Australia’s Unfair and Inhumane Refugee Policies

Untitled (refugee girl) by Mohammed. Via Safdar Ahmed and the Refugee Art Project

Whilst in London a couple of years a go, I came across a sign which reads, “Begin your dream today, emigrate to Australia!” (see below). A warm invitation indeed: unless of course you are an asylum seeker – in which case our Government will revoke this welcome and abscond its responsibility to the United Nations Convention Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

Since 2001, the Australian government has passed several laws that allow the detention of asylum seekers in offshore centres located on the islands of Nauru and Manus. This was first established by excising islands from Australia’s territory; attempting to pay off people smugglers; and a series of other policy changes known as the “Pacific Solution.” In the first seven years of the scheme, over 1,600 people were held in detention. They arrived predominantly from Afghan, Iraqi and Sri Lankan backgrounds. While this program was initially wound back by 2008, it was reintroduced in 2010. Offshore detention reached its peak in 2014, with over 2,400 people held in detention centres, including 222 children. At the end of March 2016, almost 1,000 people remained in Manus and up to 1,200 people on Nauru.

These actions contravene international law, with our “paltry commitment to the Refugee Convention” deemed one of the worst in the world. Detention makes little sense, given that 90% of cases are found to be “genuine refugees.” The majority of asylum seekers have been in detention for at least two years. Even after they were released into the community, they were initially not allowed to work.

In 2014, the Government offered migrants up to $10,000 to go back home to face certain persecution; a scheme that was resolutely condemned by human rights experts. The Government simultaneously cut legal aid to refugees, making it even harder for them to receive informed support.

The ensuing health damage suffered by asylum seekers is woefully inhumane. Australia’s humanitarian program has been criminally pared back, along with our collective morality. We must not accept this unfair system in the name of so-called “Australian values.”

In London, emigrate to Australia sign is in the foreground, and people walk in the background
Your bridge to Australia. Your bridge to Australia. Begin your dream today.

Continue reading Australia’s Unfair and Inhumane Refugee Policies

Art and Injustice

This visual sociology for the month of April is dedicated to Aboriginal and migrant artworks, plus a special apperance by the Sociology of Trolleys from inner western Sydney. First, let’s start with a panel discussion I spoke on.

Panel: Race and Conscious Dating

On 26 April, I was a panellist on a thoughtful discussion about race and dating with journalist and documentary filmmaker Santilla Chingaipe and multi-talented author and editor Andy Quan. Continue reading Art and Injustice


Artability is a free exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne, featuring visual artists of various culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and ages who have a disability or who live with mental illness. This piece is “Offering of Peace and Love” by Kishari Patwardhan.

Sociology Empowering Migrant Women

Writer Joanita Wibowo has published a thoughtful profile on three second-generation migrant-Australian women, featuring this quote from Sabina, a Lenanese-Muslim Australian:

“She went on to study sociology at university, which turned out to be ‘a really empowering experience’ for her. Sociological theories and language, she says, helped her understand her ordeals. ‘My trajectory as an academic was influenced very much by the experiences of how I’m feeling like an outsider as a child,’ says Sabina. ‘The only thing that gave me control over those experiences was being able to explain them.’ (Source: Junkee)

Sociology also gave me the tools to understand my ‘otherness,’ and advocate for migrant women and other marganised people who are made to feel like outsiders and denied social justice.

Ever since I could speak, before I even learned to write properly, I remember clearly wanting to be a story-teller. I went to university thinking I would pursue literature, but I found I did not enjoy the course. Instead I followed my early love of social studies. I enrolled in sociology in my first semester of university in 1997. This was supposed to be an elective. Two decades later, here I am: a passionate sociologist.

I would eventually go on to write both my Honours and PhD theses on themes of multiculturalism, racism, and social inclusion. I studied how young migrant-Australian women managed their identities, gender inequality, and other issues such as sexuality and culture.

Read more about the migrant women teachers and stories that inspired my education on my post, Heroic Women Who Inspired my Social Science.

Feticide Law in USA Punishes Migrant Women of Colour

Feticide Law in USA Punishes Migrant Women of Colour

Purvi Patel is the first woman in the USA to be convicted of feticide (describing an act that leads to the death of a foetus). She suffered a miscarriage, and with no support, she tried to conceal the stillborn, but admitted her condition in hospital when seeking treatment for bleeding. She is from a Hindu background, where sex outside of marriage is condemned. She is sentenced to spend two decades behind bars – a travesty of justice that serves patriarchal ideals. The American law of feticide is not really about protecting women or babies, but rather it’s about punishing vulnerable, desperate women and ultimately discourages others from seeking help when they are trying to deal with an unplanned pregnancy.

While hers is the first conviction, this is not the first arrest under feticide law. Another woman of migrant background was arrested and held for two years under similar harrowing conditions. “Women of colour, especially those who are immigrants or come from immigrant families, are especially vulnerable when it comes to navigating our country’s legal system and often don’t have the same protections and resources other women do.”

If you’re in the USA, sign this petition to the White House to release Patel:

Story: Photo: #sociology #feminism #migrants #women #indian

Migrants in Australia

Here’s my new video on the sociology of migrants in Australia.

I’ve started a new video series called Vibrant Lives, where I explore the sociology of minorities and multiculturalism in Australia. This first video provides an overview of migrants in Australia. There are 6.6 million Australians who were born overseas and an additional 4.1 million Australians are the children of migrants. Together, this means that 47% of Australians are either a first or second-generation migrant.

The biggest migrant groups come from the United Kingdom (5.2% of national population), New Zealand (2.6%), China (1.8%), India (1.6%), the Philippines (1.0%), and Vietnam (1.0%). Second-generation migrants come from over 300 ancestry groups, with the biggest being Greek, Dutch and Italian.   

Around 10.6 million people, or 53% of Australians, belong to the third-generation or beyond. The biggest ancestry groups are Australian and other Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.

Australia has the ninth largest overseas-born population in the world; the fourth highest amongst OECD nations. Australia also has an higher proportion of overseas-born people than the other “Traditional Immigration Nations,” which is twice the rate of the USA. 

Learn more more about the demographics of our biggest migrant groups on my video below.

For the history of immigration to Australia, and links to the sociology references on my video, see my resource

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel here.

Migrants in Australia

Migrants in Australia
Migrants in Australia

Australia is home to the oldest continuous culture in the world, that of Indigenous Australians, and our society also houses one of the highest migrant populations in the world. Australia encompasses over 300 migrant ancestries, with migrants and their children making up half of our population. I’ve just launched a new video series called Vibrant Lives, which explores some of these diverse cultures and the various meanings of multiculturalism in Australia. I’ll focus on different minority groups, as well as covering community events, religious festivals, art exhibitions and community organisations around Melbourne. This post provides some sociological context for my first video on migrant-Australians.

Continue reading Migrants in Australia

Iranians in Australia

There are almost 34,500 Iran-born people counted in the last Australian Census in 2011. Most arrived in the early 1980s as a result of the Iranian Revolution that began in 1979.

The largest proportion of these early arrivals are highly educated Baha’i who were granted special asylum status under our humanitarian migration program. Later in the 1990s arrivals have been predominantly Shi’a Muslim and they largely came as under the skilled migration program. A sizeable proportion of Iranians have migrated since 2001.

Iranian Australians are incredibly interesting sociologically as they are a relatively upwardly mobile group who outperform many other refugee groups who arrived since 1980s. The early arrivals who settled in Sydney in particular do well along many socioeconomic measures.

In the first two pictures, a group of Iranian-Australians in Melbourne are happily chanting in Persian about Iran’s greatness in soccer. In English they are talking about Australian scores in sports.