Funding barriers shut out asylum seekers and refugees from further education

Asher Hirsch, Monash University and Joyce Chia, Monash University

“When I arrived in Australia I was 17. Now I’m almost 20. The best years of my life are gone. When can I go to school? When can I go to college? When can I have my education? I don’t know what will happen to me.

“I escaped from my country because I couldn’t go to school. The only thing I wished to have was a better life, a safe life, and to be educated – and I couldn’t have that.”

As secondary school students eagerly await their university offers, this young man faces a much bleaker future.

Abdul is one of around 30,000 people seeking asylum who are waiting for the government to finalise their refugee claims. Once they prove their claim for protection they are found to be refugees, yet because they arrived by boat they will only have access to temporary visas.

Continue reading “Funding barriers shut out asylum seekers and refugees from further education”

What underlies public prejudice towards asylum seekers?

By Anne Pedersen, Murdoch University and Lisa Hartley, Curtin University

According to a poll taken last December, 60% of those surveyed think the Australian government should “increase the severity of the treatment of asylum seekers”. What’s behind this negative sentiment (otherwise known as prejudice) towards asylum seekers in Australian society?”

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Submission to the Attorney-General regarding changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975

Here is my submission, on behalf of the Refugee Council of Australia, to the Attorney-General regarding changes to the Racial Discrimination Act 1975.

Racism and discrimination are issues that have a significant impact on refugee communities in Australia and this submission highlights the impacts of the proposed amendments. RCOA strongly opposes these proposed amendments to the RDA as we believe they weaken protections against racism, racial vilification and discrimination towards refugee communities.

RCOA submits that sections 18B, 18C, 18D and 18E protect from the harm of racial vilification and discrimination, as exemplified by almost 20 years of case law. RCOA believes that the proposed amendments would provide a licence to the community to engage in racist behaviour and may lead to further acts of racially motivated violence. RCOA also argues that there is a lack of a clear rationale for these changes, which have only been brought about after extensive media attention regarding one case. Indeed, research shows that these laws have been considered in less than 100 finalised court cases since 1995 and RCOA argues that the courts have applied these laws reasonably and appropriately.

Many refugee communities know all too well the fine line between racial vilification and racial persecution. People of refugee background consulted in the preparation of this submission emphasised the importance of protecting against racist hate speech, which can easily lead to racially motivated violence, physiological harm and other serious issues. Many refugee communities have fled persecution on the basis of their race, being one of the five grounds on which people are entitled to seek protection as refugees under the Refugee Convention. Refugee communities are among the minority groups who would be most affected by these changes to the law and as such it is important to consider their needs when assessing the proposed amendments.

Albert Mambo – Kwami on the TV show Ja’mie

Albert Mambo stars as an African student ‘Kwami’ in the new Chris Lilley TV show Ja’mie.

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The show highlights some significant issues of racism within Australia, especially through the cringeworthy perspective of Ja’mie, who sees Kwami as her charity project. While the show is indeed a satire on Australian school kids, it hits painfully close to the bone on many issues, especially racism.

Kwami, acted amazingly by Albert, is portrayed as silent and unable to speak English, even though he comes from Uganda (where the official language is English). Depicted as poor and uneducated, the characters reflect a racist assumption held by many in the Australian community towards African migrants. References to slavery and apartheid are also thrown in by Ja’mie’s dad, who in South African fashion mentions he knows a number of blacks – they are good workers.

The scene of Ja’mie’s parents “rescuing” Kwami from a community housing project also play into the ‘saviour’ white person syndrome, and other scenes offer a critique of the rich white girl going to ‘Africa’ to save them from poverty. Again, this doesn’t fall to far from reality, which is the reason the show is at times hard to watch.

Ja’mie is so close to the truth it can be easily forgotten that Chris Lilley is essentially making a scathing social commentary of Australian society by holding a mirror up to the Australia public. Anyone who thinks that this doesn’t reflect Australia hasn’t been to high school for a long time.

Continue reading “Albert Mambo – Kwami on the TV show Ja’mie”