Reflection & Proposal In our last lesson I ran through the initial stages of my final proposal. With assistance from my classmates and tutor I managed to finalise a problem statement and the direction for my final project. I got positive feedback regarding my area of interest and have thus begun thinking about how to visualise the project. My issue is centred on promoting the voices of people in offshore detention, emphasising their narratives using original content from social media platforms and in turn, enforcing a sense of connection and tangibility to these narratives. To maintain a focus on the stories of people in offshore immigration centres, the piece will focus on language, in particular through unadulterated and self-directed refugee stories. I will contrast these stories with mainstream media narratives and official statements given by the Australian government. This lends itself to a generative printed project resolved using typographic detailing. It was suggested that I might want to use older projects from last year to influence my resolve, for example the book TL;DR. Using this idea of a publication design, I’ve furthered the resolve into a newspaper format, reinforcing notions of the media and how it influences public perception.
Project title: Voices in Manus
Practice type: Poetic Generative Data
Since the early 2000s, the Australian government and the media have politicised refugees and asylum seeker issues. Our government and legal system have engendered a societal complacency on these issues, through the introduction of mandatory offshore processing, an effective media blackout within the detention centres, and other measures that place the plight of refugees outside of the public spotlight. Our media, often depicting asylum seekers as ‘swarms’ and ‘masses’, has successfully alienated their experience from Australian society, to the point where the majority of Australians believe that they are unworthy of our help. If racist attitudes towards those seeking asylum aren’t challenged, these attitudes will continue to proliferate and become further normalised amongst a larger proportion of the community.
Possible change: In my project I hope to shift public perception and attitudes towards refugee and asylum seekers by focusing on refugees’ subjectivity, recognising and acknowledging the sense of identity that has been robbed from them. To achieve this I will be exploring ways to visualise and compare the stories of people in offshore immigration detention with official statements and comments from prominent members of the Australian government, who have shaped this issue in the past few decades. The resolve will be in the form of a publication design. I will be exploring how to visualise key messages through various typographic techniques, and a range of materials. The power in this project lies in creating a sense of tangibility to the experiences of refugees, who are too often overlooked and sidelined. It therefore aims engage an audience that might otherwise be disinterested or disengaged from the issue.
Wallman, S, A Guard’s Tale (2014)
Throughout the last few weeks we have engaged with many different mind-mapping exercises in order to engage with our topics in a collaborative and comprehensive manner.
Mind mapping exercises are a great way to visually organise information when trying to explore and solve complex problems as they can demonstrate relationships between information, a key requirement when looking at interrelated issues and participants. The collaborative mind mapping exercises facilitated in-class discussions and debates around complex issues, allowing us to delve into aspects of these sub-issues that we hadn’t previously considered.
The mind mapping exercise that we completed in class gave us greater insights into our problem statement for assessment task three.
Since completing this map, I have fleshed out and refined my problem statement. In completing the prompts for my mind map, I’ve integrated the areas that I focused on within my research, namely; the effect the media and government have had on narratives related to refugee and asylum seekers issues, the dehumanising portrayal of refugees which has lead to fear and disengagement within the public, and the potential social media platforms (such as Twitter) have to express narratives to that counter those in mainstream media.
My problem statement came to fruition by answering some basic prompt questions, recording them on the mind map and observing some of the interconnected responses. As I had already established a broad area to focus on -restating a sense of identity and humanity amongst refugees to shift public perceptions- my responses were given with reference to that framework.
Who are the primary participants involved in this issue? As we don’t live in a societal vacuum there are multiple overlapping participants that lie at the core of refugee and asylum seeker issues. It feels impolitic to consider these participants in isolation, as that would separate how each participant proliferates and is influenced by one another. It’s important to remember that the reason refugee and asylum seekers are considered an issue is as a direct result of politicised and institutionalised racism, a situation that implicates everyone, especially our media and governing bodies.
The subject area I’m specifically looking into directly focuses on refugee and asylum seeker narratives and ways to connect this with a public audience. Through primary research I found that a heightened sense of apathy for refugee issues stemmed from a sense of disconnection and isolation from the people and the subject matter. It’s important that the refugee narratives are accessible for the general public and come directly from refugees and asylum seekers themselves. What are the boundaries of this problem? The boundaries of this problem lie in a number of structural and societal issues that are in many way interconnected. On a structural level there are issues which affect and are affected by governing bodies; the Australian government, the United Nations, treaties and relations between foreign countries and even international maritime laws. On a societal level, boundaries are a result of miscommunication and a general lack of understanding. They encompass a range of misrepresentations that are perpetuated throughout the media and as a result of censorship laws.
