholders became more visible during the process, as smaller nodes revealed relationships which were not seen in the initial maps. For example, dissection of propaganda as a stakeholder branch illuminated the relationship between the government and the media in the dissemination and shaping of public thought. The effect of this on public votes, and in turn the effect of public votes on governmental policy-making, revealed a complex web of inextricably linked actors which constantly shift and re-assemble themselves in relation to each other.

As Latour theorised, such actors can be thought of as heterogeneous nodes, both mediating and mediated by each other in a dynamic state of movement (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015).

Mapping Task 2

Still working collaboratively, we next focused on the polemic surrounding the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Focusing on three different debates, we identified pairs of opposing actors, mapping the emotions and motivations behind the positions taken by each.

Beginning with The Australian Government versus Refugee Activists, we focused on opposing perspectives in the debate surrounding Australia’s refugee intake. We identified fear, safety, security, nationalism, protection, control, economic concerns and votes as the most dominant emotions and concerns motivating the Australian government’s position, whilst refugee activists were conversely mobilized by empathy, compassion, generosity, anger, justice and human rights.

Continuing with this method, we also explored the debates surrounding both Muslim immigration and refugee re-settlement procedures.

Our collaborative map of three different debates, including the emotions and motivations of each opposing actor (Copyright 2016 Britt Thiel, Lily Hodgson & Molly Grover).


In expanding upon the emotions and concerns motivating each actor in each debate, it became clear to us that some emotions expressed were merely concealments for ulterior motives. For example, the Australian government’s strict immigration policies, justified by fear of safety, protection, control and security, could actually be motivated primarily by money and votes.

As espoused by Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín and Kil (2015), this sort of controversy mapping encourages a type of critical examination in which ‘the actors proliferate claims and concerns and (…) the most crucial beliefs are questioned’.

Personally, I felt that the collaborative nature of these mapping exercises was extremely valuable, as the unique experiences and perspectives of my classmates inherently exposed me to multiple ideas that I would not have considered had I been left to my own devices. For example, I had not previously considered the link between the media and propaganda in the mapping of stakeholders, nor had I considered public votes as a key motivator of the Australian government’s policies on refugee immigration.

Such co creation has done much to inform my future approach to the issue, with Lily’s highlighting of propaganda acting to further spark my interest in the opinions and discourse propagated and disseminated by the government, the media and the general public. Initially brought to my attention during the Twitter scraping exercise, I believe this area is rich with potential for an insightful design response.

Providing me new frameworks with which to understand the problem, collaborating between Lily, Britt and myself fostered a high level of quality in the maps, as each of us were able to bounce ideas off one another, critically examining factors and actors from our own unique and different knowledge bases. From this, I have learnt that co creation provides the opportunity for a much more well rounded perspective, which is of great value in both research and design practice.

Opportunities for action

Moving forward, one particular possibility for action and change immediately strikes me. As Latour theorises, the expression, formatting and deployment of facts by actors has a significant impact on issuefication, or the level of attention and concern brought to the issue itself (Rogers, Sánchez-Querubín & Kil 2015).

In light of this, neo-cartographic mapping of pro-refugee discourse and sentiment using digital tools such as Google Earth and Twitter Bots presents itself to me as a possibility for further action and investigation. The targeted deployment of such data to policymakers and government bodies could potentially inspire change in the government’s strict immigration policies.


Rogers, R., Sánchez-Querubín, N. & Kil, A. 2015, Issue Mapping for an Ageing Europe, OAPEN, Amsterdam.

Post 6: Scraping Twitter to create a data set

Molly Grover

Functioning at its most basic level as an online messaging service, Twitter provides users from all over the world with a platform to communicate, engage with one another and express ideas. Limiting posts to 140 characters or less, the platform encourages quick-fire exchanges of dialogue and conversation about a endlessly wide range of topics, such as news, current affairs, popular culture, humour, beliefs and personal matters.

Trending topic categories, hashtag and re-tweet functions all reinforce the platform’s emphasis on the rapid public dissemination of thought and opinion. A single user’s post has the power to spark a large-scale international debate in a number of minutes, gaining momentum every time the message is re-tweeted, engaged with or replied to by another user.

The sidebar of a user’s Twitter browser displays a constantly updated list of trending topics (Twitter 2016).

Encompassing 313 million active users worldwide, it can be argued that the Twitter community is primarily comprised of people who value the right to express their opinion. More than a profile picture or a one-line biography, identity in the Twittersphere is primarily constructed by the opinions, interests and ideas which one chooses to align with. Due to the inevitably polarising nature of this kind of open discussion, expressions of outrage are as common as positive affirmation in the ‘platform where all voices can be heard’ (Twitter 2016).

For an issue as complex and controversial as the Australian refugee and asylum seeker influx, it can thus be argued that Twitter is the perfect platform from which to scrape and analyse direct, passionate public sentiment.

Scraping Attempt 1

For my first scraping exercise, I used Google’s Twitter Archiver to collect tweets containing the hashtag #Refugees or #Asylumseekers or #Auspol.


Unfortunately, the breadth of these topics resulted in an extremely large, and not particularly relevant data set. Collecting almost 25,000 tweets from a period of only one week, a skim through the first few tweets in the data set revealed that many were unrelated to Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. For example, the #Auspol hashtag collected sentiments regarding other areas of Australian politics, whilst the #Refugees and #AsylumSeekers hashtags collected discussion on refugee crises in other parts of the world.

