Category Archives: research and reports

Is Australia racist?

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A new study conducted by the University of Technology Sydney and the anti-racism group All Together Now, has found that racism is a systemic issue in the Australian media – with more than half of the race related opinion pieces in the mainstream press deemed to be negative in terms of race.

Of the 281 media articles sampled during a twelve-month period, 57% were found to be negative when discussing race.  Slightly more than a third of articles wrote inclusively about race.

It gets interesting when you look at the background of those journalists – 96% of the articles were written or produced by media commentators with Anglo-Celtic or European cultural backgrounds.  What does this say about our journalists? I used to be one.  I’d like to think I was always fair and wrote with respect and a moral compass.

You can read or download the full report, or take a look at a short essay on the report in the Saturday Paper.

The researchers found those presented negatively were mainly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, African Australians and Muslim Australians – mostly Muslim women.  Based on six years of research and writing about people from the margins or from a refugee background, none of this surprises me.

I do, however, struggle to balance the fact that we are one of the most successful multicultural countries in the world, yet racism still rears its ugly head. Over the past century, one of the most defining trends has been globalisation and the increasing migration associated with it. Multiculturalism has become a defining feature in many of the world’s economies with Canada, the United Kingdom, and South Africa examples of nations that have embraced a strong immigrant receiving tradition. Similarly, Australia has a robust tradition as a country built upon migration that continues to this day.  This seems to contrast with the anti-immigrant rhetoric that is heard at home and overseas.

Do you think Australia is a racist country or is it our media and some governments?

 

What next?

After four years of hard work I have finally submitted my PhD about refugee life stories.  It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable experience – well except for the last few months of endless proofreading, formatting and reference checking!

My colleague, Professor Baden Offord, told me at the beginning of my PhD that it would be a time when I could research a project, delving deeply into subjects dear to me, without feeling guilty that I was sitting and reading a book. He was right. What a joy it has been to read books and articles about stories from refugees from around the world.   I have examined the different ways stories are told and the influence this has on us as readers.  I have studied the way stories make their way into the public domain, and, at the same time, I have written my own manuscript-length collection of stories about women from a refugee background.  This writing has also forced me to examine my own role as a narrator and resulted in me telling some of my own story. My two supervisors, Dr Rachel Robertson and Associate Professor Caroline Fleay, are outstanding scholars and contributed to the joyful learning experience.

Eleven women and three men became co-collaborators as part of my writing, and I feel deeply honoured to have been able to work with them to create their stories.  I collaborated with people from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Burma and Palestine.  I have learnt so much and been humbled by their honesty and their resilience.  All of them have agency and voice and a story to tell.  I look forward to sharing them with you in due course.

My thesis is now with two examiners for some time so I am waiting in a kind of limbo.  Most people have congratulated me on submitting my thesis and expect me to be out celebrating.   I’m not.  I don’t feel elated. I feel kind of numb.  Apparently, this is a common feeling for many PhD students after something that has engulfed your life for years has quietly disappeared with the push of a “submit” button.

Hopefully I will officially pass sometime this year, then my goal is to turn the manuscript into a marketable book.  It will need editing and a couple more stories will need to be added.  If you are a woman from a refugee background or you know of someone, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I want to help more people to share their stories.

What became clear throughout my research is that we don’t have access to refugee stories in the style that I write. I use direct testimony from people, conversation and historical context alongside my own reflections to entice the reader to think about their lives, as well as that of the person of a refugee background.

My way of advocating for refugee rights is to tell stories and I intend to keep doing this.

I will also be continuing my work on the board of Edmund Rice Centre WA and, now with a little more time on my hands, will look for other organisations where I can volunteer my time and expertise.  So many need “hands-on” assistance as well as donations.

So far, I have been able to maintain my links with Curtin University.   I am joining other writing colleagues to give an academic paper at a conference in Madrid in June and I continue to stay involved with the Centre for Human Rights Education.  I have worked as a research assistant, co-authored one paper about the challenges of accessing higher education as an asylum seeker and am also working on another journal article.

So, whilst waiting for the examiners’ feedback on my thesis, I am taking a short break and then will be back to my life of writing stories and working at a grass-roots level in society to try and make a difference.

Rose Farid Fauz Paul Piok 2016 (1)

I met Farid, Paul, Piok and Fauzia (L-R) when writing More to the Story – conversations with refugees.

Every two seconds

The UN Refugee Agency’s annual Global Trends study released last week found 68.5 million people had been driven from their homes across the world at the end of 2017. This is an increase of 2.9 million on last year’s figure and is the biggest increase the UNHCR has seen in a single year. It now means that a person is forcibly displaced from their home every two seconds – more people than the population of the United Kingdom.

The number of asylum-seekers awaiting the outcome of their applications for refugee status is 3.1 million, by the end of December 2017. People displaced inside their own country accounted for 40 million of the total.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, reminded us that ‘No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.’