Why should we be engaging in solving these issues? We should be engaging with these issues as it’s a basic human right to seek asylum. It’s the responsibility of people in other countries to assist when people are displaced as a result of persecution. A denial of these basic human rights is a denial of compassion and of our humanity.
Where are these issues occurring? Whilst my focus area is around refugees in Australis’s offshore processing centres (Nauru and Manus) the refugee crises is a global humanitarian issue, effecting tens of millions of people around the world. The more abstract issue of racial intolerance permeates our societies around the world, fuelled by governments and mainstream media outlets. When did this occurred? Is it currently occurring? The displacement of people as a result of persecution and violence is not a modern phenomenon – it’s been occurring for hundreds of years. In the last 20 years however, this issue has been politicised as a threat to quality of life. It’s in these last 20 years that we’ve seen laws introduced that highlight our societies growing conservative nature.
Emergent practices and design thinking is required for addressing complex issues such as these explored within this subject. With this level of complexity and depth, it’s easy for the individual to become overwhelmed, to feel the issue is too big to make an impact. Over the last few months, I’ve learned the value of in-depth research within deeply complex issues. Discovering manageable focus areas and tangible solutions within design encourages social and attitudinal change from a grassroots level. This exercise was helpful in that it motivated us to collate and organise ideas in order to find manageable and focused design solutions.
My research has informed a broader understanding of issues related to refugees and asylum seekers.
I’ve explored the complexity of this area through a variety of institutional and individual perspectives, particularly those of the government, media, and the broader community. A large part of my research has involved researching the experiences of detainees through their self-published media, as I believe that it’s these personal connections and relationships which have the ability to shift public consciousness and lead to change.
Problem Statement: Since the early 2000s, the Australian government and the media have politicized refugee and asylum seeker issues. Our government and current legal system have endorsed a societal complacency in relation to these issues, through the introduction of policies like mandatory offshore processing and media blackouts within detention centres. Our media, often referring to and depicting asylum seekers as ‘swarms’ and ‘masses’ have successfully alienated them from Australian society, to the point where the majority of Australians believe that they are unworthy of our protection. If racist attitudes towards those seeking asylum aren’t challenged, these attitudes permeate within our society and will further normalize amongst a larger proportion of the community.
In my project I hope to shift public perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers by focusing on refugees’ subjectivity, recognizing and acknowledging the sense of identity they have had taken from them.
I would like to explore a design solution that brings a sense of tangibility to the experiences of refugees who are too often overlooked and sidelined.
One way to convey this would be to compare lives of refugees in detention to those of people in Australia. When I was looking at Twitter accounts of refugees in offshore detention centres, it occurred to me how limited their daily experience is. One way to visualise the lack of activity and stimulation experiences by detainees and asylum seekers on Nauru and Manus might be to look at how people attempt to deal with the boredom and mundanity of detention. This could be explored through posts made by asylum seekers on Twitter, which provide an insight into objects and ideas in their daily routine. These posts highlight how people in indefinite detention struggle to find ways to navigate the sense of limbo that characterises their situation. These insights are rarely communicated in traditional media, thereby, thereby, affirming detainees’ humanity.
Another more tangible option would be a comparison of of physical space and the torment that people go through when they are fleeing persecution, for instance making a model of the size of the boat in the Tampa incident (2001), or the houses which are in Manus and Nauru. This might be visualized through pieces of paper or a physical measurement of the space.
It is our responsibility to engage with these issues as they concern fundamental human rights: to live free from persecution, to self-expression and fulfillment, and to seek asylum when these rights are curtailed.
Summarising what I’ve learnt, not only by doing this blog post but through the entirety of my research (to five simple points):
The extent to which media content is informed by its political context.
The effect the media and government have had on the narratives related to refugee and asylum seeker issues.
A dehumanizing portrayal of refugees can lead to fear and disengagement within the public.
