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Refugees and asylum seekers

Current projects include:

Australian Red Cross 'In Search of Safety' (ISOS) community education program evaluation Lisa Hartley and Caroline Fleay (2016 – 2018)

Funding organisation & research partner: Australian Red Cross

‘In Search of Safety’ (ISOS) is a community education program developed by the Red Cross Migration Support Program in WA to help dispel the myths and misunderstandings surrounding people seeking asylum in Australia. A community education program for primary schools, secondary schools and the community, ISOS aims to create a more welcoming Australia and a more inclusive community for all. ISOS presents information and provides an environment that encourages participants to make their own conclusions about people seeking asylum and the situation they face. This project will evaluate the effectiveness of the ISOS program across a number of Perth-based primary schools.

Exploring public attitudes: Relationships between false beliefs, prejudice and support for harsh asylum seeker policy in Australia Lisa K. Hartley, Anne Pedersen (Curtin University) and Stuart Lecke (Queensland University of Technology) (2016 – 2017)

As the number of refugees and asylum seekers increase, industrialised countries have applied increasingly restrictive policies to deter those seeking protection from entering their borders. Most recently, the Australian government has implemented a range of punitive policies such as sending asylum seekers attempting to arrive to Australia by boat to Nauru and Manus Island. Recent polls suggest that the Australian community support this treatment with some people supporting even harsher policies.

Previous research has found that prejudice towards asylum seekers and false beliefs about asylum seekers are positively associated with support for stricter government policies. The current research seeks to explore what false beliefs held by members of the Australian public are most strongly associated with support for harsher policies. Such research will be valuable in the development of public education campaigns.

Impacts of Australia’s asylum seeker policy in the region Caroline Fleay and Lisa Hartley (2015 – 2016)

The mantra of both major Australian political parties is that ‘stopping the boats’ has saved the lives of people seeking asylum because they are prevented from reaching Australia by sea. However, this ignores the reality of the lives of many now effectively warehoused in our region because of this policy. To date, relatively little attention has been given to their experiences. While the policies of the country in which they are residing also impact on their experiences, it is clear from researchers, non-government organisations (NGOs) that work in the region, and those who are living the experience themselves, that Australian policies are having disturbing impacts beyond our borders.

The research project brings together key Australian academics, representatives from regional support agencies in Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and the Australian representative from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to explore the impacts of Australia’s asylum seeker policy in the region.

Enabling asylum seeker scholarship through listening and lived experience Baden Offord, Lisa Hartley, Caroline Fleay, Yirga Woldeyes and Elfie Shiosaki (2015–2016)

A Curtin University Faculty of Humanities funded project.

The goal of this project is to develop new ways to engage with, understand, teach about and respond to the lived experience of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, specifically in Perth. A key aim of the project is to pilot an innovative methodology in asylum seeker scholarship through participatory action research in a university learning context.

The right to work: the employment experiences of asylum seekers living in the Australian community Caroline Fleay and Lisa Hartley (2014 – continuing)

This research project explores the employment experiences of asylum seekers in Australia who were granted the right to work upon their release from immigration detention. Little is known about the employment experiences of asylum seekers other than informal reports. Research is needed to explore their experiences and interrogate common assumptions that asylum seekers rarely gain employment and are an economic burden. The initial stage of the project will involve the development of case studies.

Differentiating attitudes towards humanitarian refugees and asylum seekers Lisa Hartley with Anne Pedersen (2013 – 2016)

In recent years, public and political discourse has focused on differentiating between refugees who arrive to Australia with official authorisation from the Australian Government and people who arrive by boat and then seek refugee status (asylum seekers). Through a community survey of Australians living in Perth, this project seeks to examine social psychological factors, such as threat, emotions and national identity, that underpin differences in attitudes towards these two groups. The project will also examine the level of support for policies aimed at public assistance, opportunities, and rights for asylum seekers compared with refugees.

Policy as punishment: asylum seekers living in the community without the right to work Lisa Hartley and Caroline Fleay (2013 – continuing)

This project explores the experiences of asylum seekers who arrived by boat to Australia after 13 August 2012 and live in community-based arrangements. To date, it has focused on the impacts of living without the right to work and with only limited financial and social support. The research highlights the financial hardship of not being able to work further aggravated by the ongoing uncertainty, distress and fear felt by asylum seekers who are experiencing ongoing delays in the processing of their refugee claims.

Bearing Witness: Researching the Detention of Asylum Seekers Caroline Fleay and Lisa Hartley (2012 - continuing)

There are few formal monitoring bodies that investigate the detention of asylum seekers in Australia and those that do are hampered by their inability to enforce their recommendations. Researchers that visit immigration detention centres can help to provide another form of monitoring. This project interrogates the conducting of research into immigration detention in Australia by exploring such research as an act of bearing witness. It also explores the role of the researcher as witness, activist and academic.