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31 October 2013

Asylum seeker policy project - Update 2


Only thirteen days left to pledge support for Australia21's project on asylum seeker policy


The Asylum seeker policy project  aims to
  • Define the problem in an intellectually sound way – concentrating on the core issues (how does the world reduce the number of people being displaced and resettle the ones who have been displaced) rather than just focusing on the the symptoms
  • Set out a road map to what a sustainable solution to the asylum seeker issue might look like (at two levels: regional and global)
  • Develop a decent humane response that is within Australia’s control and consistent with all of our international obligations.

It was described more fully a few weeks ago here.

Progress on the Australia21 asylum seeker project.

 ·       Stage one of the project aims to raise awareness. It comprises a collection of short essays on various aspects of this issue by a diverse group of 23 leading thinkers, who are contributing their time pro bono and we thank them for this..
·       Our essays are now being assembled into a volume that will be distributed widely in December.
·       Five of the 23 contributors are:
o      Professor Frank Brennan a former chair of The Australian National Human Rights Consultation Committee
o      Mr John Menadue, Former Secretary of  PM and Cabinet for Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser during the Vietnam boat arrivals
o      Ms Erika Feller, who until April 2013 held the post of Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, one of the four top management positions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  
o      Prof Desmond Manderson Future Fellow in the College of Law in the Research School of Humanities and Arts, Australian National University. He is the  author “Why the Asylum Seeker Problem  is like the Drug Problem”.
o      Professor Louise Newman. Professor of Developmental Psychiatry and Director of the Monash University Centre for Developmental Psychiatry & Psychology. She is the Chair of the Detention Expert Health Advisory Group an independent body providing advice to the Department of Immigration and Citizenship on the health needs of asylum seekers.
Prof Manderson says 
“Australia’s attempts to ‘stop the boats’ will not work.  The reason is simple: the asylum problem is like the drug problem. The same overheated rhetoric. The same search for villains who can be blamed, like drug trafficker and people smugglers. The same belief that users should ‘just say no’.  All this misses the point.  People on boats come to this country not because they are dupes or fools but because they face intolerable conditions. 200,000 irregular migrants in Malaysia live in dire poverty….. the so-called ‘queue’ is one thousand years long. In fact, it would be more accurate to call it a ‘lottery’.  After a while and not surprisingly, many thousands of refugees stop waiting to see if their lucky numbers will come up.”
Prof Newman says 
“Medical and mental health professionals have been active in their attempts to highlight the unacceptable harm done to asylum seekers and the need for trauma-informed responses to the needs of vulnerable groups.  The establishment of professional advisory bodies following the Palmer Inquiry began a process of developing policy for better identification of those at high risk of mental deterioration.  Those groups have had a complex relationship with Government and there have been varying responses to advice given on health and mental health issues”.

 Where we're at with crowdfunding

We set a modest target of $7,500 to help fund early in 2014 online and print  online publication of the essays. So far,  $7,381 has been pledged and we are very grateful for this support. For those not familiar with crowd funding, no money becomes available unless we reach our target, so the game is not over yet. As well, this target is a minimum. If we can raise more we can do more.  If you have not yet contributed to this crowd funding initiative please help us push beyond the target to enable us to start planning for stage 2 of the project, which will be to hold early in 2014 a roundtable of experts to discuss alternative ways of dealing with asylum seekers.

     If you would like to be part of this community effort you can 

 Thanks in advance. We appreciate any help we can get for this very important project.

Forum - Considering the environment in national strategic thinking

Friday 15th November    8.30am -4.45pm
Weston Theatre Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing ,Australian National University,  Canberra

For several years, Australia21 has been seeking to encourage dialogue about the relationships between Australians and their environment.  This  Forum will build on a recent report by Australia 21 to the then Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry on developments in thinking about ecosystem services and opportunities for considering them better in policy. Speakers will examine  what is being done to consider the environment in policy in Australia and what could or should be done in the future and will engage in panel discussions with  participants. The forum is free but requires registration. Information about the event and registration can be found on the following website:


Australia21 is a small not for profit organisation which seeks to create new frameworks of understanding about the strategic issues facing us in the 21st century.
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