Refugees and asylum seekers in detention have used twitter as a platform to express counter narratives to mainstream media.
Tangible experiences allow audiences to greater relate to an issue and the human experiences behind that issue.
Wallman, S, Unselfconscious Space (2014)
Our classroom environment values collaboration of knowledge and ideas, so in a collaborative effort my team revisited the mind maps created a few weeks back and attempted to built upon the knowledge that we had acquired since. In these updated maps we tried to hone in on specific groups, individuals and organisations in order to create a more detailed picture of the participants within the issue.
Mapping Task One In this map we revisited the stakeholders maps that we had produced in week 3, and developed them through them by adding information that we had learnt and honing in on specific participants and how they interconnected. In this exercise we focused on defining individual participants in the media and government in addition to various forms of technology, which were universal amongst major stakeholders.
Mapping Task Two Our second map focused on different and divisive polemics that surrounded the issues. As the nature of refugees and asylum seeker issues are quite emotive, we found that the polemics and their emotional responses often overlapped one another. Consequentially, there were pairs that were more comprehensive and informative than other. Discussions around the polemic of government and refugees were personally the most engaging as it touched on one of the core problems of refugee issues- that the functions of powerful stakeholders rely and benefit from systematic oppression and institutionalized racism.
Mapping Task Three The final mapping task that we completed was the controversy map that aimed to combine both the polemics map and stakeholder map to explore deeper discussions that surrounded our issue or that we had skimmed over previously.
Reflection The environment of the classrooms and mapping exercises facilitates a broader understanding of the issue as a whole. Through collaborative engagement group members are able to fill in knowledge gaps and share knowledge around specific areas of focus. From developing a greater understanding of these complex issues, we are able to identity and focus on particular sub- issues in which to engage.
The social media source that I’ve chosen to explore in this web scraper is twitter. As I’m sure you will now know, Twitter is a platform that enables the user to read and post 140-character messages, photos and videos. In this format, Twitter amplifies the nature of 24/7 media. The reactionary nature of social media serves to speed up the cycle of reporting and opinions. Hash tags and trending subjects both reflect traditional media and generate organic content.
It’s is a platform that enables the user to read and post 140-character messages, photos and videos. Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has evolved into a platform that fosters political engagement and discussion from a grassroots level, giving a voice to ordinary people and breaking down traditional barriers of entry to publication and media. The accessibility of Twitter is also what makes this platform a valuable resource for marginalised groups of people to push policies and engage in politics in ways that they were unable to do prior.
Finding Humanity in Data
With this unique feature in mind I aimed to explore how refugees on Manus Island and Nauru were using the platform to express their views, interests and emotions.
I began doing this by using a Google chrome add-on that archives the history of a particular hash tags –Twitter Archive. I looked up the hash tags #bringthemhere and #letthemstay, the current trending hash tags in Australia used for refugee issues.
In the initial stages of this scrape I looked at how much the content of tweets were shaped by their context, by looking for hash tag patterns in geographic location. However, as this progressed I realised that I was shifting the focus onto the Australian population and away from the refugees. To accompany for this, I realised that maybe I was scraping for the wrong type of data and I needed to focus on a more abstract type of data to render the type of results I wanted.
Whilst my search for relevant data in this focus area was fruitless, I found an account which was repeatedly showing up with and IP address from Papua New Guinea. When I clicked on the hyperlink it took me to the page of a 25 year old Iraqi refugee.
When I visited the page, I was invited to follow other refugees who were on twitter and talking about their time and experiences in offshore immigration detention centres.
I documented a selection of posts on each profile which were the most popular via retweet or favoriting. The results of these indicate that twitter users were more responsive to tweets that was organic and original in content and / or personal opinion and/ or personalised through use of emoticons. It was these results that prompted my interest in the use of language and expression as a form of data.
Of these profiles I ran an analytics program through to see which words were most common on each of the profiles, what were the most used hashtags, and what time of day they were each posting at.
The results are indicative of the humanity of people in detention; each user has an individual mode of self-expression. This subjectivity of refugees is often erased in the media, which tends to depersonalise refugees and thereby strip them of their identity. Looking at the analytics of these results provide insight to the similarities and differences between the accounts and highlighted the individuality of each refugee as it would for an ordinary person.
