Author(s): Claire Higgins
In the late 1970s, just over 2000 Vietnamese arrived in Australia by boat, fleeing war and oppression. This influx of people, and the way the Fraser government handled it, marked not only the real end of the White Australia Policy as tests for entry were no longer based on race, it presented major challenges to politicians. Driven by a humanitarian commitment to refugees, resettlement became central to the new immigration policy, a social experiment that worked. 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 the spirit of the international conventions we are signatory to. It's about how governments and policy-makers have dealt with the confluence of issues emerging from white Australia, international law, the rise in the number of refugees and shifting public opinion. Strikingly, it also shows the extent to which the attitudes and statements of politicians and policy-makers determine the mood of the country, for better and worse.
Dr Claire Higgins is an historian and a senior research associate at the Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law at UNSW. Claire is a Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar, and previously completed doctoral study in History as a Clarendon Scholar at Merton College, the University of Oxford, writing on the development of Australian refugee policy. At the Kaldor Centre, Claire's research concerns refugee status determination in historical context, and alternative policies for processing asylum seekers.
Introduction1. The Story2. Refugee Status3. Resettlement4. First Asylum5. Reception6. DetentionConclusion - How we got hereIndex