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, <>.