My first attempt at scraping Twitter provided me with results which were not particularly relevant (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Scraping Attempt 2

In order to refine my search to collect data of greater relevance, I decided to conduct a preliminary search on Twitter to gauge which terms and hashtags were likely to return the most interesting information. I created an advanced search for the words “Nauru” or “Manus” or “Detention”, and the hashtags #Nauru or #Manus or #Detention.


Reading through a handful of the tweets collected by this search, I was pleasantly surprised by the increased relevance of the results. By hashtagging the locations of Australia’s detention centres, I had successfully narrowed the topic from all those seeking asylum to only those seeking asylum in Australia. Furthermore, upon reading these tweets I was amazed by the number of users from other countries who were engaging in discussion surrounding Australia’s offshore detention policies.


Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.34.47 AM
Tweets posted by users in London and New Zealand about Australia’s detention centres in Nauru (El-Enany & RNZ International 2016). 

Scraping Attempt 3

Fascinated by this, I returned to the Twitter Archiver and replicated this search, collecting nearly 9,000 tweets containing #Nauru or #Manus or #Detention from the last ten days. Interested in capturing the sentiment and discourse coming from outside Australia, I looked to the locations specified in each user’s Twitter profile, using conditional formatting to hide all those that contained an Australian location, such as Sydney, QLD, or Gippsland.

Combing through the tweets, I used conditional formatting with light coloured text to hide all Australian locations (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Excluding users who listed non-specific or even fictional locations (e.g. Global Citizen or Gaia), I combed through the leftover results, copying and pasting the first 100 tweets into a separate spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.44.35 AM
The new data set of 100 tweets from non-Australian locations (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Process Flowchart

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 6.03.25 PM.png
A summary of my scraping processes (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).


Upon reading the contents of these 100 tweets, I found 29 to be irrelevant, containing the hashtag #Detention yet not relating specifically to the Australian issue. From the remaining 71 tweets, I manually compiled a list of user locations, in order to gauge the pervasiveness of the issue from an international context.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 10.59.55 AM
The 25 countries from which users in the sample tweeted (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

The 71 tweets in the sample were posted from a total of 25 different countries. Dominating the sample were England and the United States, with totals of 15 and 11 tweets respectively. After these followed New Zealand and Ireland, with a total 5 tweets each. These results are not surprising due to the active relationships between these countries and Australia, as a result of cultural similarities and the shared English language.

The remaining 21 countries were spread across Europe, Asia, Polynesia and the Middle East, revealing a much greater level of global pervasiveness than I had expected. Interestingly, whilst coming from such a diverse range of locations, the vast majority of these tweets were actually re-tweets of popular statements regarding only a select few issues. These included the recent incident of Danish politicians being denied access to Nauru, the 169 consecutive days of peaceful asylum seeker protests on the island, the leaking of the Nauru files, and a message of support to male detainees on Father’s Day.

Such similarity within this group of tweets does much to highlight the power of the re-tweet function as a disseminator of knowledge within the platform, echoing and spreading ideas at a rapid pace throughout the international Twitter community.

Furthermore, all of these tweets were positioned in objection to Australia’s current systems of offshore detention, echoing the dissatisfaction that is increasingly expressed within Australia, by both the public and the media, regarding the inhumane treatment of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.05.54 AMScreen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.06.21 AMScreen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.06.43 AM

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.07.04 AM
The four main tweets which were re-tweeted by the sample of non-Australian users (Bochenek, Karapanagiotidis, Insurrection News & TheDetentionForum 2016).

5 Point Summary

  • Australia’s detainment of refugees is a topic of international discussion within the Twitter platform, evidenced by tweets posted by many users who identify themselves as being outside Australia.
  • Tweets were sampled from 25 countries in total, spread across Europe, Asia, Polynesia and the Middle East.
  • Only a small handful of statements were re-tweeted and echoed between this large spread of users and locations.
  • From the sample taken, England and The United States of America were the two countries most involved in the conversation, attributable to their active relationships with Australia.
  • The overwhelming consensus from international users was a dissatisfaction with Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees.

Possible visual responses

From these exercises came a number of rich possibilities for a design response. Immediately, I imagined a data visualisation in the form of a world map, in which all tweets about the Australian refugee and asylum seeker issue could be plotted according to the locations of their users. Illuminating both the geographical and proportional spread of discussion surrounding the issue, this visualisation could include interactive functionality, allowing the user to click on a particular country to see the range of opinions expressed there.

My first idea for a design response: a world map of tweets related to the Australian issue (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Another form of data visualisation could involve the chronological plotting of related tweets along a timeline, categorized by country of origin. Visualisation temporal frequency in the same manner as a heart rate monitor, this design response would communicate the constant spreading and shifting of conversation over time and place.

My next idea for a design response: a temporal visualisation of international tweets (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).

Lastly, a design response could visualize the geographical trajectory of a single tweet as it is re-tweeted over and over again by users of different origins. Inspired by the small handful of recurring statements present in the data sample I collected, this response would comment on the methods with which information related to the issue is disseminated throughout the global Twitter platform.

My final idea for a design response: A visualisation of a single tweet’s global trajectory (Copyright 2016 Molly Grover).


Bochenek, M. 2016, Tweet, Twitter, London, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Cooper, E. 2016, Millennials respond excellently to #HowToConfuseAMillenial Hashtag, Australia, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

El-Enany, N. 2016, Tweet, Twitter, London, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Google 2016, Twitter Archiver, California, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Insurrection News 2016, Tweet, Twitter, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Karapanagiotidis, K. 2016, Tweet, Twitter, Wurundjeri Land, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

RNZ International 2016, Tweet, Twitter, New Zealand, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

The Detention Forum 2016, Tweet, Twitter, London, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Twitter 2016, Careers, San Francisco, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Twitter 2016, Twitter, San Francisco, viewed 5 September 2016, <>.