As the nature of my research has been predominantly towards representation of refugees in the media vs the media generated by refugees it would be interesting to explore avenues in which I could emphasise the humanity and ordinariness of refugees.
A manner in which I think this could be most effective is by considering the opposite spectrums of similar situations, comparing the spaces of Australian suburbia with Nauru and Manus. In a brainstorm of ways I could do this is looking at physical items like objects, people, space, and abstract items like dreams, ideas, language and feelings.
Image: Wallman, S. A Guard’s Story, 2014
This post is structured around an informal interview that was conducted on the 16th August 2016 between the researcher, Rose McEwen and Participant A and a probe that was conducted throughout the period between the 16-30th August 2016.
Interviews and probes are a form of primary research, allowing researchers to collect original and unique data, generating new insights. The goal of this research was to allow discussion around refugees and explore some of the reasons behind our societal desensitisation and apathy towards offshore detention centres and the treatment of refugees.
The participant began the conversation by identifying as ‘uneducated’ in refugee issues. They said that they cared but ‘wouldn’t go out of their way to get involved’ and felt as though they needed to be more educated in order to participate in refugee activism or volunteer work.
Upon enquiry into the participants’ views on immigration they said they had concerns about safety and space, although they believed that immigration detention centres and strict policies were not the solution.
‘’I don’t think it [immigration] should be less strict because I’m concerned about people coming into the country and keeping the country safe, but I just feel like there has to be something better than what there is. . . I suppose just knowing who people are when they come into the country. Like where do you put everyone? What if we start letting people in and then everybody will come”
During the interview there was discussion around the context of the refugee discussions, which revealed how exposure and education played a significant role in an individuals engagement in the subject matter.
The participant said that they lived on the northern beaches in a community that wasn’t very multicultural or political.
“I think it’s one of those issues that I’ve stuck my head in the sand about because I don’t feel like I can make an impact. My way of caring about issues is when I socialise with people and when I come into contact with people. I’ve never met a refugee, I’ve never met or seen anyone who has been effected by those issues apart from the news where you become so desensitised.”
When questioned on her lack of motivation to self educate, the participant said that the mainstream media sometimes made her feel indifferent towards refugees as it was talked about so much. Secondary sources confirm that in the last two decades the Australian government has worked to perpetuate the indifference of the public by moving detention centres offshore and away from public eye. We can see this through the enforcement of policies such as temporary protection visas to offshore processing and total media blackouts at the offshore camps.
One of most interesting and important aspects of the interview process was that it helped confirm my belief that the Australian government and media have effectively promoted widespread apathy towards humanitarian crises. This interview process has helped me identify an audience for my design research and enlightened me to some of the causations of societal desensitisation and apathy to tragedy and trauma.
Government policies for offshore processing and low media coverage of camps perpetuate attitudes of indifference in the Australian public.
The interview highlighted that a lack of education or knowledge is a barrier for people to connect with the refugee issues and activism. .
The media and community greatly contributes to an individual’s exposure and education towards an issue. In a sense the context greatly informs content.
The target audiences for my research and design project are (1) People who are interested but uninvolved in refugee issues and (2) People who don’t care about refugee issues.
Brief: The probe given to the participants was to look through their respective local newspapers (Manly Daily, Inner West Courier, Mosman Daily and St Mary’s Standard) since the beginning of the year and note when articles were written on refugees. They were asked to note the date of the issue and whether the author was writing favourably or against immigration laws and multiculturalism within Australia.
Below is a visualisation of the information that I collected for my probe.
The results of this probe indicate particular and nuanced attitudes held within different geographical areas in Sydney. In the Inner West Courier, there were no negatively geared articles written about refugees and were overall written about more than any of the other areas. The Manly Daily had a mixed bag of articles, seemingly trying to appeal to generally conservative audience. In line with these results, Mosman Daily had almost no coverage of refugee issues. Minor issues occurred within the probe, mainly from resulting from a misunderstanding of an article. The subtlety of language and tone of voice are techniques that continue to shape mainstream narratives of refugees and play a major part in media consumption and public perception. These issues were clarified and adjusted accordingly.
Wallman, S, A Guard’s Tale (2014)
In an attempt to better our understanding refugee and asylum seeker issues we spent time in class mapping different participants and steak holders involved within selected issues.
