Dreaming Australia: Exploring the asylum seeker dilemma.
Unit/Learning Sequence Overview
Exploring the asylum seeker dilemma.
This unit explores values and human rights’ issues associated with Australia’s position on refugees, represented in contemporary texts such as the novel Dreaming Australia. This unit could be studied within the broader context of the Tasmanian Essential Learnings learning sequences Whose values do you value? and Why can’t I live where I like? http://ltag.education.tas.gov.au/
Year Level/s Focus Essential
Social responsibility (valuing diversity)
Key element: Understands the interdependence of our world, values its diversity and acts for a more inclusive society
Thinking (inquiry and reflective thinking)
Communicating (being literate)
Unit-Long Understanding Goals
Students will understand
issues associated with Australia’s position on refugees.
that language is not neutral and texts are constructed to reflect opinions and points of view.
Students should have prior knowledge and understanding of Australia’s immigration policy. This can be developed through selected performances from Why can’t I live where I live? http://www.ltag.education.tas.gov.au/planning/unitsamples/default.htm#sample%20units
that meet the needs and interests of the students.
To ensure prior knowledge, ask students to undertake a jigsaw activity, accessing the following sites for information:
Australian Government Fact Sheet: Seeking Asylum within Australia
Children in detention: Human rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
The United Nations Refugee Agency
‘Refugee Children’ magazine (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) – case studies
Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission: Asylum Seekershttp://www.humanrights.gov.au/human_rights/asylum_seekers/index.html
Using the above sources, ask students to add information to graffiti sheets, responding to the following questions:
What are their experiences when they reach Australia?
Share the graffiti sheet information and have students pose further questions.
Have students research and develop a timeline entitled ‘Asylum in Australia’ tracing the history of the refugee influx into Australia. Use a jigsaw activity, with groups of students contributing to the timeline and presenting their findings to the class.
Students review the graffiti sheets and add new relevant information and findings.
Guided Inquiry Performances
Use the teaching strategy Possible Sentences (Kath Murdoch, 1998) to tune students in before viewing the video Australia’s Refugee Dilemma (book at http://www.education.tas.gov.au/delic/mediacat/)
Give students a list of words that are used in the video (suggested words include: visa, religion, political, fled, brutal, freedom, protection, documents, requirements, organized criminals, temporary, smuggling).
Have students suggest a sentence that contains one of the words and which, considering the title of the video and the focus of the inquiry, might be included in the video.
Students can use think-pair-sharegl or can individually write possible sentences in their learning logs and then share the sentences with others. This strategy draws on prior learning and encourages prediction and inference.
View the video
Have students view the video: Australia’s Refugee Dilemma, 2002 update (available from the Media Catalogue / State Library, Tasmania).
Have them record notes from the video in their learning log.
Ask them to reflect on the predicted sentences – did their responses reflect the context in which these words were used in the video?
Have students participate in a group discussion. Ask:
“How and why has the Australian government changed immigration laws to stop refugees from entering Australia without approval from the government?”
(This activity is from the Learning Teaching and Assessment Guide) http://www.ltag.education.tas.gov.au/
Have students look at the pictures and slides of Afghanistan http://www.worldvision.com.au/resources/teachers/files/Afghanistan%20slideshow.ppt
as a tuning in activity for the novel. Have them discuss what the pictures tell them about Afghanistan, why people have become refugees and report back to the class.
Ask students to read the article Who are the Taliban? and Islam (attached page 10)
and ask questions of a panel or complete the attached crosswords:
Afghanistan and the Taliban and Islam (attached pages 12 &15)
Ask students to read the novel Dreaming Australia by Steve Tolbert. Use the focus questions attached to promote group discussion.
Have students write a diary entry for Soraya after Annie returns her to Woomera, and for Annie after she returns Soraya to Woomera. Arguments both for detaining asylum seekers and for helping them should be included in the students’ entries.
Provide opportunities for students to reflect upon values and human rights by undertaking performances from Whose Value do you value? http://ltag.education.tas.gov.au/planning/unitsamples/default.htm#sample%20units
Ask students to develop a concept map that reflects Soraya’s values.