Post 5: Interviewing, and probing deeper

Molly Grover

In order to gain an understanding of the concerns and perspectives held by the 18-25 year old age bracket surrounding the topic of refugees and asylum seekers, I developed an exercise in design-led ethnography.

With the help of a 23 year old participant, I designed and conducted a semi-structured interview and take-home probe task, with the hope of further contextualizing the chosen issue through the lens of my peers.

Part 1: Interview

Referring to the earlier mapping exercise, I used my previously identified human and non-human participants as a guide for what might concern the 18-25 year old age group.

Using mapping once again, I developed a set of interview questions that drew upon the topics of human rights, media sentiment, cultural assimilation, population, infrastructure and safety.

Mapping the likely concerns of 18-25 year olds regarding the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Copyright 2106 Molly Grover all rights reserved.

Interview Questions

Finalised list of questions for the semi-structured interview.

After settling on these five questions, I conducted a short interview with a 23 year old peer. The semi-structured nature of the interview allowed the conversation to flow freely, with my lines of questioning being influenced and directed by the responses of the participant’s answers. This resulted in an engaging and interesting dialogue, rather than a rigid and awkward experience.

After recording and transcribing the interview, I used mapping once again to summarise the key ideas communicated by the participant.

Mapping the key results from the semi-structured interview. Copyright 2016 Molly Grover all rights reserved.


Firstly, when asked to explain his opinion regarding the morality of asylum seeker detention, the participant decide to answer the question in two parts, dealing first with the offshore location of detention, and secondly with its indefinite nature.

Referencing the recent leakage of reports from within Nauru, the participant expressed his dissatisfaction with not only the inhumanity of the conditions of detention, but also the offshore placement of the camps, insightfully commenting on the lack of accountability bred by the physical distance and lack of media coverage.

Bringing to my attention the resulting ability of the Australian public to turn a blind eye, the participant then moved to a discussion surrounding the length of detention.

Describing the indefinite nature of current processing as ‘inhumane’, he expressed the need for more rapid decision-making, in order to avoid adding more stress and uncertainty to the already traumatised state of those who have recently fled their country.

Upon discussing his concerns regarding an increased intake and settlement of refugees in Australia, the participant made another interesting point, noting that the coming together of two different cultural groups will always be risky, no matter the social, temporal or geographical context.

Expressing the need to see refugees as individuals, rather than applying categorical assumptions, the participant highlighted the contradictory nature of those in politics who claim that refugees are both inherently lazy, and stealing our jobs.

Interestingly, he did not express concern at the prospect of jobs being taken by refugees, rather stating that if refugees were prepared to work harder than Australians, then perhaps they should very well have our jobs.

Contrasting with the opinions expressed by public figures such as Pauline Hanson and Sonia Kruger, the participant did not agree with the correlation made between Muslim immigration and terrorism, once again stating that no categorical danger could be applied to either all refugees or all Muslims, just as none can be applied to all Australian residents.

Using an interesting metaphor, the participant equated the probability of a terrorist presence within a group of Muslim immigrants to the probability of a presence of LGBTI hate-preachers within a group of Christian immigrants.

He noted that the vast majority of Muslims are not ISIS affiliated, suggesting that terror is caused by anomalous splinter groups, and thus cannot be attached to the religion of Islam as a whole.

When asked about the opinions of his peers, the participant noted that most within his community of friends had at some point expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s current system of dealing with refugee and asylum seeker flows.

Observing that many of his friends want change in the form of an increased refugee intake, he explained that some have even taken political action, attending peaceful protests and campaigns to such an end.

In contrast to his friends however, the participant expressed no future plans to take part in political action, due to his belief that the Australian government is not truly representative of the desires of its people.

He does not see political action as effectual or worthwhile, due to similarity of the both major parties’ policies for refugees and asylum seekers.

However, the participant did express his willingness to support those refugees who have been allowed into Australia, describing his involvement with a church-led campaign to gather and distribute groceries to recently settled refugees in his local community.

Summarising his own sense of responsibility towards the issue, he noted that he felt it was his duty to help those who are already here (in Australia), but not to take political action for those who are not.

When asked for his opinion regarding the media’s representation of the issue, the participant noted that he does not watch television or listen to the radio often, citing his main sources of information as social media and his own online research.

From his exposure to these sources, he noted that whilst the majority supported an increased refugee intake in Australia, there were also many public figures that did not, making the scope of positions expressed by the media extremely varied.

Part 2: Probe

In order to delve further into the experiences and perspectives of the participant, I designed a simple take-home activity to be undertaken over the course of a week.

Aiming to gain insight into the range of sources engaged in by 18-25 year olds, I asked my participant to take note of every time he noticed the issue of refugees or asylum seekers mentioned in a piece of media, using iPhone photography and screenshots to make a record of all such encounters.

The probe task given to the participant. Copyright 2016 Molly Grover all rights reserved.


Upon consulting the participant at the conclusion of the task, I was disappointed to discover that he had not encountered any media sources for the entire week of the probe exercise. As a result, no screenshots, photographs or notes existed for analysis.

Reflecting initially on this result, I concluded that the task was undoubtedly a failure and must have been poorly designed on my part.

Perhaps focusing on a specific media source would have improved the outcome. For example, please spend 2 minutes per day scrolling through your Facebook feed, taking screenshots of any mention of refugees or asylum seekers.