The map above is an example of human and non-human stakeholders within the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. The focus within this map is local, keeping the focus around Australian’s our laws, values and the steak holders e.g the Australian media, Australian NGO’s and resources. Whilst completing this task we realised how complex and diverse the issues surrounding refugees and asylum seekers are. As a result, some participants have conflicting interests and views, and in many ways were interconnected, creating a cross over effect.
Extending some of the ideas we had when creating the first map, we attempted to categorise the different steak holders and rearrange them based on the levels of power and influence. Indicative of the complexity of the issue, it was difficult to create a clear hierarchy as participants were interconnected and overlapping (e.g individual politicians and the government as an entirety). Interesting element which we discovered were that the participants who were greatly effected (refugees and asylum seekers) held the least amount of political influence whilst participants who held the greatest amount of power and influence held conservative views on immigration law (the government and mainsteam media).
These sort of exercises were particularly helpful as they promoted communication of different resources as well as drawing attention to areas where we needed to research. The secondary mapping of power and influence was particularly interesting as it showed the complexity of the problem and how hard it would be to shift attitudes which are so deeply ingrained in our society but also within our laws.
The Australian media and politicians have played a significant role in shaping the current political climate for refugees, casting them as a political problem and using racialised rhetoric and imagery to isolate them from Australian society. The power of these images is that they are able to evoke the mood of their context but also reflect and shape the current political climate. In the first half of this visual analysis considers various depictions of the refugee plight within mainstream media and how this responded with the context. The second half focuses on collective action which has been taken by various groups to counteract the story that the media has spun.
Over the last half century there has been a monumental rise in the politicisation of refugees and asylum seekers. The initial wave of immigration occurred post WWII as people left cities, desolated by bombs, in search of new jobs and lives. In the last two decades, the Australian government has consistently worked to make our borders impenetrable through the introduction of mandatory offshore detention. We can see how the representations of refugees have changed through images like David’s Morre’s photograph, ‘Migrants Arriving in Sydney’ (1966). In this image we can see how vulnerable these people are, allowing us to empathize with their fear, their anxiety and their hope for a new and better life. This humanised treatment of refugees and migrants vastly differs from the way they are represented in our current political climate.
Images Two and Three
One of the key turning points in Australia’s recent refugee and asylum seeker policy was the Tampa and Children Overboard incidents. These took place against the backdrop of 9/11 terrorist attacks and rising xenophobia in Australia, which were channeled politically through Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party.
Both these images serve to reflect the heighten sense of fear and anxiety amongst the Australian public and media. Refugees are represented as a faceless, genderless other.
The first image of rescued refugees on the Tampa boat is an aerial shot that shows cramped rows of primarily male asylum seekers. The significance of this image lies in its resonance with post 9/11 media representation of Muslim males as dangerous extremists.
The second image was released during the children overboard affair and was purported to show evidence of refugee parents having thrown their children overboard as means to induce the Australian government to take them to Australia. Again, the refugees are represented as faceless – their faces are blurred out – but importantly, the image doesn’t give any tangible proof that children were in fact ‘thrown overboard’. This demonstrates again the significance of political and cultural context in the way images are interpreted by the general public.
This is a poster from the international ‘No Way’ campaign, introduced after the Operation Sovereign Borders in an attempt to deter people smugglers and refugees from seeking asylum in Australia. In order to underline this message, the poster shows a tiny fishing boat being tossed around by waves in a storm warning that the journey is not worth the risk. The words ‘ NO WAY YOU WILL MAKE AUSTRALIA HOME’ are in bold red letters.
This image shows a naval ship intercepting a refugee boat as it approaches land. The image was released in September 2013 after the introduction of Operation Sovereign Borders by the Abbott government. The policy was unique in that it saw Australia break international maritime laws by enforcing this operation. The image compares the stark differences of both the boats, highlighting the heavy handedness of Operation Sovereign Borders and the use of military force for a humanitarian issue.
Shifting the Narrative
Secrecy and lack of transparency is fundamental to governments’ responses to the global refugee crisis. Conditions in detention centers and refugee camps around the world are dire and thus are hidden from the general public. This is the only way a system of harsh immigration detention can be sustained.
Actions and images of particular individuals have made large impact in undermining some of the secrecy involved in dealing with the global refugee crisis. These images challenge the dominant media narrative around security and the need for controlled immigration, questioning the heavy-handed response from governments.
