Quick hit: Welcome to Australia

The debate over Australia’s immigration policy is heated, and, at times, utterly horrid. The dehumanizing terms in which politicians now speak about asylum seekers, referring to them as “the boats” – as in, “turn back the boats,” as if those boats don’t have real human beings in them – are profoundly upsetting, and echo the way American politicians talk about “illegals.”

A new campaign called Welcome to Australia asks, “if you were seeking asylum, how would you want to be welcomed?” It reminds Australians that with the exception of indigenous Australians, every one of them has been a newcomer at some point, and urges them to welcome asylum seekers the way they would have liked to be welcomed. Journalist and Welcome to Australia spokesperson Jessica Rowe explains why she got involved with the campaign:

As a journalist I have always aimed to be balanced and objective. But there are times when my personal feelings have influenced how I’ve covered a story. I don’t think there’s a problem with that – I believe there are some matters you need to take a stand against. I remember getting into strife with a former boss for being too strident with a particular government minister. During the course of the interview I asked him how he felt about having children behind razor wire in Australia. I still reckon that was a valid question. I was told to back off if we wanted to have that politician on the program again.

However the issue of keeping children in detention is something that I will never back away from. And since having babies of my own I feel even more strongly about how we treat young asylum seekers. So it’s with increasing shame, anger and frustration that I watch as our government wants to send unaccompanied children back to Malaysia to face an uncertain and dangerous future. According to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, deporting unaccompanied children is illegal. It’s hard to comprehend the psychological damage such a journey would have on young refugees.

You can read the rest of Rowe’s article here, and find out more about how to get involved in Welcome to Australia here.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/madeleine/ Madeleine

    The worst thing about our politicians speaking like this about asylum seekers is that it flows on to their constituents. Thanks for posting this – I read so many US-based blogs that it’s really nice to read another perspective on the Australian side of things!