This specific directive would have ruled out the possibility of neglecting to engage with any media and thus not encountering any sentiment surrounding the issue.

Furthermore, the probe could have been improved by sending a few regular (but not intrusive) reminders to the participant to keep their eyes open for mentions of the issue. For an example, a simple Facebook message in the middle of the week could read ‘Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled today!’ or similar.

This would rule out the possibility of forgetting to actually focus on the issue whilst engaging with day-to-day media sources.

On the converse, however, it could be argued that the probe was actually a success in revealing the low level of the participant’s day-to-day exposure to the refugee and asylum seeker issue.

The lack of encounters with the topic in a normal week of undirected media use reflects and reveals the social context of the participant, as well as his own browsing habits.

Aligning with the results of the interview, in which the participant noted that he did not regularly engage with traditional media sources such as television, radio and newspapers, the probe suggests that although the participant has well-formed opinions on the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, he is not regularly engaging in a political dialogue regarding the issue.

5 Point Summary

From the results of both the interview and the probe, a few key insights can be drawn:

  1. The participant and his peers share a unanimous position on the inhumanity of indefinite offshore detention for refugees and asylum seekers.
  2. The participant believes that the physical distance of the offshore camps has led to a lack of accountability from the Australian government and ignorance amongst the Australian public.
  3. Whilst possibly not being regularly exposed to the issue through traditional media sources, Australians in the 18-25 year old age bracket seem to be educated and passionate about taking action around the issue of offshore detention and asylum.
  4. The participant believes that asylum seekers need to be assessed and viewed as individuals, as the assumption of a categorical danger or threat is inaccurate, unfair and illogical.
  5. Whilst the participant is passionate and well-informed about the issue of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, he is not exposed to regular dialogue or sentiment regarding the issue in his everyday life.

Post 3: Mapping the complexity of the issue and building an image archive

Molly Grover

In order to better understand the complexity of the refugee and asylum seeker issue, our class groups spent some time mapping the participants and actors involved. Further to this, I individually spent time collecting an archive of ten visual sources related to the issue. Annotating these images, I was able to compare and contrast the meaning expressed with the perspectives and opinions voiced in the text sources I collected in earlier weeks.

Part 1: Mapping the participants

For our first mapping attempt, we brainstormed the most influential human and non-human stakeholders. We then used rapid mind mapping to further break down each of these clusters into several smaller actors which exert influence of the issue.

Our in-class first attempt at mapping the participants. Copyright 2016 Molly Grover all rights reserved.

Reflecting upon this initial map, it became clear that many clusters were interconnected and certainly not mutually exclusive, revealing other major stakeholders that were not previously noted.

Building upon this initial attempt, I later developed a new collection of major stakeholders, and spent some time attempting to arrange these in hierarchical order. Starting with those actors which I perceived to be the most influential, I worked my way from top to bottom, re-arranging the post-it notes multiple times until I settled on a set of hierarchical layers.

The difficulty of this process further reinforced the complexity of the issue, with a definite hierarchy being nearly impossible to deduce due to the inextricable links between many participants. For example, asylum seekers and refugees themselves have fairly low influence or control over the outcome of their settlement, however without them, the issue would cease to exist in the first place. Thus, they could be thought of as either sitting at the top or bottom of the hierarchy.

Similarly, the media, public opinion, votes and government policy are all continuously influencing each other in a highly complex and non-linear manner, making it impossible to define which of these is more significant than the other.

My later attempt at hierarchically organising the stakeholders. Copyright 2016 Molly Grover all rights reserved.

Lastly, I then translated this hierarchical attempt to a new map, in which not only the major stakeholders, but also the smaller actors were included. Once again, this made clear the highly complex nature of the issue, as more chain relationships, overlaps and links became evident.

None of these maps can be considered to be exhaustive, evidenced by the appearance of more and more participants with each successive attempt. However, they are still an extremely valuable tool, providing me with the ability to gain an initial grasp of the scope of the issue and the many actors which influence upon it.

My final map including both hierarchical and cluster-based participants. Copyright 2016 Molly Grover all rights reserved.

Part 2: Image Archive

Next, I sourced ten images related to asylum seekers and refugees, in order to analyse the dialogue sustained by each, and compare these to the opinions expressed in text sources featured in earlier posts.

Source 1.
Close Nauru

A skywriter spells Close Nauru above Parliament House in Canberra (EPA 2015).

In light of the recent leakage of reports from within Nauru, public outrage surrounding the mistreatment and abuse of offshore detainees has increased in volume. Echoing the statements of Keeya-Lee Ayre and Malcolm P. Fyfe in my previous blog post, this image represents public demand for the government to cease offshore detention and close facilities.

The contrast between the sky-writing and the coat of arms atop of the building symbolises the growing contrast between the publicly held opinion and government policy, as an increasing number of Australians express dissatisfaction at the treatment of refuges and asylum seekers.

Source 2.
Leaked Nauru Report

A leaked file from Nauru describing the experiences of child detainees (The Guardian 2016).

Recently leaked from Nauru, this source includes a teacher’s first-hand description of the distress and discouragement experienced by their detainee students. Echoing a number of text sources on the negative effects of Temporary Protection Visas on refugee mental health, the teacher highlights the TPV’s lack of guarantee as the cause of the emotional stress experienced by the children.

Source 3.
Detained children

Signs made by children detained on Nauru (Free the Children NAURU 2016).