Read the extract from the Wayne Crawford article (THE MERCURY, 25December, 2004) attached.
Reproduced with permission from the Mercury.
Construct a Venn Diagram using terminology that describes refugees in favourable, neutral and unfavourable terms from the range of texts you have read plus others available from the resource list.
Ask students to consider Steve Tolbert’s aim in writing the novel and the purpose of Wayne Crawford’s article. Contrast these views with the text materials they read from the government website in an earlier activity.
Invite students to negotiate challenging culminating performances that may include one of those listed.
1 Simulation Divide the class into four specialist groups and have them respond to the focus questions.
Specialist group 1 – Legal Considerations
Specialist group 2 – Immigration considerations
Specialist group 3 – Host population considerations
Specialist group 4 – Psychological and social considerations
Specialist group 1. Key question: Is Soraya a refugee?
You are lawyers working part-time at the Woomera Detention Centre. Your job is to examine the relevant pieces of international and Australian law to determine whether Soraya can be considered a refugee, and whether the Australian government should grant her protection.
Issues to consider:
Use the internet to read and study the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Which articles in the Declaration are relevant to refugees? What are Australia’s responsibilities to refugees, given that we are a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Consider the definition of a refugee. What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant?
Consider Australia’s stance on refugees. Should the Australian government recognise Soraya as a refugee? Why? If the Australian government offers Soraya refugee status, what are its obligations to her under international law?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 1A of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees
Australia’s refugee policy
Specialist group 2. Key question: Should people like Soraya be allowed to enter Australia?
You are immigration officials in the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs. You must determine what the government’s response to Soraya should be given our current migration policy.
Issues to consider:
Consider the debate about Australia’s optimum population. What are some of the constraints limiting Australia’s migration intake? What are some of the benefits from migration?
Consider Australia’s immigration policy. Who is allowed to enter Australia and on what basis? Would there be consequences on Australia’s overall immigration program if people like Soraya were allowed to stay?
Consider Australia’s response to other situations of migration. How has Australia responded to some recent migration situations (for example: Vietnamese, Cambodian and Chinese boat people arrivals, refugees from Kosovo and Sudan)?
Australia’s immigration history and current policy
Collection of articles of recent migration situations
Specialist group 3. Key question: Where do you recommend the detention centre be located?
You are a group of local residents. You are concerned about where the Woomera Detention Centre is located, and you’re preparing a recommendation to the government about your preferred detention centre site.
Issues to consider:
Consider the existing land use in the area. What are possible concerns held by groups in the local population?
Are there security considerations in determining where to re-locate the detention centre?
Are there economic advantages from where the Woomera Detention Centre is located? (for example – Does it attract tourist / curiosity seekers?) Are there disadvantages? How can these be maximised or minimised?
Consider possible social tensions between the local population and the asylum seeker detainees. How might these be dealt with?
Collection of newspaper articles on Australia’s detention centres and their social and economic impacts on the local populations.
Copy of UNHCR’s guidelines on asylum seekers’ rights
Specialist group 4. Key question: What considerations need to be made to accommodate asylum seeker detainees?
You are a group of social workers who will be working with asylum seeker detainees like Soraya when they arrive at the detention centre. Your job is to determine what their needs will be and how best to assist them.
Issues to consider:
Consider some of the psychological effects of becoming a detainee. Will the detainees require special services to help them deal with these psychological effects?
What are the potential consequences of living in a detention centre for an extended period of time? How can these be minimised?
Consider what the detainees will do while in a detention centre. What services should be available to them? What sort of educational facilities are required? What sort of entertainment facilities are required? Should they be allowed to work?
Copies of articles in Refugee magazines.
Copy of articles about the importance of play for children coping with trauma
Copy of articles about psychological and social problems faced by detainees in Australian detention centres.
2 Write a letter to the Prime Minister either supporting or opposing the use of detention centres to house asylum seekers.
3 Debate the proposition that Placing asylum seekers in detention centres is right.
4 Interview a refugee either face to face or online. Find out why they came to Australia and ask them about their experiences. Find out what their life was like before becoming a refugee and what are their dreams today. Find out what you have in common.
