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Friday, December 14, 2007

A new deal for new settlers?

Miss Eagle has been a supporter of A Just Australia since its earliest days. Those who seek justice and a better deal for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia are looking to the new Australian Government for the humanity in immigration and refugee policy which was lacking in the policies of the harsh regime that was the Howard Government.
To-day, Miss E has received the following email from AJA. Of particular interest is the advice on how to campaign against the term "illegal/s" in the media by using the Press Council decision against such usage.

The work continues
After the election, AJA staff and board have been analyzing the need for an organization like A Just Australia to continue. It is clear to us that while the sector is in a much better position to achieve positive policy change, there is still work to be done. Luckily most of that work is now advising and negotiating on policy implementation, as opposed to developing public pressure campaigns to simply get the previous government to admit that change is needed.There have already been announcements that the 7 Burmese on Nauru will be resettled in Australia before Christmas, and the 72 Sri Lankans found to be refugees may be settled shortly in the new year. Today there was also an announcement that Labor is living up to the pledge to review the 45 day rule, which prohibits some asylum seekers from working.AJA will continue to advocate for change to policy using as a guide our
10 Steps to Clean Up Our Act. We hope that most of these steps will be adopted by the new government which will achieve our objective of putting A Just Australia out of business, which is our ultimate goal!But we cannot continue without your support. Early in the new year we will be running our membership drive again. We hope that all memberships will be renewed, and we can pick up some new members and donors to continue the work towards making a more just Australia.In the meantime, happy holidays to everyone. Lets all hope that the ALP gets rid of TPVs very soon, so that refugees who have been separated from their wives, husbands or children by the previous government's policy of denying family reunion, can celebrate the festive season next year with loved ones by their side.

Where to from here?

AJA coordinated the convening of a planning meeting in Melbourne with many of the key advocacy groups and legal/health practitioners. Out of that meeting came two clear objectives:
1. The identification of 6 high priority areas of reform that were needed immediately. These were seen as righting the most grievous wrongs, such as bringing people off Nauru, conversion of TPVs and THVs to permanent visas and giving split-family reunion priority to those who had been on TPVs, removal of vulnerable people from detention and halting any imminent removals of people refused Ministerial Intervention and a review of those cases.
2. That A Just Australia and the Refugee Council of Australia were seen as the best agencies to take those matters to the Minister on behalf of the sector..A Just Australia is hard at work at preparing those policy recommendations along with other organizations.

There have already been some informal discussions with the Minister's office and we feel very positive about the direction that we see asylum seeker and refugee policy taking over the coming months. Change is not something that can happen overnight, but we feel assured that it is coming and it will be change that achieves compassionate policy creating an 'orderly migration system' that is not at the human rights expense of the world's most vulnerable people - refugees.

News from our Annual General Meeting
A Just Australia held our AGM on 10th December, Human Rights Day.There have been some changes to the board makeup:Mark Madden has stepped down from the chair, a position he held for two years. Mark worked tirelessly behind the scenes on the strategic direction of AJA, providing key policy writing and directing the fundraising efforts of our membership drive. Great thanks are extended to him from the rest of the board, as well as the staff of AJA. We would not be in the position we are today without all his efforts.Dianne Hiles has stepped up to the role of chair. Dianne is a founding member of ChilOut (Children out of Detention) and a passionate speaker on children's rights .A long term supporter of Amnesty International, Dianne was elected to the Board of A Just Australia in April 2006 and became Secretary at the last AGM.John Ball has remained as deputy chair and Ian Anderson has also remained as Treasurer. Both have made a great positive impact on AJA and will continue to do so. Sean Cleary has taken the role of Secretary, and Mary Stuart and Phil Glendenning remain as board members. Philip Adams is expected to continue but was unable to attend due to illness.The board gratefully acknowledges the work of Sarina Greco and Josh Bornstein, previous board members who resigned their positions at this year's AGM.

