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 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 2 – Scholarly Secondary Sources

Professor Gillian Triggs is the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission and prior to this she had several other roles including Dean of the Faculty of Law, Challis Professor of International Law at University of Sydney (2007-12), Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (2005-07), Barrister with Seven Wentworth Chambers and a Governor of the College of Law. In this article she focuses on the concerns about Australia’s mandatory immigration detention system, conveying the Human Rights Commission into this matter and the stance taken.

Triggs’ article recounts personal experiences of visiting these detention centres, giving vivid detail on the prison like state of many facilities. She seeks to remind us of who asylum seekers are, and how these facilities can have a great impact on the physically and mentally. However her ongoing association with the Human Rights Commission, how they’ve have ‘raised concerns over many years’ and ‘work to promote and protect the human rights of people held in detention through a number of functions’ conveyed this tone that they are doing all that they can. Whilst I agree that the Human Rights Commission serves an important role, I feel that they hold a great deal of power in regards tot his issue cane canon simply keep accusing the government. In a sense i simplify the issue to be along that lines of ‘we want to do something and believe that we should but can’t’. 

Linda Leung, Cath Finney Lamb and Liz Emrys article also explores the living conditions within mandatory detention centres but hones in on the aspect of technology. Unlike many scholarly articles around this issue, this article is very specific in its focus and thus unveils detailed insights into the role of technology in marginalised communities.

They highlight the role of technology across the three settings of displacement, detention and settlement as a means of keeping in contact with family and loved ones. Conversely through personal refugee stories they show how the lack of access to technology can act as a deterrent to maintaining well being, and often causes emotional distress through uncertainty and isolation. This article stands as a factual piece exploring the laws, policies and use of technology. However through the personal tone, the authors are able to raise this need to challenge the existing system and provide access to technology for communication. Critically looking at the existing detention centre, they identify the mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers, much like Triggs’ articles. However their exploration of the role of communication in the journey of a refugee is articulate well, presenting all sides to develop a cohesive argument.


Triggs, G. 2013, Why we need an end to mandatory detention, Refugee and Asylum Seekers: Finding a better way, pp.38-41.

Leung, L. Lamb, C. &  Emrys, L. 2009,The use of technology by Asylum Seekers and Refugees, Technology’s Refugee, pp.1-43.

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 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, <>.