The calm in the storm: New book offers hope for an improved refugee and asylum seeker policy

Equity in Education book

Amidst the boat tragedies, impassioned community debates and political point-scoring, a new book provides an informed, balanced perspective on the real issues that should inform Australia's asylum-seeker policy.

Refugee and Immigrant Students: Achieving Equity in Education was edited by Associate Professor Florence McCarthy and Professor Margaret Vickers from the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney.

Professor Vickers says the focus of the book is on educational equity issues affecting immigrants and refugees around the world, with each chapter providing a new dialogue on issues that are pertinent to the asylum seeker debate.

"Each year Australia accepts over 13,000 refugees through its humanitarian resettlement program and 3,000 more attempt to 'illegally' arrive on our shores by boat," says Professor Vickers.

"By focusing on protecting our borders from this fairly low number of refugees, we are forgetting about the 43 million displaced human beings out there in the world today who live in appalling conditions with few options for achieving security or meaningful futures."

Associate Professor McCarthy says Australian policy makers should take a broader view of the refugee problem, discuss its root causes, and consider measures that are likely to make a real, global difference.

"Where the issue needs to be tackled is in the transit countries, in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, where 98 percent of the world's refugees are living in refugee camps," says Associate Professor McCarthy.

"These people need more than just food and shelter, they need to be trained, educated and equipped for the world beyond the camps. If we can offer these displaced people an education, we can prepare them to take advantage of the opportunities that life may present."

Refugee and Immigrant Students: Achieving Equity in Education, published by Information Age Publishing, brings together scholars and practitioners from seven countries to provide informed and detailed analyses of migrant and refugee issues concerning 13 nations.

Rather than presenting a broad philanthropic goal, the book delves into refugee and immigrant experience and provides a detailed strategy for the global provision of education to refugees across many contrasting situations.

The chapters of the book highlight educational approaches that build from experiential knowledge; consider the complexities of multiple languages and group identity; and promote a coordinated approach through liaison with community agencies.

According to Professor Vickers, what sets this book apart is its approach of viewing cultural differences of migrants and refugees as educational strengths.

"It's all too common to place blame and victimise individuals for their refugee status, and to consider them as a group to be a burden on society," she says.

"These people are survivors with a high cultural capital and the potential to make significant positive contributions to society. It would be much more helpful and practical if these strengths were recognised and valued."

Refugee and Immigrant Students: Achieving Equity in Education will be launched on Friday 24th August at the UWS Bankstown campus. The launch event will feature a discussion of the book by Professor Raewyn Connell, Sydney University.

WHAT: Launch of 'Refugee and Immigrant Students' book
WHEN: 1pm, Friday 24th August 2012
WHERE: 3.G.55, UWS Bankstown campus, Bullecourt Avenue, Milperra


10 August 2012

Contact: Danielle Roddick, Senior Media Officer