Skip to main content

Refugees and asylum seekers

Current projects include:

People Seeking Asylum: Access and Support in Higher Education Dr Lisa Hartley and A/Prof Caroline Fleay, with Dr Sally Baker and Dr Rachel Burke (University of Newcastle) (2017 - 2018)

Funded by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education’s (NCSEHE) 2017 Competitive Research Program 

The research project will explore the complex barriers to higher education facing People Seeking Asylum (PSA) in Australia, and evaluate university and community level support. Analysing primary and secondary quantitative and qualitative sources at macro-national, meso-institutional, and micro-practice/lived experience levels, the study will address a research gap by producing a national map of access barriers specific to PSA and university and community efforts. Through surveys and interviews with university and community sector stakeholders, and interviews with PSA, this study will examine the impact of PSA-specific scholarships and other enabling initiatives, identify best practice, and produce greater awareness of PSA engagement and barriers to higher education.

This research project aligns with the first ‘National Symposium: People Seeking Asylum in Higher Education’ being organised by the research team, in collaboration with the Refugee Council of Australia, The University of Melbourne, community sector organisations, and people living the experience. This one day symposium is being held at the University of Melbourne on 15 November 2017 and will bring together people seeking asylum, university and community sector stakeholders will focus on identifying emerging challenges and future opportunities.

Understanding by Participating: Fostering understandings about refugees and statelessness amongst young people in Australia Dr Marilyn Metta (2016 – continuing)

Understanding by Participating is a national educational research project which incorporates innovative participatory and action research methodologies to engage Australian high school students on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers. Understanding by Participating research project incorporates the award-winning documentary film, How I Became a Refugee and a specially developed accompanying study guide as a teaching tool and resource in high schools across Australia. The study guide was developed with the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) as part of the national curriculum for Years 9-12 students in English, Civics and Citizenship, History, Media, Politics and Sociology. This educational program and study guide fulfil the Australian Curriculum in the areas of Literary, Critical and Creative Thinking, Personal and Social Capability and Ethical Understanding. The film and study guide have been introduced and used in over 100 primary and high schools across Australia.

Australian Red Cross 'In Search of Safety' (ISOS) community education program evaluation Dr Lisa Hartley and A/Prof 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 Dr Lisa Hartley, A/Prof Anne Pedersen 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 A/Prof Caroline Fleay and Dr 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 Prof Baden Offord, Dr Lisa Hartley, A/Prof Caroline Fleay, Dr Yirga Woldeyes and Dr 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 A/Prof Caroline Fleay and Dr 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.

How I Became A Refugee Dr Marilyn Metta (2014 – continuing)

How I Became A Refugee is an award-winning documentary film which follows the extraordinary journey of a Burmese Chin family from their homeland as refugees of religious persecution from a military government as they travel through Malaysia before resettlement in Western Australia. How I Became a Refugee, has achieved high impact acclaim and been screened nationally across WA, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane, Sydney, and internationally in Japan, Canada, Los Angeles, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. The documentary is an important storytelling tool to tell the experiences and stories of stateless young people and their families from their own voices and to engage young people in schools and the broader community in developing better understanding about stateless people and their lived experiences. The film was the Winner of the Award of Recognition at the Impact DOCS Award (2016), selected for a double screening at Myanmar Film Festival in Los Angeles (2015); a finalist at the IAFOR Documentary Film Award (2015); Winner of the Award of Recognition at the International Best Shorts Film Competition (2015) & Global Accolade Film Competition (2015). The film’s success was featured in the ABC national news (2015). The film is going on a national and regional tour of Australia.

Differentiating attitudes towards humanitarian refugees and asylum seekers Dr Lisa Hartley with A/Prof 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 Dr Lisa Hartley and A/Prof 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 A/Prof Caroline Fleay and Dr 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.