The AEF’s Australian Educator, No. 44, Summer 2004 magazine has a very informative article in its INSIGHT/REFUGEES section. The article, by freelance journalist Angela Rossmanith, is entitled NEWS FRONT – Refugees and other difficult issues in the news can be the catalyst to “teachable moments”.
The documentary Molly and Mobarak is about a young Afghan refugee who, unlike Soraya, does manage to get a temporary protection visa and settles in Young, NSW. It is available on video from Ronin films at: www.roninfilms.com.au
Australian Teachers of Media has produced a classroom study guide for the documentary. It can be downloaded at their website – www.metromagazine.com.au
World Vision’s War and Refugees resource and Frontline Connection contains twenty stories of children affected by conflict around the world. It can be found at: www.worldvision.com.au/resources/
World Vision has a comprehensive War and Refugees package available for student study. See - www.worldvision.com.au/resources/globaleducation
Children in detention: Human rights and Equal Opportunities Commission
(adapted from Laura Hayes’ article – see http://print.infoplease.com/spot/taliban.html)
Who Are the Taliban? Afghanistan’s ruling faction, 1996 – 2001 The Taliban (“Students of Islamic Knowledge Movement”) came to power during Afghanistan’s long civil war. However, their policies – including their treatment of women and support of terrorists – ostracized them from the world community. They were ousted from power in December, 2001 by the American military and Afghan opposition forces in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the U. S.
The Taliban’s rise to power
The Taliban are one of the mujahideen (“Islamic fighters” or “holy warriors” or “freedom fighters”) groups that formed during the war against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan from 1979 – 1989. After the withdrawal of Soviet forces, the Soviet-backed government lost territory to the mujahideen. In 1992 Kabul was captured and an alliance of mujahideen organised a new government. However various factions were unable to cooperate and started fighting each other. The fighting reduced Afghanistan to a collection of territories held by competing warlords.
In late 1994, groups of well-trained Taliban took control of Kandahar, a major city in the south. They then advanced north and in September, 1996, captured the capital of Kabul.
Afghanistan under the Taliban
Many Afghans, weary of war, were relieved to see corrupt and often brutal warlords replaced by the devout Taliban, who brought about order through the implementation of a very strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law. But the relief was short-lived. Public executions and punishments (such as floggings) became regular events at Afghan soccer stadiums. Frivolous activities, like kite-flying, were banned. In order to root out ‘evil western influences’, television, music and the internet were banned as well. Men were required to wear beards, and subject to beatings if they didn’t.
Most shocking to the West was the Taliban’s treatment of women. When the Taliban – influenced by semi-literate religious leaders called mullahs – took over Kabul, they immediately forbade girls to go to school. Moreover, women were barred from working outside the home and leaving their home without a burqa on and a male relative (a mahram) by their side. Those who did were beaten, or even shot, by officers of the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. Women who were caught wearing fingernail polish could have their fingertips chopped off. All these measures, according to the Taliban, were instigated to safeguard women and their honour.
Although the Taliban managed to re-unite Afghanistan up to the northern city of Mazar e-Sharif, they were unable to end the civil war. Nor did they improve the living conditions in the devastated cities, where access to food, clean water and employment declined during their rule. A continuing drought and a very harsh winter in 2000-2001 brought famine and increased the flow of refugees over mountains to Pakistan, where huge numbers lived in camps on the border.
Afghanistan’s civil war continued on until the end of 2001. The Taliban’s strongest opposition can from the Northern Alliance, which held the northeast corner of the country (about 10% of Afghanistan). The Northern Alliance was made up of numerous anti-Taliban factions, including Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and Turkmen.
Although the Taliban called for a negotiated end to the civil war, they continued to mount new military offensives. In September, 2001, the leader of the Northern Alliance, Commander Ahmad Sah Massoud, died from wounds suffered in a suicide bombing, allegedly carried out by al-Qaeda, a terrorist organisation with close ties to the Taliban.
