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Refugees in Australia Essay (Critical Writing)


Cultural Minorities

A literature review on the population group

The issue of cultural minority has widely been covered by the Australian media. In reference to the refugees and asylum seekers in Australia, the media has been steadfast in covering aspects related to these groups (Mares & Mares, 2002). The role of the media is shaping how individuals view refugees and asylum seekers cannot be ignored (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2010).

Australia is among the leading countries in the intake of refugees and asylum seekers. According to BBC (2012), the Australian government has plans to ensure that the country provides room for over twenty thousands refugees each year. Currently, the country’s refugee intake is about 14,000 per year.

According the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, increasing the refugee intake will lead to a 45 per cent increase in refugee intake. In line with these projections, the lawmakers agreed for the offshore camps serving the asylum seekers to be reopened in Nauru and PNG. This was meant to minimize the risks taken by asylum seekers who use boats (BBC, 2012).

In most instances, the media has referred to the refugees and the asylum seekers as “illegals.” This has been the case despite lacking objectivity. In deed, Australia is home to over 50,000 illegal residents who are not refugees or asylum seekers. These are individuals living in the country despite the expiry of their visas (Menadue, 2011; Gibney, 2004).

The media has also exaggerated the plight of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. According to media reports, Australia is seen as being a host to many refugees and asylum seekers than any other country. However, in real sense, this is not the case (Mares, 2001; McMaster, 2002; Mares, 2002). Other countries register higher numbers of refugees and asylum seekers than Australia (Australian Refugee Rights Alliance, n. d.; Menadue, 2011).

The Australian media has exaggerated a slight rise recorded in the refugee and asylum intake. Notably, the media has opted to be politicized in its reporting. The opposition uses the media to portray that the government is doing very little to curb illegal immigration (Australian Refugee Rights Alliance, n. d.; Pickering, 2001).

The Australian media has also failed to objectively report on issues affecting the refugees and asylum seekers. This was portrayed in the way the media reported the Curtin protest by the Iraqi asylum seekers in the year 2000 (Mares, n. d.).

Discourse analysis for each media text

In the article by Sheehan (2012), the author criticises the Australian government in its effort to set the record straight following the viral email that was spread depicting the kindness of the government to the refugees. According to Michel Foucault’s notion of discourse, this media article portrays asylum seekers and refugees as not good for the Australian economy.

The article notes that the government is spending substantial funds on refugees and asylum seekers at the expense of the Australian public (Sheehan, 2012). Foucault noted that individuals are constituted by culture, which is critical in shaping their thoughts. From the historical experience, this article expounds on the bad image of asylum seekers and refugees among the Australian public.

In reference to Shirley Dally’s framework, the audience is the Australian public. The refugees and asylum seekers in Australia are the ones that have been represented. The source of the article is “The Sydney Morning Herald”. Shirley Dally’s framework focussed on what is presented, the audience, and the source.

The author of the article quotes the amount spent to depict the differences in government spending on refugees and genuine Australian people. In relation to the theory developed by Deborah Lupton, this article can lead to resentment against the refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.

The refugees and asylum seekers are portrayed as illegally benefiting from the public resources. Deborah noted that journalists are interested in conflict and drama stories. In this article, the author is interested in creating a conflict between the government and the Australian public.

The internet has expanded the media outlets where individuals and organisations have created bogs as a medium of communication. In a blog run by NetReach Australia, there is an article that strives to put the record straight regarding a false email that was circulated in Australia regarding asylum seekers and refugees. The blog seems to contradict the view held by Sheehan in his article.

The blog dismisses the notion that the illegal immigrants and refugees are entitled to greater welfare payments than the pensioners in Australia (NetReach Australia, 2012). In reference to Michel Foucault theory, this blog post strives to set the record straight following the hoax email that was circulated among the Australian public. Foucault noted that historical experiences and culture have a great influence on discourse.

