School project: Australia’s refugee policy and human rights

School project: Australia’s refugee policy and human rights

This project is primarily for years 9-12. It helps students learn:

  • About Australia’s refugee policy as it is implemented
  • About the difference between human rights rhetoric and human rights practice
  • About decoding the language of politicians

Tips for writing to federal politicians:

  • Ask just two questions: keep the letter short; do not make speeches or offer opinions.
  • A sample letter is attached. Just insert your chosen questions.
  • You are likely to get a wordy or evasive answer. Read it carefully. If it does not actually answer your questions, write again pointing out politely that they have not answered the questions. Repeat the question and ask for an answer. Repeat this process as often as necessary.
  • If you get an answer, write asking two more questions and repeat above process. A sample is attached.
  • Remain polite and keep letters brief. This makes evasion all the more evident. Remember, repeated refusal to answer simple questions carries its own story.
  • Keep copies of all letters: yours and theirs. Once you have completed set of correspondence with a particular parliamentarian, feel free to send copies to Julian Burnside at 205 William St Melbourne, 3000.
  • Summarise the results of your correspondence: Pro forma summary of responses here

Finding federal parliamentarians’ addresses for correspondence

  • House of Representatives and Senate:

http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Guidelines_for_Contacting_Senators_and_Members

For information about refugee issues generally, see:

 

NOTE: since this kit was first devised, Senator Vanstone (Minister for Immigration) has placed on her website a copy of the letters below, and responses to those questions.

Unfortunately, the responses do not answer the questions in some vital respects. To understand more about this, click here. When you have read this, you might like to write to Senator Vanstone.

Other coalition parliamentarians are now responding to letters by referring people to Senator Vanstone’s site. Result: you don’t learn anything.

If the parliamentarians you write to do that, it seems reasonable to write back pointing out that you asked for their view, not Senator Vanstone’s.

So, here are the questions.

Questions:

  1. Do you believe it is right to imprison innocent children?
  2. Do you believe it is right to imprison innocent women?
  3. Do you believe it is right to imprison innocent people?
  4. Should asylum seekers in Australia be treated:
    a)   humanely?
    b)  decently?
    c)  fairly?
  5. In your opinion, are asylum seekers in Australia treated:
    a)   humanely?
    b)  decently?
    c)  fairly?
  6. Do you consider that people who arrive in Australia informally and seek asylum should be called “illegals”?
  7. Do you believe that people commit an offence by arriving in Australia without permission and seeking asylum? If Yes, what offence do they commit?
  8. Do you believe that people who arrive in Australia informally and seek asylum should be detained?
  9. Do you believe that people who arrive in Australia informally and seek asylum should be detained indefinitely?
  10. Do you believe that Courts should be denied the power to order
    the release on bail of people who arrive in Australia informally and seek asylum and who are detained?
  11. Do you believe the Refugee Review Tribunal should be legally required
    to determine cases fairly?
  12. Do you believe Courts should be prevented from overturning
    unfair decisions of the Refugee Review Tribunal?
  13. Do you believe Australia’s policy of indefinite mandatory detention of asylum seekers is:
    a)  necessary?
    b)  humane?
    c)  decent?
    d)  fair?

 

Initial letter.

Dear

I am a Year ___ student at ____________ school.

I am doing a project on Australia’s refugee policy and human rights.

I have a question: {insert chosen question}

I would be grateful for your response.

Yours faithfully,

__________________________[name]

__________________________[address]

 

 

follow up letter.

Thank you for your letter of ________________ [date].

Unfortunately, it did not answer my question.

My question was: {insert original question}

I would be grateful if you could answer it.

Yours faithfully,

__________________________[name]

__________________________[address]

 

 

 

Summary of responses received by ________________________________________ [your name]

Question No. Parliamentarian name Answered Yes Answered No Did not answer question Did not respond to letter