Taken by an adult asylum seeker, this image further highlights the negative experiences of children in detention. Using short statements to communicate their frustration, desperate pleas such as ‘take us from the hell’ and ‘we are humans just like others’ once again echo the statements of Ayre and Fyfe surrounding the injustice of detention, and the moral responsibility of the Australian government to treat these asylum seekers in a more humane manner.

Source 4.
Deportation protest

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Citizens in Canberra protesting the High Court ruling on deportation to Nauru (Bowers 2016).

Taken outside the High Court in Canberra in February of this year, this image depicts a group of protestors from the #LetThemStay movement: an action committee determined to stop the deportation of refugees (especially children) to offshore detention centres in Manus Island and Nauru.

Once again representing public animosity towards government policy allowing the detainment of children, the image highlights the disparity between the altruism of pro-refugee community groups and the harsh border protection policies of the federal government.

Source 5.
Detained child

Signs made by children detained on Nauru (Free the Children NAURU 2016).

In this image, an asylum seeker uses symbols of love and peace to disassociate himself from extremist terrorist groups such as ISIS. The idea represented in the image contrasts significantly with the sentiments expressed by public figures such as Pauline Hanson and Sonia Kruger, who have been recognised in television interviews as associating terrorism with Islam, and calling for an end to Muslim immigration for this very reason.

Representing the idea that terrorism has no religion, the image rebuts these sentiments and symbolises the plea for acceptance, safety and protection made by many peace-loving asylum seekers and refugees.

Source 6.
Omran Daqneesh

Young Omran Daqneesh sits frozen in an ambulance after his house in Aleppo is bombed (Aleppo Media Center 2016).

This image depicts a young boy in an ambulance, waiting for treatment after being rescued from his recently bombed home in Aleppo, Northern Syria. The extreme shock and trauma of the event is clearly illustrated by the boy’s bloodied face, frightened facial expression and frozen posture as he waits for assistance.

From the text sources I have collected, it seems that the Australian media generally gives more focus to the problem of trying to resettle asylum seekers, rather than to the actual root of the displacement: the conflict in Syria. In contrast, this image serves as a reminder of the real danger being faced by those who are caught in this conflict, thus justifying the desperation of those seeking asylum.

Source 7.

Matt Golding’s satiric cartoon comments on offshore detention (Golding 2016).

Satirising the Australian government’s offshore processing policy, this cartoon uses wordplay to represent the widespread public ignorance of the deplorable practices of detention. Out of sight alludes to the lack of accountability perpetuated by the physical distance of the camps from the Australian mainland, whilst out of their minds alludes to the detrimental effect of detention on the mental health of those within.

Resonating with the text sources I have already collected, this image represents a growing public objection to secretive and immoral government policies regarding the offshore detention of refugees.

Source 8.
Inclusive billboard

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 4.55.18 PM
Gosford Anglican Church takes a stand against Islamophobia (Hisham 2016).

In the form of a peaceful campaign, members of Gosford Anglican Church vocalise their support of the Australian Muslim community. Despite the mutual exclusivity of the Christian and Islamic faiths, this religious group practices a loving and non-discriminatory approach to their fellow community members, standing for the inclusion and respectful treatment of all peoples regardless of race or religion.

The sentiments represented in this image contrast with the sentiments of Pauline Hanson noted in previously collected text sources regarding the dangerous links between Halal certification, the Islamic faith and extremist terrorism.

Source 9.
Detained men

Detainment of asylum seekers can have serious mental health implications (Rycroft 2016).

Emotionally arresting, this image represents the reality of what life is like for those detained in offshore processing camps. The men pressed up against the fence communicate a confronting and immediate picture of the sense of entrapment experienced by those who are imprisoned.

Lacking freedom and subsequently also lacking hope, the slumped shoulders and crossed arms of the detainees highlight their demoralized and depressed state, with the high angle shot reinforcing their helplessness. The piercing gaze of the man staring upward hints at the desperation experienced by these refugees, brought on by the deplorable conditions in which they are forced live indefinitely.

Image 10.
Child’s drawing

A detained child’s drawing of a free Australian next to a detained asylum seeker (ABC 2016).

Similar to the previous image, this drawing presents a confronting insight into the realities of offshore detention, and the damaging effects of such on the mental health of children. Drawn by a child asylum seeker in Nauru, the image powerfully contrasts the freedom and happiness of an Australian citizen with the claustrophobic entrapment and sadness of a refugee.

Placing the two side by side, the child has reduced the physical distance between the Australian mainland and the offshore camps, bringing the deplorable conditions to the attention of the Australian public. Drawn from the child’s own experiences and emotions, the picture profoundly echoes the sentiments of text sources I collected, which insist upon the inhumane and mentally detrimental nature of children’s detainment.


EPA 2015, Close Nauru, BBC, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

The Guardian 2016, The Nauru Files in Pictures, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

Free the Children NAURU 2016, What’s our guilt?, Facebook, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

Bowers, M. 2016, Protesters outside the High Court, The Guardian, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

Free the Children NAURU 2016, I’m not ISIS, Facebook, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

Aleppo Media Center 2016, Omran Daqneesh, CNN, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.

Golding 2016, Nauru Detention Centre, Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.

Hisham, N. Gosford Anglican Church, SBS, viewed 24 August 2016, <>.

Rycroft, R. 2016, Offshore Detention Centre, The Guardian, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.

ABC 2016, Drawing by child in detention, viewed 20 August 2016, <>.


