skip to main content

'I had to do something. I couldn't do nothing!': citizen action in support of asylum seekers in Australia 2001-2006

Gosden, Diane, Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW

2012

Check for online availability

  • Title:
    'I had to do something. I couldn't do nothing!': citizen action in support of asylum seekers in Australia 2001-2006
  • Author/Creator/Curator: Gosden, Diane, Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Subjects: Activism; Asylum Seekers; Advocacy; Citizen action; Collective action; Social Movements; Refugees
  • Resource type: Thesis
  • Type of thesis: Ph.D.
  • Date: 2012
  • Supervisor: Pittaway, Eileen, Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW; Baldry, Eileen, Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, UNSW
  • Language: English
  • Permissions: This work can be used in accordance with the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.
    Please see additional information at https://library.unsw.edu.au/copyright/for-researchers-and-creators/unsworks

  • Description: This thesis is an examination of social action opposed to particular Australian government policies. The policies concerned are those affecting people seeking asylum without authorised entry documents. The period examined is from 2001 to 2006. It is argued that the social action contributed to the achievement of shifts in public opinion and policy during this period.The context in which this local action is examined is the international system of asylum, and the responses of developed countries to flows of incoming asylum seekers. Political rhetoric has often demonised those seeking asylum, and the term 'asylum seeker' increasingly has negative connotations for many people in developed countries. At the same time, groups of people in asylum destination countries such as Australia, have also responded with support and assistance for asylum seekers. Using ethnographic methodology and drawing on theories from refugee studies, and collective action and social movement theory, this thesis explores the nature of this particular response. Interviews were conducted with more than 90 people from across Australia, who opposed government policies which criminalised and excluded asylum seekers. In contrast, these people were involved in advocacy and support. Analysis of these interviews reveals the complex interactions amongst and between asylum seekers, advocates, activists, and government. Motivations and emotions of social action are examined in the study, as are tensions over objectives and strategies, and the construction of collective experience and identity. The analysis illustrates the impact of the activism of the asylum seekers themselves upon the social action in terms of interactions, relationships and joint actions between asylum seekers and citizens. The thesis finds practical and symbolic resonances within the social action, which transcend the particularity of the Australian situation. From this, the potential for a human-to-human dimension of common humanity to build connections between privileged and excluded peoples, is theorised. Through this exploration, contributions are made to both refugee studies literature and to collective action and social movement literature. The research illustrates the impact upon both areas, of the wider structures of globalisation. Conversely, it also illustrates the way in which local action can provide innovative paths for wider social actions and visions.

Searching Remote Databases, Please Wait