About this Episode

The Australian government has crafted and carried out an immigration policy so abusive that it earned President Trump’s praise. Yet, over the last few years, facing a conservative and openly xenophobic administration, human rights advocates mounted and won four campaigns challenging offshore detention of people seeking asylum.

Since September 2012, Australia’s government has sent people seeking asylum to Nauru and Manus Island, in Papua New Guinea. By imprisoning people in horrifying conditions indefinitely, the government claims to be deterring others from making the same perilous journey. Fanning the familiar flames of fear dressed up as national security, the ruling conservative coalition managed to convince the majority of Australians to tacitly – or whole-heartedly – accept these human rights violations.

We learn about the research conducted to uncover how Australians come to judgments about people seeking asylum and the narrative shift required to dislodge the fears and smears that the opposition has so successfully cemented. Then, we unpack how human rights advocates applied these findings to swing public opinion and win several campaigns in their ongoing battle against the atrocities of offshore detention. And we interrogate the ethics of how we tell the stories of the people that our governments scapegoat in order to gain and hold political power.

Read the People Seeking Asylum Messaging research

Meet Our Interviewee

Shen Narayanasamy
Photo by Patrick Morrow

Shen Narayanasamy

Shen Narayanasamy has led GetUp’s Human Rights campaigns and racial justice work for the last 4 years, including the successful campaigns against changes to 18C and citizenship, and Colour Code – GetUp’s platform for multicultural and first nations members and issues.

Shen founded the No Business in Abuse campaign which led to the exit of international corporations from offshore detention, and the closure of the Manus Island Detention Centre. She was a driving force behind the #kidsoffnauru campaign which saw every child detained offshore brought to Australia within 4 months and resulted in the historic passage of the Medevac Bill in Parliament.

  • Photo: GetUp
  • Photo: GetUp
  • Photo: GetUp
Let Them Stay video by GetUp

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