Post 4: The Refugee Project – Mapping Global Displacement and Asylum

Molly Grover

A collaboration between social impact design agency Hyperakt and technologist Ekene IjeomaThe Refugee Project is a sophisticated interactive map of global refugee flows over the last 40 years (Information is Beautiful 2016).

Winning gold in the Interactive Visualisation category of the 2014 Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards, the project explores the temporal, geographical and historical nuances of global emigration using a combination of quantitative data visualisation and qualitative storytelling.

Starting from 1975, the visualisation uses an interactive timeline to separate global migration data into 40 yearly sets. Using information supplied by the United Nations, each yearly view visualizes the total worldwide breakdown of asylum seeker immigration by volume, origins and destinations (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.01.38 PM
With the year 1989 selected, each circle indicates displacement from its respective country (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).

In order to distinguish between countries of origin and destination countries of asylum, colour has been cleverly employed as an element of the visualisation. Loaded with psychological associations, the colour red conjures up notions of physical movement, anger, conflict, violence, survival instinct and life force. Such a dynamic colour has thus been used to demarcate those countries that have been fled in any given year by those seeking asylum.

Conversely, the colour blue possesses connotations of trust, reliability, peace, tranquility, calmness and order (Scott-Kemmis 2016). Thus, this colour has been used to define those countries which have been destinations for asylum in each particular year, providing protection to those who have sought it.

The option to toggle between a view of these two colours greatly enhances the user’s experience with the data, by breaking it down into two separate sets: countries which have been fled and countries which have provided asylum.

For example, when operating in the red colour view, clicking on a country reveals how many people fled from that country in the chosen year, as well as a list of their final destinations. Conversely, when toggled to the blue colour view, clicking on a country reveals the number of asylum seekers residing in that country in the chosen year, as well as a list of their countries of origin.

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.06.01 PM
The red mode shows that only one person fled Australia to seek asylum in 1996. The line connects to their destination (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).
Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.06.21 PM
Changing to the blue mode, the map shows that 67,280 asylum seekers resided in Australia in 1996, from a total of 100 different origins (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).

This numerical data is also interactive, and able to be toggled between a total number and a ratio proportional to the global population, making complex statistical information accessible and digestible to the average user.

It is in these functions that the interactivity of the visualisation becomes incredibly valuable, allowing for greater comprehension of the data by breaking it down into bite-sized chunks. This principle is further echoed in the categorisation of the data into forty separate yearly sets. By clicking on each year, the user is able to gain an immediate grasp of the refugee flows at a particular moment in history, without the distraction of the rest of the forty year set. Rather than being bombarded with an enormous collection of unmanageable information, the user is guided through the data at their own pace thanks to the interactive and catalogued nature of the map.

As well as visualising geographical and temporal flows, the map also includes a rich historical storytelling element, acting to contextualize the complex numerical data sets with relevant qualitative information.Upon selecting a year to view, the user is greeted by several text block icons, positioned atop relevant countries. When a text block is clicked upon, it expands to reveal a summary of ‘the complex stories of political, social, and economic turmoil behind each displacement’ (Information is Beautiful 2016).

Using simple and easily understandable language, the text provides the user with an understanding of the conditions which forced people to flee that country and seek asylum elsewhere. The map thus allows the user to gain a deeper understanding of refugee flows, moving past mere statistics to the nuances and reasons for such displacements.

This is what makes the project most effective: its ability to shift from the macro to the micro, synthesizing both the qualitative and the quantitative to create a picture rich with historical context.

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.02.24 PM
With the year 1994 selected, a text icon appears over Rwanda (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).
Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.05.13 PM
Upon click, the map zooms in and presents the story behind the Rwandan displacement of 1994 (Hyperakt & Ijeoma 2014).

The issue of displacement and asylum has never been more pertinent than in contemporary society, with 2015 marking a record high in worldwide displacement due to ever-increasing levels of persecution and conflict (UNHCR 2015). Engaging with this issue, The Refugee Project represents an incredibly valuable resource, distilling the complexities of historical refugee flows into a sophisticated, elegant and interesting piece of communication.

Particularly valuable from an educational standpoint, the map makes an increased understanding of global displacement accessible to all who use it. Personally, I plan to refer back to this resource regularly this semester in my investigations of asylum seekers.

Interact with The Refugee Project here.


Information Is Beautiful 2016, The Refugee Project, London, viewed 18 August 2016, <>.

Hyperakt & Ijeoma, E. 2014, The Refugee Project, The Refugee Project, New York City, viewed 18 August 2016, <>.

Hyperakt 2016, Hyperakt, New York City, viewed 18 August 2016, <>.

Ijeoma, E. 2016, Ekene Ijeoma, New York City, viewed 18 August 2016, <>.

Scott-Kemmis, J. 2015, Empower Yourself with Colour Psychology, Empower Yourself with Colour Psychology, Sydney, viewed 30 August 2016, <>.

UNHCR 2015, Worldwide displacement hits all-time high as war and persecution increase, Geneva, Switzerland, viewed 30 August 2016, <>.

Post 2: Adding scholarly sources to my knowledge base

Molly Grover

In order to deepen my understanding of the issue of refugees and asylum seekers, I identified two scholarly sources to add to my archive of research. Analysing these two pieces allowed me to reach past the often surface level opinions presented in popular media and gain insight into the more substantial and factual perspectives of peer-reviewed authors.