The Taliban against the world
From 1994 to at least 2001, the Taliban allowed terrorist organisations to run training
camps in their territory and provided refuge for Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda organisation. This led to the international world condemning the Taliban government for its policies. By 2001, only Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates recognised the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government. After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the U. S., Saudia Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut their diplomatic ties with the Taliban.
The end of Taliban rule in Afghanistan
In September, 2001, the U. S placed significant pressure on the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and members of al-Qaeda. After the Taliban refused to do that, the U. S. began attacking Taliban military sites and aiding the Northern Alliance. On November 21, the Taliban abandoned Kabul and by early December they were completely routed.
The future of the Taliban is unclear. While many of its radical leaders and supporters were killed, taken prisoner, or fled the country, many are still fighting from mountain retreats along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
Now complete the Afghanistan and the Taliban crossword.
Afghanistan and the Taliban
3. Islamic fighters
4. inexperienced leaders
5. where Moslems worship
10. leader of AlQaeda
11. Afghanistan has many of these
12. men were required to grow them
13. a form of Taliban punishment
1. strict Islamic law
2. had to wear burqas outside
3. city in northern Afghanistan
6. they control areas of Afghanistan
7. Afghanistan's capital
9. lived in camps on Pakistani border
ISLAM Supreme Being
There is only one God called Allah.
Muhammad became his prophet or messenger.
Qur’an (Koran). Includes the Psalms of David, the Torah and the Gospels from the Old Testament.
When ?About 600 AD
Where? Saudi Arabia
Who ? The Prophet Muhammad
Islam is a complete way of life. The word ‘Islam’ means submission to the will of Allah. Murmured in the ear of a newborn child and into the ear of the dying is, “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
The Five Pillars of Islam: 1/ Faith in God; 2/ Praying five times daily; 3/ Giving of alms (money, goods or property) that amounts to two and a half per cent of a Muslim’s annual income to the poor; 4/ Fasting through the month of Ramadan; 5/ If you are well, to go on a pilgrimage (or hajj mabruk – the blessed pilgrimage) to Mecca, Saudi Arabia at least once in your life.
Allah is the one and only God and only Allah is to be worshipped. Muhammad is the last in a line of God’s messengers beginning with Adam and including Abraham, Noah, Moses and Jesus.
Muslims believe that angels take part in special missions. On the day of Judgement, God will decide on how well you have lived your life and you will go to heaven or hell.
Muslims believe that people of born free of sin. Sins can be forgiven. All people are created equal in front of God.
Some food and drink – like pork, alcohol and drugs – are not permitted.
Place of Worship
A Mosque. The main part of the mosque is a prayer hall. There is no furniture, only mats and carpets to pray on. On one wall there is a platform which shows the direction of the Ka’aba, the ancient shrine in Mecca. There are no pictures of Allah or Muhammad or even animals in the mosque. Instead, the walls and ceilings are decorated with beautiful patterns and writing.
How. Muslims can go to the mosque at any time, but midday on Friday is the most important time. They show respect by dressing so that their clothes cover their bodies from the neck to the ankles. Before going into a mosque, take off your shoes, then wash carefully in a special sequence.
Prayer. Muslims pray five times a day. In cities, speakers carry the call to prayer from the mosques. Muslims kneel, face towards the Ka’aba in Mecca and pray. There are ten different praying positions. Men and women pray separately.
Now complete the Islam crossword.
4. an early prophet
6. Allah's messenger on earth
8. five times a day
9. or hell
1. a place of worship
2. fasting time
3. the Islamic bible
5. country where Islam started
7. the place where Islamic pilgrims go
FOCUS QUESTIONS – DREAMING AUSTRALIA Chapter 1 – Read the Who are the Taliban? section in your introductory material. In this chapter we learn a lot about restrictions in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan: for example, the requirement that women must be accompanied by a ‘mahram’ if they leave the house. What other Taliban laws and restrictions are mentioned in this chapter? It’s obvious that one law is being broken right from the start. Which law is it?
Chapter 2 – What do you think a ‘sky demon’ is? Whose sky demons would they be?
Chapter 3 – Describe Soraya’s relationship with her father, brother and auntie.
Chapter 4 – We learn a lot about the sad state of Afghanistan in this chapter. What hardships are people having to endure in the country?