Thus, the article is a counter-discourse to shift the attitude of the public from the discourse that has been created. From Shirley Dally’s theoretical framework, this blog targets the Australian public who are interested in knowing truth. Shirley Dally emphasized on the aspect of the information, source of information, and the audience. The source of the article is a blog run by NetReach Australia. The blog outlines factual information regarding the refugees and asylum seekers in the country.

In respect to the Deborah Lupton, this blog is meant to make the public change the bad attitude that they may be having against the refugees and asylum seekers. The article is meant to reduce the conflict between the public and the government regarding the issue of asylum seekers and refugees. In Deborah’s perspective, this is the main discourse of the article.

In the article by Packham and Wilson (2012), the authors report on the new strategies used by the asylum seekers to gain entrance in Australia. In the article, it has been argued that the asylum seekers often make distress calls to the Australian authority for assistance when they encounter a problem while still in their boats.

It is expected that the asylum seekers will be met and assisted to get to Australia safely (Packham and Wilson, 2012). According to Michel Foucault, this article portrays the unorthodox methods used by asylum seekers to gain entrance to Australia. Owing to Foucault’s arguments, the discourse of the article is to create a negative attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees. The article elaborates on the new developments that have complicated the issue of asylum seekers in Australia.

In reference to Shirley Dally, the target audience of this article includes the Australian public and the policy makers. The article has represented the refugees and asylum seekers. The source of the article is “The Australian.” The authors have explained the way the asylum seekers make distress calls to the Australian authorities in an effort to gain a safe entry into the country.

Following the theory developed by Deborah Lupton, this article will further deteriorate the perception that the Australian public has against the asylum seekers. The article is aimed at exacerbating hatred towards the asylum seekers and refugees coming to Australia.

This is due to the unconventional strategies adopted by the asylum seekers, which is already a despised group. From Deborah’s point of view, the article is meant to bring conflict between the public and those seeking asylum and refugees.

Media choices and unhealthy representations of population group

The news article by Sheehan (2012) reflects on the unhealthy representation of the asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. The author claims that the Australian citizens are being cheated to believe that the asylum seekers are not taking away what is rightfully theirs.

The Australian public is the target audience and the article dismisses the explanations given by the government on the benefits provided to the refugees. Reading this article will play a great role in shaping the negative perception of the Australian public towards the refugees. In this case, the public will perceive the refugees as draining their resources.

The blog by NetReach Australia (2012) avoids an unhealthy representation of the asylum seekers and refugees. In this blog, the author dismisses the hoax email that was sent to the Australian public depicting the asylum seekers and refugees as benefiting from the welfare pension than the genuine pensioners in Australia.

NetReach Australia (2012) observes that such emails are meant to initiate a bad attitude towards the refugees and asylum seekers. The Australian public is the main audience targeted by this blog. This blog is meant to change the attitude that the public may be having against the asylum seekers and refugees. Therefore, the asylum seekers and refugees are not depicted in a bad light as there is no truth that they are a threat to the Australian pensioners.

The news article by Packham and Wilson (2012) also reflects on the unhealthy representation of the asylum seekers in Australia. In the article, it is noted that the asylum seekers have turned to the use of unconventional means to get assistance from the Australian authorities. Essentially, the asylum seekers make an emergency call to the Australian authorities while in the sea to be assisted to get into Australia safely.

This seems to work as they usually get a safe landing into Australia. The article targeted audience is the public and the policy makers. The authors hope that the policy makers would come up with a policy framework that would address this new development. The asylum seekers are portrayed negatively as they seem to be a nuisance. In this case, the public will despise them for their behaviour.

The media discourse analysis and the accompanying quote

There is no doubt that the media has a great impact on the attitudes of individuals. The aspect of cultural minority and the media is something that has been talked about by many authors. It has been noted:

…media reporting can shape public perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers. On the one hand, compassionate and sympathetic coverage can help to promote understanding… resulting in public pressure for the increased protection of refugees.