The image shown here was one released from an anonymous source in August 2003 from the HMAS Adelaide, of the aftermath of the boat from the children overboard crises sinking. The significance of this image is the contrast between this image and the officially released images of the Tampa and the children overboard incident. The image shows a humanity that is often absent from images of refugees- a mother is playing with her daughter’s hair.
This image is a drawing created by a child living in Nauru. In December 2014 as apart of the National Enquiry into Children in Immigration Detention, staff member of the Human Right’s commission went to visit children in detention. In these visits, the staff would give children paper and pens, asking them to draw something about their life. The image above depicts a young girl crying blood, and is visually similar to many of the images that were published as apart of this enquiry.
The infamous image of Reza Barati is quite insignificant in itself– it’s a portrait of a young, ordinary and well-presented man. The importance of this image comes from its ability to humanise the victim and reflect the contextual concerns of the secrecy around the Australian detention centres. Reza Barati was a 23 year old Iranian refugee who was murdered on Nauru dentition center by staff members. This image became the dominant image that was associated with his murder, and the secrecy surrounding the camps.
Images Nine and Ten
Warning: Graphic Images which readers may find disturbing
The first image is a still from a video released on August 19th 2016. Here, five year old Omran Daqneesh sits in an ambulance, covered in dust and blood after being pulled out from a bombed building after an air strike in Aleppo.
The second image was one of hundreds released on September 2, 2015 after a news agency DHA reported that twelve Syrian refugees had died whilst trying to sail to Greece. It shows the dead body of 3-year old Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey. This image went viral after it was published, however it was represented in the media as a European problem, with headlines like ‘The images that stopped Europe’. For weeks after, refugees became the core subject of media debates, the Australian public putting pressure on the government to assist this humanitarian issue. On September 9th, Abbott agreed to resettle 12,000 refugees from Syria. This is a great example of how images and public empathy can be used to make tangible differences for refugees.
Wilhelmsen, W (AAP),2001, Aboard the Tampa [online], Accessed 26 August 2016
Defence PR/AAP, 2001, Video recording of refugees being rescued in seas off Christmas Island by defence personnel from HMAS Adelaide, [online] accessed 21 August 2016
What Design Can DoChallenge is a worldwide annual design competition that showcases design as a catalyst for change and addresses complex societal problems. This year, the challenge had a specific focus on design solutions for refugee issues, in particular the accommodating, connecting, integrating and settling refugees in urban areas.
One of the five winners of this competition was the project, Reframe Refugees designed by Marie-Louise Diekema and Tim Olland. This is a digital platform that allows refugees to upload photographs of themselves and their lives for newspapers and media outlets to purchase.
“The photos of refugees shown by mainstream media all look the same and, more importantly, only present refugees in desperate and helpless situations. The digital platform, Reframe Refugees, helps the world realise that refugees are people with the same dreams and ambitions as everybody else. “
Reframe is compatible with smartphones making the platform user friendly and accessible.When people upload, they have the opportunity to personalise their photographs with descriptions and the stories behind the images. These are quality checked and then offered for purchase to media companies. The payment for the photographs goes directly to refugee services and charities.
I found this project interesting as it raised similar concerns that arose for me when I was researching for my image bank. The manner in which refugees are represented in the mainstream media is extremely impersonal and in many ways dehumanises them and makes them seem like ‘others’. Through primary research and interviews, it becomes clear that the treatment of refugees by mainstream media and government has lead to a sense of complacency about refugee issues within the general public. One of the issues I’m looking to focus on is how to shift the media narrative about refugees in an attempt to make the general public less complacent and more aware about the human stories behind these issues.
Below is a the explainer video that Marie-Louise Diekema and Tim Olland made for Reframe.
This discussion paper by the Refugee Council of Australia highlights the discriminatory behaviors of the Australian immigration department. The council is an independent non-for profit organization that works as an umbrella body for refugees and the organizations and individuals who support them. The paper pulls apart flaws within the immigration department’s bureaucratic system, designed to stall the completion of citizenship applications of eligible refugees indefinitely. Through extensive case studies, RCOA understand these delays disproportionally affect those who arrived in Australia by boat and raise concern over the psychological, economic and social impact of being in this state of limbo. The paper concludes with a number of recommendations, namely clarification of any policy changes in regards to citizenship applications, urging the minister for immigration to process these applications and to grant rightful citizenship to stateless refugee children who were born in Australia.
