Post 2: On Australians’ attitudes to asylum seekers and the nature of evil

by Erland Howden

Following my news media research into the issue of asylum seekers and refugees, two themes emerged that I wanted to pursue in more depth with a review of scholarly articles.

First, public attitudes toward refugees and asylum seekers, looking at what drives people to develop their views and what might be contributing to the dehumanisation of people fleeing war and persecution. Second, I wanted to pick up the thread of the discussion around ethics and personal responsibility that McLoughlin (2016) touched on in his New Matilda article, The Banality of Peter Dutton.

Not all negative: Macro justice principles predict positive attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia, Anderson J., Stuart A. and Rossen I. – Australian Journal of Psychology, 2015

Anderson, Stuart and Rossen (2015) published an article in the Australian Journal of Psychology that unpacks the first issue in a very interesting way. In my research I discovered a number of articles (eg. Trounson et al, 2015) that dealt with the psychological drivers of negative attitudes toward asylum seekers, but Anderson, et al (2015) was the first I could find that took an alternative approach and sought to find what could be a predictor of positive attitudes toward asylum seekers.

What is pertinent to highlight in the first place is that the authors declare in their conclusion a specific intent for their research to contribute to the “development of communication designed to reduce prejudice towards asylum seekers.” As a visual communication designer with an interest in changing Australia’s negative attitudes and treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, this highlighted for me that I was potentially a key part of the intended audience for the research.

The more widely published psychological research around attitudes toward asylum seekers, as discussed by the authors, centres around suggesting

“that prejudice is derived from threat- and competition-based dual processes, which relate to authoritarianism and traditionalism (i.e., right-wing authoritarianism, RWA; Altemeyer, 1981), and hierarchy and inequality (i.e., social dominance orientation, SDO; Sidanius & Pratto, 1999), respectively.” (Anderson et al, 2015)

However, the authors of this study have identified that macro justice principles – in other words, “the belief in equal distribution of resources across a society” are potentially a stronger predictor of positive attitudes toward asylum seekers than SDO or RWA are of negative attitudes. The caveat to this conclusion, aside from some common considerations such as sample size, is that the study sample was undergraduate psychology students from an Australian university. Given the conclusions, it bears considering this research with a sample more representative of the broader Australian population, but in the context of Visual Communication and Emergent Practices with its focus on a youth audience, this research provides an excellent starting point for consideration of design and communication interventions that could have a positive impact on Australian attitudes toward asylum seekers and refugees.

Are Arendt’s Reflections on Evil Still Relevant?, Bernstein, R. – The Review of Politics, 2008

On the second theme that emerged from my news media review of this issue – ethical consideration of the nature of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers and refugees – I uncovered a discussion of Hannah Arendt’s reflections on evil in the recent context of large refugee and stateless persons populations by Richard Bernstein (2008) in The Review of Politics. To first contextualise this paper, it assumes a basic knowledge of Hannah Arendt and her writing – Arendt was the New York Times journalist who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” in describing the character and actions of Adolf Eichmann, from her observations at his trial as a Nazi war criminal in Jerusalem in 1961 and subsequently wrote at length on the nature of evil, genocide and human rights. What is particularly relevant about Arendt’s writing to today’s context, as Bernstein (2008) points out, is that she discussed “the emergence of masses of refugees” as “one of the most intractable problems of the twentieth century.”

This paper brings into sharp relief two aspects of the refugee and asylum seeker issue in the Australian context that I found highly compelling.

First, that asylum seekers are uniquely vulnerable, sometimes as stateless people, not just to the horrors of their initial persecution or the perils of their journey to seek asylum but vulnerable also to abuse, mistreatment and the denial of dignity through their lack of belonging to a “political community that will protect and guarantee one’s rights as a citizen.”

“This is the condition where one becomes superfluous – a situation that is at once precarious and extremely dangerous. This is why Arendt argued that the most fundamental right is “the right to have rights”…” (Bernstein, 2008)

Second, the foundation of decisions and responsibility of political decision-makers that have overseen the torture, abuse, mistreatment and arguably internationally unlawful internment of asylum seekers, particularly in Australia’s offshore detention centres. Indeed, to extend the question, considering why the conditions themselves or the subsequent categorisation by a UN body of Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers as torture, did not result in, for example, mass resignations from the Department of Immigration and the cancellation of contracts to manage the detention facilities by private contractors. Here, I think it bears quoting Bernstein (2008) directly in one of his concluding paragraphs:

“This is the primary lesson of the banality of evil. One does not have to be a monster, a sadist, or a vicious person to commit horrendously evil deeds. Normal people in their everyday lives, “decent citizens,” even respectable political leaders, who are convinced of the righteousness of their cause, can commit monstrous deeds. The bureaucratic and technological conditions of modernity make this phenomenon a much more likely and dangerous possibility. But, as Arendt emphasizes, this does not mitigate the accountability and responsibility of those who commit such deeds. Arendt wants us to confront honestly the “paradox” that even though normal persons may commit horrendous deeds without deliberate intention, they are, nevertheless, fully responsible for these deeds and must be held accountable.” (Bernstein, 2008)

McLoughlin, L. 2016, ‘The Banality Of Peter Dutton’, New Matilda, 25 May, viewed 30 July 2016, <>.

Anderson, J.R., Stuart, A. & Rossen, I. 2015, ‘Not all negative: Macro justice principles predict positive attitudes towards asylum seekers in Australia’, Australian Journal of Psychology, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 207-213.

Trounson, J.S., Critchley, C. & Pfeifer, J.E. 2015, ‘Australian attitudes toward asylum seekers: roles of dehumanization and social dominance theory’, Social Behavior and Personality, vol. 43, no. 10, pp. 1641-1655.

Bernstein, R.J. 2008, ‘Are Arendt’s Reflections on Evil Still Relevant?’, The Review of Politics, vol. 70, no. 1, pp. 64-D.


Blog Post 2: The Causation between the Australian Media, Government and our ‘Refugee Crisis’.

Wallman, S. (2014)

Refugee Council of Australia, October 2015

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.

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.


Post 1 – Asylum seekers and Refugees


How Australians should deal with asylum seekers and refugees

‘How Australians should deal with asylum seekers and refugees’ is a rebuke by Eva Orner and Steven Glass for the The Sydney Morning Herald. Whilst The Sydney Morning Herald has its roots as a conservative newspaper seeking to not endorse any political alignment, the authors of this piece question and probe the government’s stance on its refugee and asylum seeker policies.

Not being regular contributors or even writers, it’s interesting to highlight both author’s professions. Orner is an Academy and Emmy Award winning Australian filmmaker, who most recently produced the ‘Chasing Asylum’ documentary, known for revealing the behind the scenes of Australias’ asylum seekers and refugees processing. Glass on the other hand is a partner at the law firm Gilbert + Tobin as well as a board member of the Asylum Seekers Centre Sydney, where he seeks to educate and support refugees by making them aware and helping them navigate through Australian law. Thus both authors’ initatives in their careers are visibly concurrent with the strong stance they’ve taken. In the article, Orner and Glass ongoingly question the governemnt, at times being very direct as seen in ‘Why did you, Mr Dutton, falsely accuse refugees (who must be plane arrivals, since you’ve told us boats have stopped) of threatening the jobs and security of Australians?’

Whilst presenting statistical insights into Australia’s policies in comparison to the global context, I consider this article to be quite opinion based. It has been influenced by the authors outrage towards these ‘cruel policies’ and ‘false’ accusations of refugees.


Politics of Asylum Seekers has poisoned the policy

Similar to Orner and Glass, author Peter Brent criticises the way Australian politicians look at the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. However Brent sits on the fence, neither supporting an all out refugee intake nor the current boat policies at play. Brent is a regular contributing writer for ABC was well as an adjunct fellow at Swinburne University. Being a political commentator the topic of discussion is understandable, but rather than criticising and forming an opinion, he seeks to analyse the issue. Thus this article looks at a brief history of politicians’ changing stances towards asylum seekers and refugees and the agenda behind it.

Throughout the article there is a strong undertone that the approach towards this complex problem is more of a political game. Hence whilst he never blatantly questions or says what the government needs to do, he raises the wrongs on both sides.


Revealed: Immigration officers allowed to hack phones

Mark Townsend is a Home Affairs Editor of the Observer hence he covers a wide range of issues pertaining to the international context. In this article he writes about the revelation of immigration officials treatment of detainees. Referencing many sources, from different perspectives, both those who implement legislation and those who are against it, this article is more factual and informative. In contrast to the previous articles, this one looks at the asylum seekers and refugees in the context of detention centres particularly in Britain, rather thank Australia’s Political policies. Furthermore it provides insight on their treatment and rights and raises topical points. Since it is more factual, its not a matter of whether I agree or don’t but rather I find that the issues raised are important, and one than needs to be heard and addressed. 