On the other hand, the portrayal of displaced people as a potential threat, and as competitors for scarce public goods, can generate and intensify feelings of fear, and awaken popular demands for protection from refugees (Mares & Allotey, 2003, p. 224).

The analysis provided by the news articles reinforces the tenets of the quote. The news article analysed presents a scenario where the asylum seekers and refugees are depicted in bad light. This ensures that the public has a negative perception of the asylum seekers and refugees coming to Australia. If the media portrayed the asylum seekers and the refugees in good light, the public would change its perception regarding the groups highlighted.

Utilising Health Promotion principles

The Ottawa Charter or the Framework for Health promotion was developed in the year 1986 with the aim of enhancing health promotion across the world. The Ottawa Charter established five areas that are critical to health promotion. The five aspects include healthy public policy; supportive environment; community action; personal skills and appropriate health services (Verrinder, 1999).

The five principles can be applied to the case of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia. In this case, good policy framework should be developed to ensure that the Australian people adhere to the provisions of the Refugee Convention that was established in the mid 20th century.

Under these provisions, the UNHCR, an agency that ensures the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers, has established guidelines on how the detention of the asylums seekers should be undertaken (Thom, 2009).

The Australian government should also establish a supportive environment that will promote the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers. The government should also encourage its neighbours to become a signatory to the Refugee Convention. This will help in creating a supportive environment as some of the asylum seekers and refugees will go into these countries (Reiher, 2010).

The media should also be encouraged to be objective and sensitive in the way they report issues related to asylum seekers and refugees. In this case, the media should base their reporting on facts regarding the asylum seekers and refugees.

Thus, the media should refrain from subjective reporting that can paint a false picture of the refugee situation in the country. In doing this, the media will positively shape the attitude of the Australian public towards asylum seekers and refugees.

Reference List

Australian Human Rights Commission 2010, Refugees in the media. Web.

Australian Refugee Rights Alliance, Fear and loathing in Australia: politicians and asylum seekers. Web.

BBC 2012, . Web.

Gibney, M. J. 2004, The ethics and politics of asylum: Liberal democracy and the response to refugees, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Mares, P., The media and asylum seekers in Australia. Web.

Mares, P. 2001, Borderline: Australia’s treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, UNSW Press, Sydney.

Mares, P. 2002, “Reporting Australia’s Asylum Seeker ‘Crisis’,” Media Asia, vol. 29, no. 2, pp. 71-76.

Mares, P. & Allotey, P. A. 2003. “Controlling compassion: the media, refugees and asylum seekers,” in PA Allotey (eds), The Health of Refugees: Public health perspectives from conflict to settlement, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, Australia, pp. 212-227.

Mares, P. & Mares, P. 2002, Borderline: Australia’s response to refugees and asylum seekers in the wake of the Tampa, UNSW Press, Sydney.

McMaster, D. 2002, Asylum seekers: Australia’s response to refugees, Melbourne University Press, Carlton South, Vic.

Menadue, J. 2011, Menadue: media missing the boat on asylum-seeker coverage.

NetReach Australia 2012, The Real Benefits for Asylum Seekers in Australia. Web.

Packham, B. and Wilson, L. 2012, “Asylum-seekers accused of ‘using navy like NRMA’,” The Australian. Web.

Pickering, S. 2001, “Common Sense and Original Deviancy: News Discourses and Asylum Seekers in Australia,” Journal of Refugee Studies, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 169-186.

Reiher, J. 2010, Refugee and Asylum Seekers: What is really going on out there? Political spin verses real facts. Web.

Sheehan, P. 2012, “The Sydney Morning Herald. Web.

Thom, G. 2009, : Refugees and asylum seekers. Web.

Verrinder, G. 1999, “The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion as a Framework to Design an Interview Schedule,” Australian Journal of Primary Health, vol. 5, no. 4, pp. 66 – 73.

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