Leach, M. “Disturbing practices”
Michael Leach is a Professor in Politics and International Relations and on the Chair of the Department of Educational and Social Sciences at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research in Melbourne.
This academic paper reflects on the federal campaign of 2001 as one of the defining moment that shaped the current political climate. Leach suggests that during the campaign, the Australian media and government dehumanised refugees as ‘political problems’ and used racialised rhetoric to depict them as people so disconnected from ‘Australian values’ that they were unworthy of our protection. Leach reflects on how these misrepresentations were paralleled by the introduction of the Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) in Australia (October 1999), a policy that excluded refugees from permanent protection in Australia. It led to insecurity and isolation through the denial of access to Commonwealth Government settlement services – such as English classes, housing assistance and migrant resource centre resource schemes. In the last two decades, issues of refugees and immigration have significantly shaped the political climate of Australia. This paper brings to light the manner in which racism is institutionalised not only within our society and government but also within our laws.
At times in the article it’s difficult to assess whether Leach has approached this a biased manner, because although grounded in case studies and references, data can be shaped in order to give substance to an argument. Through this ambiguity I realised that as a researcher, it’s of the upmost importance to critique any source or information on its authenticity and accuracy.
References: Article One: Refugee Council of Australia,. Delays In Citizenship Applications For Permanent Refugee Visa Holders. Sydney: N.p., 2015. Print.
Article Two: Leach, M. ” Disturbing practices”: dehumanising asylum seekers in the refugee” crisis” in Australia, 2001-2002.” Refuge 21, no. 3 (2003): 25-33.
Image: Wallman, S. 2014, Overland Journal, Issue 2016.
Media Representations and Public Perceptions of Asylum Seekers and Refugees.
The purpose of the media is to inform and shape public opinions. The Australian media and government has played a pivotal role in the shaping the current political climate in relation to refugee and asylum seekers. This blog post explores some of the different attitudes and perspectives of various media sources.
Article One: Decline in press freedom prevents reporters from joining Chris Kenny on Nauru by Paul Farrell (The Guardian)
The Guardian is a left leaning publication which is openly anti-detention centers. The author, Paul Farrell has written numerous articles on the politics of refugees and asylum seekers and co-founded the Detention Logs website which publishes data, documents and investigations within the conditions of Australia’s immigration detention centres.
In this opinion article, Farrell presents the idea that in a democratic country, the government should be transparent about its policies and political structures, and criticizes the governments policy to prevent media access to the refugee camps. He discusses how the government has made the camps ‘virtual media blackouts’, noting that Chris Kenny, a journalist infamous for his conservative views on immigration, was the only journalist who had been allowed access at the date the article was written. It outlines the implications of restricting media access to detention centres. Not only do they allow governments and organisations to hide the true conditions of these camps, but they further contribute to the dehumanisations of refugees and perpetuate complacency within the Australian public.
Farrell’s position on media blackouts in detention centres is relatively commonly held among progressive media outlets in Australia, which usually oppose the culture of secrecy around detention centres and refugee policy.
Article Two: Inside Nauru’s Detention Centre (A Current Affair, Channel 9)
A Current Affair is a tabloid television program that’s aired on Channel 9, infamous for its voyeuristic tabloid stories. Tabloid media programs are motivated by a desire to entertain viewers, often producing stories that contain limited original journalism, often appealing to the public’s morbid curiosity.
Although this was the first time a camera crew has ever been permitted to enter Nauru, the program doesn’t break any news. At times it attempts to presents refugees as ‘well looked after’, and presents the view of Nauruan government officials that echo this perspective. At other times, however, the program shows the squalid living conditions of asylum seekers who live in tents within the camp, supporting the view that intention of the show as voyeuristic. The program seems to be poorly planned and lacks a coherent structure, which is emphasised by random shots of furniture inside refugees’ houses juxtaposed with women talking about their experiences of sexual abuse.
Although it isn’t overtly biased in its approach – the message of the program is unclear and contradictory – ACA take a soft approach to reporting on the detention centres, and don’t seek to expose any new information. Their position would seem to support the government’s position and perhaps this explains why they were the only media crew permitted access to Nauru.
