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Seeking Asylum in Australia:
Experiences and Policies


Three images of the sinking of the asylum boat SIEV X by Kate Durham
Image: Three panels from the SIEV X artwork collection by Kate Durham - see

Compiled by Susan Aykut and Jessie Taylor

The papers of the 2005 Monash University Conference Seeking Asylum in Australia: 1995-2005 are copied to this website with permission of the compilers (June 2007). Previously published by The Institute for Public History, The Australian Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilization and Monash University (ISBN 0-9757387-3-9). Downloadable from this website through the PDF file below.

  • Seeking Asylum in Australia: 1995-2005, Experiences and Policies - Compiled by Susan Aykut and Jessie Taylor and presented at the Monash Conference with the same title. The Institute for Public History, The Australian Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilization and Monash University [ISBN 0-9757387-3-9] (PDF File 1.62 Mb)


The publication of these twelve papers from the Monash University Conference Seeking Asylum in Australia 1995-2005: Experiences and Policies could not be more timely.

The conference itself was held over the last weekend in November 2005 - a fleeting moment of peace and quiet in the recent history of Australia's refugee policy, during which the harshest aspects of the law had been relaxed. Following the scandals of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Alvarez Solon, and Petro Georgiou's Private Members Bill in 2005, the Howard Government had softened its line. It had quietly admitted that it was not morally sustainable to detain children, and it had rolled back the 'Pacific Solution' to the point of mothballing the offshore detention facilities.

These papers are locked in time at the moment of the conference. In late November 2005, the greatest obstacles to be conquered by refugee advocates, activists, lobbyers and interested members of the legal fraternity were the harsh conditions of Bridging Visa E, and the ongoing sagas of the two young Iraqi men left on Nauru, and the remaining ninety-something asylum seekers being detained at Australia's behest on the Indonesian island of Lombok since 2001. These were the dregs, the rough edges, the hangover of a policy left in tatters by criticism, ridicule and loss of face.

However, as these papers come to publication in August 2006, the Howard Government has tabled the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill, taking a violently retrograde step, thrusting Australia's refugee policy back by years, into the darkest recesses of the post-Tampa, post-September 11 era, from the 'change of culture' and 'softer approach to asylum seekers' to the attitude of 'sending a strong message to people smugglers' and other extremely harsh ideas that resulted in the 2001 Howard election victory.

We stand on the edge of a precipice. Based on the decisions made at Parliament House in the next few weeks, Australia may be about to enter a phase of its history that will cause immeasurable additional hardship to asylum seekers, and a great deal of shame to the present generation.

This collection of papers is a retrospective of the past decade as a phase in Australia's immigration history. We can only hope that the reflections, observations and lessons found herein will inform the future direction of Australia's immigration policy, tending towards alignment with international obligations, and a domestic policy characterised by strength, compassion and integrity.

Jessie Taylor

Relevant Publications and Websites

Julian Burnside. Wordwatching, field notes from an amateur philologist. Scribe Publications, 2004.

Julian Burnside, ed. From Nothing to Zero: Letters from Australia's Detention Centres. Lonely Planet, 2003.

Simon Bronitt and Bernadette McSherry. Principles of Criminal Law. 2nd edition. Sydney: Thomson LBC, 2005.

Michael Clyne. Australia's Language Potential. UNSW Press, September 2005.

David Corlett. Following Them Home: The Fate of the Returned Asylum Seekers. Black Inc, 2005.

Michael Gordon. Freeing Ali: The Human Face of the Pacific Solution. UNSW Press, September 2005.

Ida Kaplan. Rebuilding Shattered Lives. Parkville, Victoria: Victorian Foundation for Survivors ofTorture Inc., 1998.

Ida Kaplan and K. Webster. 'Refugee Women and Settlement: Gender and Mental Health', in P. Allotey, ed. The Health of Refugees: Public Health Perspectives from Crisis to Settlement. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 2003. 104-122.

Susan Kneebone. 'Before the High Court: Ruddock and Others v Taylor'. Sydney Law Review 27, no.1 (2005): 143-166.

-----. 'The Right to Seek and Enjoy Asylum? The Pacific, Mediterranean and Caribbean Plans Compared'. In International Journal of Refugee Law (forthcoming).

Susan Kneebone, ed. The Refugees Convention 50 Years On: Globalisation and International Law. Ashgate, 2003.

Bernadette McSherry. Australian Criminal Laws: Critical Perspectives. (with Dr B Naylor). Sydney: Oxford, 2004.

Klaus Neumann. Refuge Australia: Australia's Humanitarian Record. UNSW Press, 2004.

Arnold Zable. The Fig Tree. Text Publishing, 2002.

-----. Scraps of Heaven. Text Publishing, 2004.

Spencer Zifcak. Globalisation and the Rule of Law. Routledge, 2005.

-----. Mr Ruddock goes to Geneva. UNSW Press, 2003.

The URLs for some websites cited in the text have changed:

<> is now at:

Oxfam publications previously at <> include the following:

The URLs for several government websites have been updated:

<> and <> are now at:

<> is now at:

See also DIMIA's response to allegations raised by witnesses in the Senate Inquiry into the operation of the migration Act. Available as word and pdf versions at:

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