For those of us in communities around the world who want to help, that can mean practical acts such as lobbying governments, writing letters, volunteering, or donating to agencies that help people of a refugee background like: MercyCare, Save the Children, Red Cross Australia, CARAD and the Edmund Rice Centre WA.

But most importantly, I believe, it means staying informed and knowing the facts. This latest UNHCR report makes for sombre reading and it is a long document. However I urge you to read the “Trends at a Glance” at the beginning of the document and watch the short video on the website about people like you and me with individual hopes, hardships and stories.

As always, behind these confronting numbers are real lives.

Giles Duley image

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a worldwide event that celebrates women’s achievements, from the political to the social, while calling for gender equality. It has been observed since the early 1900s and is now recognised each year on 8 March.

In Australia, it has just been confirmed that in 2018 the gender pay gap is 22% – which makes me question just how far we have come on the road to gender equality for women. The principle of equal pay for equal work was introduced in my country in 1969, so how can there still be such a disparity?

There is no doubt women from a refugee background face much bigger issues than pay equality. Issues such as persecution, conflict and often violence.   Some of these threats are quite distinct from those that men and boys face. According to the Women’s Refugee Commission, 50% of female victims of sexual violence are 15 years old or younger. In the world’s conflict zones 10 million girls are not in school; girls account for only 30% of refugees enrolled in secondary school.

As I enter the last year of my PhD at Curtin University, my research and writing is concentrated on how the stories of refugees are narrated.  I did not set out to focus on women, but that is how my four years of study has turned out.

So, on this International Women’s Day, I am choosing to celebrate by sharing some success stories about women of a refugee background.

While I can’t share the stories from my PhD research yet, I wanted to give you some links to stories from women who have faced much more challenging backgrounds than most of us and yet have found a way to not only survive, but to thrive.

And finally, to gain some insight into what is going on in Western Australia – that could also be applicable in other countries – look at Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre  which encourages the health and wellbeing of women of all ages and from all cultural backgrounds, as well as the Edmund Rice Centre WA.

Sisterworks catering - refugees

Sisterworks Catering – a Melbourne business run by women from a refugee background

A child is a child

A new report from UNICEF highlights some alarming statistics about vulnerable children in the world. As I write millions of children are on the move across international borders, fleeing violence and conflict, disaster or poverty in pursuit of a better life.

Hundreds of thousands of these children are alone, without any support and they faceUNICEF child report particularly grave risks. Unprotected, the children are easy prey for traffickers and others who abuse them. I can’t imagine how I would feel if this was my son, daughter, sister or brother who somehow got separated from me and my family. Can you?

UNICEF reports that in 2015-16 at least 300,000 unaccompanied and separated children were registered in 80 countries when they crossed borders. This is a five-fold increase from 66,000 in 2010-11. In fact the real number is likely much higher as not every child is registered. On the dangerous Central Mediterranean Sea passage from North Africa to Europe, 92 per cent of children who arrived in Italy in 2016 and the first two months of 2017 were unaccompanied, up from 75 per cent in 2015.

refugee childSave the Children reported in April this year that it was providing support to children as young as nine, who have fled war or poverty and have travelled under the radar for thousands of kilometres without a parent or guardian. “They are invisible to the authorities, and in some cases even when identified, they are placed in inadequate conditions, sometimes even detained.” As I have written previously, my own country Australia breaks numerous international laws, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, by placing children who have come seeking asylum in detention centres in the country and in off-shore island facilities. Further reading can be found the excellent website of the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.

Nearly all sovereign states around the world ratified the Convention on the Rights of the forgotten-childrenChild. They committed to respect and ensure the rights of “each child within their jurisdiction, without discrimination of any kind.” This means that all children, regardless of legal status, nationality or statelessness have the right to be protected from harm, have access to healthcare and education, to be with their family and have their interests protected.

It’s easy to forget that developing regions host 86 per cent of the world’s refugees under the UNHCR’s mandate. This means that the greatest share of responsibility falls on countries that are often ill-equipped to provide protection, while other wealthier countries take measures to reinforce their borders and stop people from arriving on their shores.

UNICEF reminds us that all children have a right to survive, thrive and fulfill their potential, to the benefit of a better world. Children can have a powerful voice – but we need to pay attention so those voices can be heard. Only then can we be informed, contribute to the conversation and influence change.

Catalyst Youth Summit

The voices of Western Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) youth have been recorded in a really interesting new report, recently launched by Citizenship and Multicultural Interests Minister Mike Nahan.

The report outlines recommendations from WA’s first CaLD youth forum – the Catalyst Youth Summit – held in February and attended by 46 WA delegates from 22 countries of origin.

The summit’s focus was to bring together young people to work on solving issues that affect them. The five key areas discussed were discrimination, access to opportunities, refugees and asylum seekers, mental health and a sense of belonging.

The report’s recommendations include the need for cultural competence training for CaLD youth-related service providers, and the importance of creating opportunities for young people from CaLD backgrounds to share their stories and have their voices heard.

You can find the report on the Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia (YACWA) website. It is well worth reading.