Source 1.
Europe, don’t copy Australia
Keeya-Lee Ayre for the Forced Migration Review

Source 2.
Letter to the Prime Minister
Father Malcolm P. Fyfe for Compass

For my scholarly research, I decided to focus on discussion surrounding Australia’s current Asylum Seekers’ Policy, particularly from those who have chosen to position themselves as activists for its reform. Keeya-Lee Ayre, a writer, researcher and Masters student of Applied Anthropology and Participatory Development, highlights the pitfalls of Australia’s current policy of turning away asylum seekers in her piece titled Europe, don’t copy Australia.

Affiliated with the Australian National University, Keeya writes for the Forced Migration Review, bringing with her a background in international development, humanitarianism, multimedia journalism and social enterprise.

Writing regularly about issues of social impact, Ayre uses this piece to question the morality of Australian anti asylum-seeker rhetoric, by dismantling the politically constructed distinction between good and bad refugees that lies behind the current policy of turning back the boats. Highlighting this as a contravention of international law, she deplores the government’s evil portrayal of those seeking protection, and demands that the human rights of these individuals be respected.

Father Malcolm P. Fyfe’s Letter to the Prime Minister echoes a number of Ayre’s sentiments. The Vicar General of the Catholic Diocese Darwin, Fyfe is not a regular contributor to any journals, nor has he written substantially about refugee issues before.

He does, however, write from his own first-hand encounters and conversations with detainees, as a ministering Priest. Furthering Ayre’s questioning of the government’s portrayal of asylum seekers, Fyfe expresses his frustration regarding the demonisation and inhumane treatment of ‘our fellow human beings’ (Fyfe 2016).

Requesting the closure of offshore detention centres, the Vicar General’s point of view is one that is becoming increasingly common among the public. I agree with both Ayre and Fyfe in their appeals for the government’s recognition of Australia’s moral and international obligations as a signatory of the Refugee Convention.


Ayre, K.L. 2016, ‘Europe, don’t copy Australia’, Forced Migration Review, vol. 51, viewed 8 August 2016, <>.

Fyfe, M. 2016, ‘Letter to the Prime Minister’, Compass, vol. 50.1, viewed 8 August 2016, <>.

 The Huffington Post 2016, Keeya-Lee Ayre, viewed 8 August 2016, <>.

Post 1: Building a data set of news media

Molly Grover

Upon choosing to investigate the issue of asylum seekers and refugees, I spent some time each day over the course of a week collecting a number of secondary sources, in order to develop my understanding of the issue. After collecting 25 sources in the forms of newspaper articles, online news sources, visual narratives and videos, I then chose 5 to analyse closely, in order to gain an understanding of the perspectives and opinions informing the information presented in each source.

From this, it became clear that the issue of refugees and asylum seekers is incredibly polarizing, bringing with it a diverse and passionate set of opinions, influenced by the personal context and experiences of each author.

Source 1.
At work inside our detention centres: A guard’s story
Sam Wallman (illustrator) for The Global Mail

The first frame of the illustrated narrative (Wallman 2014)

This visual narrative has been illustrated based on the first-hand experiences of a former Serco employee, working within an Australian detention centre. Arguably with the intention of speaking out against the injustice of the detention system and the treatment of detainees, the employee shared his experiences with The Global Mail, remaining anonymous due to the story’s breaches of confidentiality agreements made with the Serco corporation.

The first-hand nature of his experience arguably makes him a trustworthy source as to the living conditions of the refugees within the centres and the behaviours of the other employees and officials with whom he interacted. Speaking of his initial desire to help and instigate change and hope from the inside out, the author relates his gradual descent into disillusionment, depression, personal relational strain and even self-harm as he is faced with the true bleakness experienced by the detainees on a daily basis.

Representing a very marginal position, the author speaks with the bias of someone who has been allowed access to the inside of the camps, and has witnessed the negative realities that are hidden from the majority of the public.

The article thus straddles the line between factual and opinion-based, as it is believed to be based on the real-life experiences of the author, yet cannot be verified due to both his anonymity, and the media’s lack of access inside detention centres.

Source 2.
The most troubling thing about Pauline Hanson’s view of Muslims? The facts no longer matter
Susan Carland for The Guardian

Pauline Hanson speaking to the media (Peled 2016)

This article is written by Susan Carland, an Australian Muslim academic. With a PhD in Muslim feminism in Australian and North American communities, Carland can be considered a trustworthy and expert source.

Writing for fellow Muslims who feel alienated, threatened, unsafe and unwelcome in the current Australian political climate, Carland aims to highlight the depth of hypocrisy and obstinacy present in the condemnation and persecution of Muslims in Australian government and media.

Using the example of Pauline Hanson’s comments about the unwillingness of the Grand Mufti to condemn terrorism, Carland points to several cases in which the Grand Mufti has in fact done just that. Her article is rigorously well-researched, using evidence to make clear the bigoted obstinacy displayed by many Australians towards the Muslim community, most especially expressed in their blatant disregard for facts.

As a practising Muslim herself, Carland undoubtedly writes with a bias, however this is arguably justifiable. Expressing her frustration, exhaustion, anger and fear regarding the dehumanizing and immoral treatment of the very community to which she belongs, Carland sadly holds a marginal position in the immigration debate. Based on the evidence presented, I agree and empathise with the position she takes in the article.

Source 3.
What’s next for asylum seekers under a re-elected Turnbull government?
Maria O’Sullivan for The Conversation

Asylum seekers detained on Manus Island (Blackwell 2016)

A senior lecturer for the Monash University faculty of Laws, Maria O’Sullivan writes this piece for The Conversation with the dual intention of highlighting the moral and legal complexities of managing refugee flows in Australia, and suggesting priorities and courses of action in the future quest for a sophisticated solution.

