Integrity 20 conference reveals Australia’s neglect toward refugees

MATTHEW WOTHERSPOON

Australia’s asylum seeker policies came under criticism at the Integrity 20 Summit last week, with guests Robert Manne, Tim Southphommasane, Penelope Matthew and Shami Chakrabarti underlining the moral obligation the Australian government has in providing support for offshore refugees.

The panel discussed Australia’s current asylum seeker policies and how it’s affecting the mental health of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island, whilst speaking about the significance of multicultural acceptance in a world with sixty million displaced people.

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Top minds gathered in Brisbane for the 3-day Integrity 20 Summit to discuss our greatest global challenges. Photo: Matthew Wotherspoon

Public intellectual and Vice-Chancellor Fellow at La Trobe University Professor Robert Manne, stated that the Australian government has a right to ensure of the welfare of refugees and asylum seekers in off-shore detention.

“There are hundreds of people whose lives are being made of misery for no reason,” Professor Manne said.

“More than 2,000 men, women and children are slowly being destroyed, because they have been marooned on Nauru and Manus Island for two years or more.

“In defending our borders, we have in fact harmed refugees, and because of that we have a responsibility to ensure of the safety of those seeking asylum.”

Professor Manne also drew upon the adverse effects of mainstream media and its influence on our perception of refugees and those living in third world conditions.

“Australia is a country where materialistic conditions are good, so there might be a sense of apathy in regards to what people in second and third world countries might be experiencing,” Professor Manne said.

“Twenty years ago, things that were considered abhorrent have now become normalised due to mainstream media.”

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The day 1 afternoon session at the Integrity 20 Summit was led by Robert Manne, and featured some of the world’s most respected public intellectuals. Photo: Matthew Wotherspoon

Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner and political philosopher, Dr Tim Southphommasane spoke about the cultural and political control present in Australia.

“I think people are scared because Australia is an island, and the idea of a large group of refugees coming here by boat has been presented negatively by the media in the past,” Dr Southphommasane said.

“The Australian government has been known to close off certain people from entering the country if are too difficult to culturally accept.”

To find out more about the 2016 conference held last week, visit the official website.

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