Friday Essay: worth a thousand words -how photos shape attitudes towards refugees

Jane Lydon is a Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at the University of Western Australia. Having written books on photography and Australian History her article explores the photographical documentation and representation of refugees. Furthermore the ‘The Conversation’ provides a platform for academics to write and provide insight on their area of expertise. Hence this article is factual as it delves into Australia’s history of refugee and how media has either represented the issues or been oppressed. It goes on further to look into particular events on an international scale. Lydon raises ideas on how photography can give voice to the oppressed, can convey political agendas, and start controversial discussions. This article definitely challenges the value and understanding we have of photographs. In saying that I found that photography through media representation can be on either ends of the spectrum in conveying truth, but regardless the motivation behind it tells a very important story that needs to be highlighted.


Comment: The Australian Solution

Waleed Aly, a regular host on the current affair program ‘The Project’ often voices strong thoughts on the global and Australian context, particularly focusing the government. Being a media presenter, lawyer, academic and writer, he comments on the issue of asylums seekers and refugees quite often and is well versed on the topic. However it is undeniable that there is bias in his writing as seen in this Article for The Monthly, a seemingly ‘left wing’ magazine.

In this article he explores the previous solutions posed by the Australian government, only to criticise its’ most recent attempt as well. Through clever rhetoric and direct statements he conveys his opposition of present policies. Furthermore, delving into each parties stance, he dissects the qualities that differentiate these parties to instead highlight the one similarity they hold, their selfishness. Hence by referencing the tone of politicians themselves, Waleed uses satire to suggest the comedic and questionable nature of the government. I find his written style entertaining and informative, however the extreme use of rhetoric highlight the very obvious personal bias, making this an opinion piece.

Further Investigation

Exploring the above articles revealed a number of perspectives, controversies and insights surrounding the refugee and asylum seeker context. Whilst there were many varied questions raised, I believe that it is valuable to delve into the following three areas:

  1. The political motives behind Australia’s stance on the refugee and asylum seekers situation.
  2. The representation of asylum seekers and refugees in media.
  3.  The rights and context of asylum seekers and refugees in detention centres, understanding their rights, the policies to play, what’s being portrayed and what is hidden.
It’s notable that there are overlapping and interconnected areas, but that itself highlights the complexity of this problem. Overtime have developed an opinion in regards to this situation, but merely reading several articles revealed the lack of depth n my understanding. Therefore I find that investigating these three areas will provide a holistic understanding, but even more so challenge me to explore difficult areas. Consequently, I hope to become more well informed in this topic, one that I feel is incredibly relevant at the present moment.


Glass, S. & Orner, E. 2016,  How Australians should deal with asylum seekers and refugees, The Sydney Morning Herald, viewed 28 July 2016, <>.

Brent, P. 2016, Politics of Asylum Seekers has poisoned the policy, ABC News, viewed 5 August 2016, <>.

Townsend, M. 2016, Revealed: Immigration officers allowed to hack phones, The Guardian, viewed 4 August 2016, <>.

Lydon, J. 2016, Friday Essay: worth a thousand words -how photos shape attitudes towards refugees, The Conversation, viewed 5 August 2016, <>.

Aly, W. 2010, Comment: The Australian Solution, viewed 28 July 2016, <>.

Post 1: Discriminatory Treatment Against LGBT Youth


According to the human rights campaign, 4 in 10 LGBT youth say the community they live in does not accept them and LGBT people. Growing up, I would’ve never considered LGBTIQ issues as something serious if I hadn’t witnessed a close friend of mine go through social ostracism and personal denial due her homophobic community and culture. After reading various secondary sources on LGBTIQ rights it was disappointing to see that there were still strong negative perspectives on this issue today.


Article 1.

Sonia Kruger calls scholarship program ‘reverse discrimination’ 

Dana McCauley is a finance Editor at She is responsible for breaking stories about all things business, work and money related. Prior to her current position she has been an award-winning Journalist for 3 years at Leader Community Newspapers. Her education in Arts, Law and Journalism ensures her as a profound writer for

McCauley has written this article due to the controversy Sonia Kruger has raised on LGBTIQ scholarship program. The article is mainly built up on Sonia Kruger’s commentary on the scholarship as “reverse discrimination” on the Today Extra show. The article is followed by other relevant but mixed commentaries on the LGBTIQ Scholarship. The commentaries that are mentioned in the article show two opposite standpoints on the LGBTIQ financial incentive. The argument circulates around if the incentive is appropriate or not for youth and if this is an example of ideological activism.