Article Three: Crisis Point by Waleed Aly (The Project, Network Ten)
The Project is an Australian news-current affairs television panel program which airs on Network Ten. The reporter of this particular segment is Waleed Aly, an Australian media presenter and co-hosts the show. In addition to his role in the program, Aly is a staff member and lecturer at Monash University and works in the Global Terrorism Research Centre. As a host of the program, he frequently presents a segment which covers topics that are considered progressive, however it does not make him an expert on the subject of refugees.
Though the show airs on Network Ten the format of Aly’s reporting – which presents an editorial perspective on topical issues in the news – lends itself to sharing on social media. As a result, much of the engagement with the show occurs online and it therefore attracts a younger audience.
The report, Crises Point aired after two asylum seekers self-immolated on Nauru. It focused particularly on Peter Dutton’s comments that these actions were unrelated to the conditions within the immigration detention centres and were merely an attempt to manipulate the Australian Government policy on allowing asylum seekers to gain entry to Australia.
Aly points out the absurdity of Dutton’s claim, saying:
‘does anyone really think that any country is that great that it’s worth setting yourself on fire for… people only do this when they reach a point of complete desperation’. Stressing that ‘pushing asylum seekers to the point of desperation is part of the game plan… whatever these people are fleeing we must offer them something worse, it’s the very logic of the policy’.
Article Four: Sonia Kruger wrong on Muslims, but has right to express herself’ by Sharri Markson (The Australian)
Sharri Markson is a senior writer at the newspaper ‘The Australian’. Her opinion piece on Sonia Kruger’s recent comments regarding Muslim immigration reflects a current trend in a lot of Australian media which tries to link our refugee policies with acts of terrorism. The Australian is a conservative newspaper and has consistently contributed to the narrative that treats refugees as a security threat. Markson has no history of writing comprehensive articles on refugees and thus this seems like more of an opinion piece rather than one based on factual information.
Markson’s article attempts to legitimise this perspective by referring to recent acts of terrorism committed by Islamic extremists in France, Bali and the US, and link these attacks to immigration, specifically refugees.
The article deflects allegations of racism/islamophobia against Kruger and states that ‘the television presenter should not be howled down for expressing a view that is not entirely without basis’. This is a clever rhetorical device, often used by conservative media, to close down debates regarding Australia’s refugee policies or institutionalised racism, and instead transform the debate into one about free speech. The article makes a number of unsubstantiated claims like, ‘There is a clear link between immigration and terrorism’ and ‘a record number of Jewish citizens are fleeing [France]’, without providing any statistical (or other) evidence for these.
Article Five:Hazara refugees take Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to Federal Court over citizenship application delays (Lateline)
Lateline is one of ABC’s flagship current affairs shows. This short report focuses on the struggles of a Hazara refugee to obtain citizenship after having been granted refugee status, settled in Australia, and passed the Australian citizenship test. The ABC is a government funded media outlet that often runs credible and well-researched news reports and updates on refugees.
The report presents the legal obstacles faced by refugees living outside detention centres. The interviews in the report suggest that these delays have increased substantially since policy changes under the Rudd government in 2013. According to the Department of Immigrations, the delays are supposedly due to lengthy background checks being performed on refugees prior to granting their citizenship, reflecting the treatment of refugees as a security threat.
The piece is a human interest-based story that provides a factual account of refugees’ experiences and legal difficulties in order to the position taken by Lateline that there has unjust treatment of these individuals by the immigration department and the legal system.
Article 1: Farrell, P. 2016. Decline in press freedom prevents reporters from joining Chris Kenny on Nauru. The Guardian, 26th October 2015.
Article 2: A Current Affair, “Inside Nauru’s Detention Centre”, Channel Nine, aired June 20, 2016.
Article 3: The Project, “Crises Point”Written by Waleed Aly, Network Ten, aired May 5, 2016.
Article 4: Markson, S. ‘Sonia Kruger wrong on Muslims, but has right to express herself’. The Australian, 18th July, 2016.
Article 5: Lateline, “Hazara refugees take Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to Federal Court over citizenship application delays” Written by Jason Om, Directed by the Australian Broadcasting Centre, Aired July 6 2016.