Claire Higgins - Asylum by Boat - Tuesday 3rd October


In conversation with Ben Doherty


Asylum by Boat: The Origins of Australia’s Refugee Policy

In the late 1970s, 2000 Vietnamese arrived in Australia by boat, fleeing persecution. Their arrival presented a challenge to politicians, but the way the Fraser government handled it, and the resettlement of tens of thousands more Indochinese refugees, marked a turning point in Australia’s immigration history. Turn-backs and detention were proposed, and rejected.
Claire Higgins’ important book recounts these extraordinary events.

It is driven by the question of how we moved from a humanitarian approach to policies of mandatory detention − including on remote islands − and boat turn-backs. Like now, the politicians of the time wanted to control entry. Unlike now, they also wanted to respect Australia’s obligations under international law.

It’s about how governments and policy-makers have dealt with the confluence of issues emerging from the end of the ‘White Australia’ policy, a recognition of international responsibilities, and shifting public opinion. Strikingly, it also shows the extent to which the attitudes and statements of politicians and policymakers can shape the mood of the country, for better and worse. BUY THE BOOK

About Ben Doherty:


Ben Doherty is a correspondent, photographer, and video journalist, currently working as immigration correspondent for The Guardian, based in the Sydney newsroom.

He has won three Walkley Awards, Australia's highest journalism honour, most recently in 2016 for a feature on the systemic - and ultimately fatal - flaws in Australia’s immigration detention regime, and in 2013 for an investigation into Bangladeshi sweatshop labour conditions. He was 2008 Australian Young Print Journalist of the Year, and has been awarded three United Nations Association media peace prizes. 


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