Complaint on use of term 'illegals'
For many years the term "illegals" has been used by both the media and the previous government to describe unauthorized entry asylum seekers. The use of such terms has contributed to the
here harmful stereotyping of asylum seekers and has had a serious negative impact on public opinion. This term is not only incorrect, but it is inflammatory and does not add any positive input to public discourse about a sensitive area of public policy.This term did fall out of use under Amanda Vanstone, but was brought back by previous Minister for Immigration, Kevin Andrews in many media statements. See here or here , just to name a few. He even uses this term in his profile on the Liberals website. The first story that we have seen attributing comments by Senator Chris Ellison makes use of the term 'illegals.' There is no direct quote by the Senator, so this may be the fault of the journalist in question. However we will be keeping a watch on any future use of this term.A Just Australia wrote to the West Australian newspaper to complain about the article, based on a Press Council ruling on the issue. We also wrote to the Press Council, as a previous letter of complaint on another article had no response. We did get an immediate response to our 2nd letter. AJA encourages any supporter who sees an article, or hears the use of the term illegals on the radio to make a similar complaint. Our vigilance will ensure that the term stops being used by the media, which will have an enormous impact on public opinion. This allows for greater room for movement towards compassionate policy reform, as there will be less voter backlash. See our letter below for ideas on how to structure your complaint.AJA notes that Mira Wroblewski was the person who went to great lengths to make the original complaint to the Press Council back in 2004. She won the ruling we can now all use to ensure accurate media reporting on this issue. Good on you Mira!

Dear Paul Armstrong,
I am writing to you to make a strong complaint about a story written on the 11th December by Rhianna King "Keep Pacific Solution: Opposition"Our concern is with the line "Senator Ellison - the former justice minister appointed as shadow immigration minister last week - urged Labor to retain the coalitions Pacific Solution, in which all illegal boat people were detained on Nauru then resettled in a third country."
Such claims made by the media are inflammatory and do not add any positive input to public discourse about a sensitive area of public policy.
I refer you to the Australian Press Council guideline No. 262:
The Australian Press Council has received complaints about the terminology that is applied, and ought to be applied, to those arriving in Australia who do not have normal immigrant credentials. Technically in Commonwealth immigration legislation they are referred to as "unlawful non-citizens". However, they are often referred to as "illegal immigrants", or even "illegals".The problem with the use of terms such as "illegal refugee" and "illegal asylum seeker" is that they are often inaccurate and may be derogatory.
The Council cautions the press to be careful in the use of such unqualified terms in reports and headlines.See also the adjudication on a complaint made to the Press Council on a similar case:
I also attach a letter of complaint we sent on 27th November re another article by Rhianna King and Nick Butterly, which contains the same problem. This letter was sent to you via email and to date we have had no response from you.I would like to know any action to intend to take both for the published articles and to ensure that these terms are not used in any future publications.
Yours sincerely
Kate Gauthier
National Coordinator

The West Australian wrote back the same day with a positive response:
Dear Kate Gauthier
RE: Use of the term "illegals" in The West Australian.
Your letter has been referred to me by the editor Paul Armstrong for response.The reporter who wrote both stories, Rhianna King, has now been counselled about the misuse of the term "illegals" in her reports.An internal message has also been sent to all reporting and sub-editing staff on the newspaper urging caution about the use of the term and referring them to our long-standing style point. The message states:Please exercise caution with the terms "illegals", "illegal boat people", "illegal asylum seekers", "illegal refugees", "illegal detainees" etc. In most cases the word "illegal" is not appropriate, is inaccurate and can be seen as us using derogatory language.Our style is quite clear yet this has happened twice in the last month.
Our style is:
illegals - do not use when referring to detainees or asylum seekers.
Australian Press Council has even issued a guideline on the matter (Number 262), in which they caution newspapers "to be careful in the use of such unqualified terms in reports and headlines".
Yours sincerely

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