Monthly Archives: November 2011

ABJ #Reporting Refugees


666 ABC Reporting Refugees#Reporting Refugees was a truly beneficial experience. A public journalism exercise designed to tell the stories of Canberra refugees in an honest, fair and accurate way.

The problem that the public face today is the fact that there are no facts being presented in the main stream media. Although some topics don’t require a critical examination as thoroughly as others might one particular topic that stands out is the topic of policy making concerning refugee/asylum seekers.

Angela Romano a Senior Lecturer in Journalism at the Queensland University of Technology states that the Government polices regarding refugee/asylum seekers are costing the taxpayer money.

“Federal Govenrnment polices aimed at preventing boatpeople from reaching Australian shores have cost taxpayers an estimated $300 million per year since 2001.” (Romano, 2005)

However this fact is not reported on when a story breaks on yet another illegal immigrant boat intercepted of the Australian coastline.

Another fact that the public is not readily informed of is the global number of refugee displaced every year.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that there were 43.7 million forcibly displaced people worldwide at the end of 2010, the highest number in 15 years.” Australian Department of immigration and Citizenship Fact Sheet

My point of the media publishing in accuracies regarding refugee/asylum seekers or just not presenting the evidence/facts has provoked Refugee Council of Australia to create a website dedicated to highlighting the media’s mistakes.

“Refugees, asylum seekers and the Australians who support them have had to endure countless media articles full of inaccuracies and stereotypes. But sometimes media organisations go one step further and publish information which is blatantly false. This page aims to draw attention to such outrageous media blunders and to correct the record for people seeking accurate information about issues relating to refugees and asylum seekers.” Refugee Council of Australia Media Mistakes

The Refugee Council of Australia is completely justified in publishing this website as certain mistakes from news organizations have also been picked up by the ABC’s Media Watch.

Welfare and Refugees

However I would also like to point out that there are some organistaions out there that want the help refugee/asylum seekers where possible.

Here is just one example: Finding a refugee a voice

Prior Perspective

What contact had you had with asylum seekers/refugees prior to commencing this project?

Before this assignment I had very little to do with asylum seekers/refugees and even less so before I started at university. Of course I was aware of their circumstances and it was with some interest that I listened intently to refugee policies. However that information was only heard from the mainstream new organizations. I had still never met a refugee/asylum seeker before. Although I could appreciate what they were experience and see their point of view, until I knew one I could never understand with true empathy.

What was your attitude to refugees/asylum seekers and policies pertaining to their management prior to commencing work on this project?

As I listened to refugee policies being made I was torn between agreeing with the points of the policy, from a security perspective to the legal ramifications and the more humanistic value that refugees/asylum seekers create. I understood from previous study on the subject that the refugees/asylum seekers that featured almost weekly in news bulletins and discussion was less than five percent of total migrants that travel to Australia. I’m talking about the migrants that arrive illegally by boat.

Due to the media’s persistent in spot lighting these particular events over and over again I believe is what misinforms not only the public but also the government. Statistics can be a fickle thing on a good day, but it’s the mis representation of the situation from news organizations that are creating a larger thing out of something quite comparatively small.


What did you learn about asylum seeker/refugees during the course of the project?

That they are people too: People that have experienced pain, suffering and hardship throughout their life. It was a stark contrast to the environment that we now take for granted and grew up in. I learnt that they too share the same worries as us. They too want to make a safe harbor for their families and keep them safe. Although in many ways different from us in turns of appearance, culture and beliefs, it doesn’t mean we should toss them aside and not help where we can.

As long as we have the resources to make their wishes come true that is what we should strive for.

What (if any) impact has the project had on your views of asylum seekers/refugees and associated policy issues?

The impact this particular project has had on me, more than anything is that it has opened my eyes more in order to see what they see. By hearing their side of the stories makes you realize how much the news organizations aren’t telling us which in turn can create major problems for policy making.
In my opinion there are three views to take on the situation: the first being the Legal ability of Australian Law. Does our constitution state whether to help those seeking refuge? The second being the security issue of our maintaining our boundaries. As an island nation, Australia is extremely security conscious and our defence and security policy overlaps the migrant policy. The third view to take on the situation is the humanistic approach. This is where opinions are mostly voice by the public and not the government.
Together all three views and this project has made me stop and think more about the individual cases and persons involved and what perspective they are coming from.


What has the project taught you about reporting refugee/asylum seeker issues? and How will you put these lessons into practice when you are next assigned such a story?

This project has taught me to research beyond the front page of news paper articles. By getting to deeper depths and trying to find the true roots or source of the story.
It has also taught me how to communicate to someone with a sensitive story to tell. By gentle probing and understanding, creating an atmosphere of appreciation are vital skills to obtain in circumstance such as these.

Tact, gentleness and a lot of research into the subject are extremely important in extracting the information or story. It does raise some ethical issues that one might have to face and make a decision on the spot: decide on whether to continue with the interview and/or whether to cut it from the final package. It is hard to say how one would react in such a situation and lucky for us we didn’t face any major ethical issues.

Next time a story like this is assigned to me I will take on board what the angle is and how best to get it. I will look at all sides to the jigsaw, the practical, logical and also ethical. With incredible amount of resolve and tact I will approach the situation.

Gentle probing, patience and understanding will hopefully ease the circumstance into one of easy banter and professional chit chats. However this doesn’t come overnight, years and years of practice and inevitable mistakes made and persistence is how one will learn.