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Dream Boat Refugees: looking for a humane asylum seeker policy

Julian Burnside (left) and session chair David Marr. Photographer: Cath Piltz

Julian Burnside (left) and session chair David Marr. Photographer: Cath Piltz

Day One of the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival saw human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, Vietnamese refugee Carina Hoang and Guardian Australia journalist Antony Loewenstein take to the stage in the Macquarie Marquee in a session called Dream Boat Refugees, which I live tweeted earlier.

The session was chaired by Guardian Australia journalist, David Marr.

Anthony Loewenstein, Carina Hoang discuss asylum seeker policy. Photographer: Cath Piltz

Anthony Loewenstein, Carina Hoang discuss asylum seeker policy. Photographer: Cath Piltz

Burnside lamented the current state of asylum seeker policy in Australia:

Audience members picked up on some of the session’s themes, adding:

Hoang, who came from Vietnam following the Vietnamese war, spoke about the media perception of asylum seekers.

Discussion soon turned to the media coverage currently given to asylum seeker policy and the secrecy from government surrounding its implementation. With the journalist on the panel, Loewenstein displayed some frustration with the current state of play.

Burnside talked about how he sees the Stop the Boats policy is perceived, perhaps controversially, on an international level.

Asked how Hoang feels as a refugee in Australia, she made an interesting call, given today’s current asylum seeker climate.

In closing the session, the panel shared how they believe some of the problem with the asylum seeker issue in Australia lies with the constant use of moral panics by today’s media, who use it to create a fear of Islam.

Dream Boat Refugees might not have had the answer to the way forward on refugee policy but it did provide audiences with insights into the state of current and past asylum seeker policies.

Brendan Pearce is a Southern Cross Media and Politics student.

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1 Comment

  1. Sounds like an excellent session! Would have loved to hear their thoughts on Abbott’s claims that “stopping the boats is the most compassionate” thing his government could have done.

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