Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Embrace the Different

Embrace the Different

Frances O'Brien

Year 8, Loreto Normanhurst

Today much of society tends to view refugees as “dangerous” and “threats” to the Australian way of life. The Lowy Institute Poll (2017) found how we Australians view these people in a negative way. 40% of the 1200 people surveyed view asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat as a threat to our nation. Why has the word “refugees” become so negative?

A large portion of human beings fear the foreign (Psychology Today, 2016). Australia's xenophobic attitudes are perpetuated by often simplistic and jargonistic policies and ramblings of certain political leaders. When we get caught up into the fear campaign and worry about what these people may do to us and our way of life. Instead of welcoming, we exclude. Negative language and images used to dehumanise refugees such as “boats” “or “swarms” are only encouraging our nation to view them as dangerous and inhumane. Not only have this terminology been used in the past, it is now in our vocabulary daily, used by politicians and the media therefore encouraging our nation to view refugees as a negative word.

Australia has been built on the back of immigrants and refugees. Many of our national heroes and greatest contributors are refugees. Yes, we need to accommodate refugees and need to help them rebuild their lives away from home. They come from another part of the world, some even illegally by boat. But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights reads, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”  Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, Judy Cassab, Les Murray, Majak Daw, Najeeba Wazefadost, Osamah Sami and Tan Le (Dawn Network, 2019) are just a few migrants who have started from scratch in Australia. From sport, to comedy, small and large business owners, these few of many refugees that have made a significant contribution to Australian society.

Frank Lowy, came to Australia as a refugee from Slovakia and, together with his partner, build Westfield into a global organisation. Westfield has brought thousands of jobs to our nation and enhanced our economy (Forbes 2019).

We can't deny how Anh Do, refugee from Vietnam, has and continues given so much to our nation in his writings, art and comedy. We judge what we may think is dangerous, what we find uncomfortable. When we do, we forget about these incredible people who have been through so much, but every day give back to our country (Sydney Morning Herald 2011)

Australia has one of the most diverse communities on earth. 49% of us, were either born overseas or have a parent that was born overseas (abs.gov 2016) This diversity is so inspiring, so special. Refugees joining our Australian community opens a huge door to opportunity. What they will give back to our society is unknown, but we should be excited. Not just for their sake, for ours- lets embrace them.