Belonging to Monash University, O’Sullivan’s opinions can be considered to be both trustworthy and well-founded, due to her specialization in the area of Human Rights Law.

Factual and well-researched, her position is one of concern at the Australian government’s current border policies, and the need for these to change based on the current ‘great international need for resettlement’ (O’Sullivan 2016). Coming from a standpoint of morality and global responsibility, O’Sullivan implores the re-elected Turnbull government to increase the resettlement quota via creative means, in order to make a more substantial contribution to the international crisis.

In a calm and measured fashion, O’Sullivan also highlights the importance of resettling those who are currently detained, and revising policies which have left room for poor standards of detention. I cannot help but agree with her unbiased, well-researched explanations and opinions regarding the future of our immigration policies.

Source 4.
The real cost of welcoming refugees to Australia
Paige Taylor for The Australian

Olympian athlete Mangar Makur-Chuot (Nichols 2016)

As a journalist and frequent contributor to The Australian, Paige Taylor can be credited with a small amount of expertise on the subject of refugees and immigration policy, however would be greatly outweighed by the likes of lawyers and researchers, including the author of the previous source.

Factual and seemingly well-researched, Taylor’s article presents, without bias, and even without strong opinion, a sampling of positive and negative economic and social costs of resettling refugees in Australia. Beginning with an exposition of the negative financial and service-related costs incurred during the re-settlement process, she then switches to an illustration of the positive social contributions made by refugees, using the sporting successes of South Sudanese refugee Mangar Makur-Chuot as an example.

Focusing next on the personal costs to the refugees themselves, especially the long-lasting emotional trauma associated with being uprooted and having to build a new life in a new country, Taylor once again changes tack, finishing with a positive depiction of the Australian public’s ever-increasingly altruistic response to the task of refugee resettlement.

Seeming to lack a strong conclusion or definitive stance, I am left unsure about where Taylor stands in the spectrum of opinions towards refugee resettlement, as the breadth and objectivity of her reporting makes the point of her argument unclear.

Source 5.
Doctors seek to stop gag laws
Nicole Hasham for The Sydney Morning Herald

Protesters gathered in Sydney against the Border Force Act (Morris 2015)

Contributing regularly as an immigration correspondent, Nicole Hasham’s writings for The Sydney Morning Herald are well-informed and trustworthy. Reporting on the impending High Court challenge involving Doctors for Refugees, Hasham begins presenting the story with factual language, in a seemingly objective manner. Neutral phrases including, ‘She said’, ‘Dr Phatarfod said’, and ‘The government says’ (Hasham 2016), reinforce her initially diplomatic position.

However, as the article draws to a close, one key phrase reveals the personal bias of the author: ‘It (the government) insists’ (Hasham 2016). This choice of words inspires a lack of trust in the government’s case. When presenting the Doctors for Refugees’ argument, Hasham gives voice to Dr Barri Phatarfod, the convenor of the doctors, including multiple quotes to support the group’s argument. Conversely, when presenting the opposing case of the government, Hasham chooses not to include any specific names, quotes or evidence.

To the audience, this gives the impression of a less legitimate, or ill-founded argument, due to the lack of supporting testimony. From this, we can see that despite her mostly diplomatic use of language, Hasham takes the side of the doctors, giving them a stronger voice and larger platform in her piece.

In spite of this bias, I still agree with the perspective of the Doctors for Refugees, most especially on the fundamental right of the doctors to express their concerns. However, I would still like to see some evidence which confirms that federal laws do not in fact allow this freedom, as claimed in the article.

Opportunities for Further Investigation

From these sources, I have identified the existence of a number of polarising positions surrounding the issues of immigration and asylum. Moving forward, I believe it is worth investigating the following three:

  1. Those who support the closure of offshore detention centres and the re-settlement of asylum seekers in Australia.
  2. Those who support an increase in Australia’s humanitarian intake of Syrian refugees.
  3. Those who do not support the intake or re–settlement of asylum seekers (notably Muslims) in Australia.

Each of these three positions are controversial and unique, yet all possess a passionate following. As an Australian, I feel that I have a responsibility to be informed about this issue, and thus feel that the investigation of these three positions will provide me with the insight necessary to form my own opinion.


Blackwell, E. 2016, The government’s first priority should be to improve conditions in offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, The Conversation, viewed 27 July 2016, <>.

Carland, S. 2016, ‘The most troubling thing about Pauline Hanson’s view of Muslims? The facts no longer matter’, The Guardian, 19 July, viewed 26 July 2016, <>.

Hasham, N. 2016, ‘Doctors seek to stop gag laws’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 27 July, p. 5.

Morris, F. 2015, Doctors and health professionals at a Sydney protest last year, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 15 August 2016, <>.

Nichols, C. 2016, Olympic Athlete Mangar Makur-Chuot, ABC, viewed 15 August 2016, <>.

O’Sullivan, M. 2016, ‘What’s next for asylum seekers under a re-elected Turnbull government?’, The Conversation, 18 July, viewed 27 July 2016, <>.

Peled, D. 2016, Pauline Hanson fronts the media, The Guardian, viewed 26 July 2016, <>.

Taylor, P. 2016, ‘The real cost of welcoming refugees to Australia’, The Australian, 20 May, viewed 27 July 2016, <>.

Wallman, S. 2014, ‘At Work Inside Our Detention Centres: A Guard’s Story’, The Global Mail, 11 February, viewed 26 July 2016, <>.

Wallman, S. 2014, I always understood that indefinite detention did terrible things to people, The Global Mail, viewed 26 July 2016, <>.