Chapter 5 & 6 – We meet Muhammed here. He will have a major role in Soraya’s life. What do we learn about him? You may like to draw a comparison between him and the Taliban. In your opinion, why does Soraya become hysterical when she witnesses the helicopter attack on a village?
Chapter 7 – For the first time, Soraya allows herself to daydream about life in Australia. Is she being realistic, or are her daydreams filled with fantasy? Why?
Chapter 8 – Muhammed and Zahir have certain things in common. What are they?
Chapter 9 – [definition of jihad – a religious war between Muslims and non-believers] How did people in the refugee camp respond to the call for jihad? What do we learn about Hazaras in Afghanistan?
Chapter 10 – Describe Pervez Lateef. What do you think Muhammed might mean when he says, ‘Towards God is the journeying, Soraya’.
Chapter 11 – List a few words that would describe Soraya’s mood in this chapter.
Chapter 12 – Elham and Salar sharply contrast Rasoul Khan. Explain.
Chapter 13 – Boat people coming into Australia have always had to face great danger and discomfort. Give some specific examples from this chapter.
Chapter 14 – This is the most controversial chapter in the story. It attempts to show what life is like for some detainees in the Woomera Detention Centre. But does the Australian government have any other option but to put people who illegally enter this country into detention centres?
Chapter 15 – Should the Adelaide University students have done what they did? Why or why not?
Chapter 16 – Strangely, despite her physical suffering, Soraya feels that the time she spends wandering in the desert are her best days in Australia. Why does she feel way?
Chapter 17 – What conflicts does Soraya feel in the back seat of the car?
Chapter 18 – From what Annie from Marree had read in the newspapers, why could it be argued that she did the right thing in transporting Soraya back to the Woomera Detention Centre?
Chapter 19 – What conflicts might Mike the lawyer be feeling in his meeting with Soraya?
Chapter 20 – In your opinion, what does Soraya mean in the last line of the story?
The Mercury, Edition 1 - SAT 25 DEC 2004, Page 011
Screened off by tortured words
By: WAYNE CRAWFORD
IT'S surprising that the Federal Government, even with its twisted sense of timing, should choose the week before Christmas to send its Immigration Department heavies in to hustle the hapless Bakhtiyari family out of their warm beds and off to a detention centre in South Australia.
One of the Adelaide priests who had befriended the family noted that, like the Bakhtiyaris, the central figures in the Christmas story -- Joseph, Mary and Jesus -- were a refugee family on the run from authorities.
Especially at Christmastide, one might expect compassion from a Government which takes pride in its Christian principles -- but not so.
The fact is that under the present policy, if Jesus had come to Australia in a leaky boat, he would have been either turned away by a naval gunboat or -- if he'd managed to make it through the migration zone -- locked away in the desert behind razor wire.
The Government message is that we should not have any sympathy for the Bakhtiyaris and their ilk who are ``illegals'' and that they had a cheek seeking refuge here in the first place.
Ali and Roqia Bakhtiyari and their six children face deportation to Pakistan after failing in four years of legal attempts to gain refugee status. When Ali Bakhtiyari arrived in Australia in January 1999 he was granted a visa as a Hazara Afghan refugee -- but after his wife and children turned up a year later the visa was cancelled, the Government claiming the family were really from Pakistan.
The Bakhtiyari case has been high-profile since two of the boys (now aged 15 and 13) escaped from the Woomera Detention Centre in 2002 and sought asylum at the British consulate in Melbourne, claiming they had been treated inhumanely by Australian migration authorities. That got them nowhere and, until last weekend, the mother and children had been living in a Centacare home in Adelaide (and settling in to the local community with the kids attending school) while the father was held in South Australia's Baxter Detention Centre -- that was until 7am last Saturday when the mother and children were removed suddenly and taken by Immigration officials to housing at Port Augusta, ostensibly so they were closer to their father (but more likely, it seems, to prepare them for deportation).