Although the article shows strong opposing standpoints of various commentators the author herself does not show particular bias towards the issue. But rather writes the article in a respectful tone that is critical of ideas, and not of commentators.


Article 2.

Schools embrace controversial gender program that the LGBT community says ‘saves lives’

In contrast to article one, Lisa Schefman from Frankston Standard Leader writes a supportive outlook towards gender programs offered at schools in Frankston. Schefman is a Journalist at Leader Newspapers, covering Frankston area in metropolitan Melbourne.

As a local of Frankston municipality for 32 years and a Journalist at Frankston, Schefman was motivated to write this article due to the attention that has sparked from growing number LGBTIQ programs embraced in Frankston schools. The controversy began after a Frankston High School parent withdrew her children from the school due to her disapproval of the gender diversity program. However the article does not flourish the negative take on the program, but alternatively mentions statements from LGBT organizations and stakeholders that encourages why we should have safe schools coalition on board.

The article shows preference towards pro safe schools coalition through several mentioning of improved statistics on discrimination and bullying against same-sex attracted and gender diverse (SSAIGD). Overall, the article is embracing the safe schools program to general public and voices that it should be something we all need to be humbled about being offered at schools.


Article 3.

Rainbow Votes: Where The Parties Stand On LGBTI Youth 

This article was written by the Gay News Network (GNN). They are also the online home of Evo media, Australia’s largest national media company focusing on the gay and lesbian market. The GNN writes about latest news, stories, trends and gossip that affect the LGBTIQ community in an informative way to connect the community together.

This article was written to provide in-depth facts about major parties on LGBTI youth for the LGBTIQ community in preparation for the upcoming federal Election Day. The Gay News Network strongly believes that it is essential to reduce violence and harassment against LGBTIQ students. Therefore they give us an outline of what each major parties are doing to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia occurring in schools. Additionally it is evident that this article is a well-researched piece as it aims to provide comprehensive information for LGBTIQ voters.

The 2016 Federal Election is said to be one of the most important election for the LGBTIQ communities. Overall the author profoundly writes to make rainbow votes count. Their main aim for this article is to help LGBTIQ people in deciding how to make their vote count.


Article 4.

NSW Safe Schools ‘harassed’ into hiding: youth foundation

Sarah Elks is a Queensland political reporter at The Australian with 9 years of Journalism experience. She has received several awards and honors for excellence in investigative report, coverage and feature writing. In this article she reports about Safe Schools Coalition Australia after NSW pull its schools out from being public on the program’s official website.

This is Elks’ first article based on LGBTIQ rights that is related to Queensland politics. The article is presented in a straightforward style without bias commentary or opinion. Elks was motivated to write this article as NSW become the second state after QLD to no longer be publicly listed on the Safe Schools Coalition Australia website due to harassment experienced by some schools. Similarly Queensland member schools have been hidden from the website for several months after institutions started receiving hate calls.

The concise article indicates the unfortunate struggles the Department of Education goes through for recommending Safe Schools program. It shows that there is still serious disagreement in the community against this program and shaken political agendas.


Article 5.

 LGBT Youths Are Turning To Facebook To Find A Safe Place To Live

Lane Sainty is a reporter at Buzzfeed Australia, focusing on LGBTIQ issues. She has written several issues raising the LGBTIQ rights issue in Australia already. Sainty, herself has been part of LGBT campus society as a Sydney University student before becoming a reporter. During her Arts in Media and Communications studies she has published several articles and collected pieces related to LGBT issue.

Sainty is well aware on the issues based around this topic and is pro LGBT in her articles. In this article Sainty writes about queer housing groups awareness due to the increasing number of LGBT community turning to Facebook to find trust worthy and accepting housemates. The article is presented in a sympathetic stance through various statements from struggling LGBT people looking for homes. The article further communicates the hardship the LGBT people through emphasis on homeless LGBT youth population.

The well-investigated article indicates that the author is writing to bring awareness of this issue to the readers in a sympathetic manner. The article highlights the disadvantages undeniably.



Elks, Sarah. The Australian. 16 July 2016. 30 July 2016 <;.

GayNewsNetwork. Gay News Network. 27 July 2016. 1 August 2016 <;.

McCauley, Dana. 1 August 2016. 1 August 2016 <;.

Sainty, Lane. BuzzFeed. 27 April 2016. 5 August 2016 <;.

Schefman, Lisa. Leader Community News. 9 February 2016. 27 July 2016 <;.


By April Bae

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, <>.