Rethink Refugees is a website created by Amnesty International. It is matched by billboards that are predominantly placed by the side of main thoroughfares in places where traffic often banks, such as Red Bank Plains. It is almost as though campaigners have placed the signs at places where there is nothing else people can do but sit and think.
The purpose of the website is to encourage Australians to investigate issues enmeshed in the politics of refugee resettlement. The website has been designed by organisers to “block bust” myths that cause Australians to believe we should not be taking our fair share of internationally displace peoples. To educate Australians about the issues, designers have listed myths and explained them together with information provided to help the ordinary citizen to think through them.
An Inclusive Campaign to Assist Australians to Rethink Refugee Resettlement
History abounds with examples of peoples who claimed they “didn’t know” when their country was called to account for the atrocities committed under the guise of protecting the nation. It is true, for example, that at the end of the Second World War German people said they “didn’t know” what was happening in concentration camps in locations very close by. This was because Goebbels had complete control of German media and (it seems) could there for prevent them knowing. Claims such as these may be debatable, however, the excuse seems untenable in Australia today.
The Rethink Refugees website is a testament to the idea of Australian free speech and democracy. In accordance with the principles of democracy, availability of information has been aligned with respectful request for action. Opportunities for action have been provided. They have the potential to influence the government of the day and into the future. Australian people can use the information provided to petition the government in a respectful way and thus support well balanced, “well thought out” and sustainable policies pertaining to the resettlement of refugees.
Australians asked to Read, Listen, Investigate, Think and then Act
The Rethink Refugees website is a call to action. We the people of Australia are being asked to read, listen, think and then act. Like any good website the Rethink Refugees website has a call to action button. Browsers are asked to take their time and to do their own research. When the website designers are asking that Australians sign a petition asking for clemency for refugees, who may otherwise be ex-repatriated to their country of origin.
There are other ways that readers and thinkers can be of assistance. Yes, it is true that the first step to being a responsible Australian citizen is to take advantage of the information offered on the Rethink Refugees website. If inspired by understanding acquired in this way, the next step for truly discerning Australians, is to “check out” the information provided. Citizens are asked to investigate topics for themselves. “Thinking an issue through,” often means checking the facts and examining the “robustness” of the logic presented. Many also weigh the information against the tenets of their own religious or spiritual tradition.
For example, if Australians are influenced by the philosophy and spirituality of the Brahma Kumaris, they can look to the writing of Dadi Janki on personal responsibility. If you are an Australian Catholic, look to the legacy left by St Mary of the Cross, who was fond of saying, “We are but travellers here.” A good place to start with children is to examine just what Mary MacKillop meant, when she uttered these words about being mere travellers on this planet. Is this topic of resettlement even more relevant today then it was when she travelled the land on horseback or by cart? This might make an interesting starting point for inquiry in Australian classrooms.
If, after thought and investigation, Australian citizens feel they would like to do more than sign a website petition, there are other things that can be done to alleviate the tension surrounding the issues of resettlement.
Targeted Education is the Key to Rethinking Refugee Resettlement
Educators who come from an Action Based; Inquiry Culture educational viewpoint, may assist class members to seek out stories and examples of successful resettlement. The may encourage students to
- take note of the gifts that refugees and ‘welcome immigrants’ bring to Australia (Dare to Be)
- use well written and researched mini info pieces provided by well qualified and dedicated educational professionals (Now often called sound bites) to start class discussion (Rachael Jacobs, Echoes of the past in asylum seeker policies. 2010)
- find out about self help groups set up by the refugees themselves and support these if possible (QPASTT)
- perhaps hold inclusive exhibitions and other elicitive occasions
- when enrolling children in dance or music class as extra curricula activity, teachers may advise parents to consider their children learn cultural forms originating from outside the dominant culture of the day (BollyWood or Zoomba)
- encourage older students to read Di Morrissey, who has a knack for explaining resettlement questions through narrative
- Girl Under Ground and Boy Overboard are excellent books and CDs that give a comprehensive view of resettlement issues
There are many other strategies Australians can use to enhance peaceful, cohabitation of cultures within Australian borders. If you have suggestions for an article about this topic, I would welcome them. I could allow you to author, or, I could write up your projects, or, co author descriptions of your projects with you or the people concerned.
What Cultural Gifts do Refugees Bring to Australia?
If you know of examples of a refugees or refugees that have resettled successfully in Australia and who would be prepared to briefly tell their story, I would like to interview them to publish an account. I invite you to write up stories, which focus on successful resettlement. A picture would be painted not only describing how resettlers coped with obstacles and issues, but also to appreciativeley inquire into how Australian groups either, individually or collectively, have either helped resettlement or benefitted from the gifts these talented people bring to the country.
- Dadi Janki Visionary with Unswerving Optimism (2010)
Dadi Janki is a visionary leader who compassionately shows people how to heal selfish tendencies that currently afflict human relationships and affairs.
Dare To BE Culturally Authentic – world.edu (2010) Modernity awakes to find that homogeneity brings tragedy leaving the world a less colorful and loving place. Teachers respond by encouraging
Jacobs,R. (2010) Echoes of the past in asylum seeker policies
QPASTT Yeronga Brisbane. “To improve the quality of life for refugee and migrant survivors of torture and trauma in Queensland.”
Bollywood and Hip Hop Dance in Brisbane Jacobs Bollyfunk Focus on Performance Empowerment and Community
Di Morrissey. 18 books on her website all gravitate towards a theme of respect and inclusion.
Gleitzman.M. (2004) Girl Under Ground. Bolinda Audio.
Gleitzman.M. (2003) Boy Overboard. Bolinda Audio
Goebbels Biography. Spartacus Educational Accessed Feb 2011.