The desperate argument and court hearings have gone on for years, with Mr Bakhtiyari trying to draw a map from memory to show where their remote village is and Mrs Bakhtiyari trying to identify tribal food recipes to demonstrate her Afghan background. Without birth certificates or passports it's all a bit difficult to prove one way or the other and the Government refuses to give them the benefit of the doubt -- even though the Afghan embassy in Canberra joined the debate this week, producing fresh evidence about their links with a local community in Afghanistan.
Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone is adamant, however, the Bakhtiyaris have been given a ``fair go'' in Australia -- a peculiar way to describe 32 months behind razor wire -- but are not really refugees. The implication is that it's time for them to just accept their fate and go back to Pakistan or Afghanistan or . . . wherever they come from.
It's paradoxical at a time when God and religion have been playing such a prominent role in politics that clearly desperate people -- who have broken no law and done nothing wrong except sell up everything and risk a perilous and terrifying journey to what they had thought was a better, kinder and more humane country -- are treated like criminals at the behest of politicians who claim to take their faith and religion so seriously.
Prime Minister John Howard even formed a close alliance with the church-based Family First party during the last election campaign, because it seemed at the time the party might win the balance of power in the Senate.
When interviewed about his beliefs on the ABC Television religious program Compass this year, Howard expressed his ``very strong belief'' in the country's Judeo-Christian ethic and in the ``centrality of the family''.
Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, who proclaims himself a staunch Christian, said on the same program he prayed ``regularly, especially when I know there's something troublesome or difficult or dangerous coming up'' and described the Christian message as having an ``incredible ring of truth about it''; and Treasurer and Deputy Liberal Leader Peter Costello, addressing the big Sydney evangelical church Hillsong, declared: ``We need a return to faith and the values which made our country strong.''
IT'S a mystery how these professed strong beliefs in the teachings of the founder of the Christian church -- which urge that strangers be loved, welcomed, taken in and treated as if they were our brothers and sisters -- can justify the sort of treatment which has been meted out to people like the Bakhtiyaris.
The years behind razor wire; the detention, without trial and for no crime, for indefinite and interminable periods with no promise of release, ever; the degrading treatment in which detainees are dehumanised and identified by numbers, rather than by name.
It is never explained how this can possibly be in accord with Jesus's teachings of love, care and concern for one's neighbour. If Australia is, as politicians constantly remind us, the luckiest country on Earth, do we not have an obligation, according to Christian teachings, to generously share our good fortune, rather than selfishly treat our neighbours with suspicion.
Political leaders have made a career of justifying their actions by rationalising them with jargon and double-speak.
In his new book Word Watching: Field notes from an amateur philologist (Scribe Publishing), Julian Burnside, a Queen's Counsel, human rights advocate and outspoken critic of the Government's treatment of asylum seekers, says the Government's use of words like ``illegals'' has a deliberate purpose -- ``No doubt it seems less offensive to lock up `illegals' than to lock up innocent traumatised human beings''.
``They are disparaged as `queue-jumpers': a neat device that falsely suggests two things. First, that there is a queue and, second, that it is in some way appropriate to stand in line when your life is at risk,'' he writes.
The double-speak does not end there. The electric fences behind which they are locked are ``energised fences''; the alarming procedure of forcible deportation of the ``detainee'' (double-speak for prisoner), usually in the dead of night, is sanitised as ``an extraction''; and if detainees are driven to desperate extremes of suicide or self-harm, it is disparaged as ``inappropriate behaviour'', which Attorney-General and former immigration minister Philip Ruddock has often claimed is designed to ``manipulate the Government'' or ``achieve a particular outcome''.
Thus, Burnside writes: ``By that double-speak, the victim becomes the offender.''
Once a politician, even a devoutly religious one, is able to define troublesome individuals as offenders, it becomes easier to justify the means used to achieve the objective of removing them to protect the nation from those regarded as ``others'' and as different from us . . . to keep out the sort of people we don't want here.
By this skilful use of double-speak, political leaders manage to keep a clear conscience while developing a far stronger and more sincere belief in their own propaganda than in the teachings of the one whose birth we celebrate today.
Caption: 1) FACING DEPORTATION: Ali Bakhtiyari holds photographs of
his children. 2) AMANDA VANSTONE: The Bakhtiyaris have been given a fair go