Peace Psychology in Australia

Part of the series Peace Psychology Book Series pp 121-137


Battling Boatloads of Prejudice: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Activism with Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia

  • Anne PedersenAffiliated withSchool of Psychology, Murdoch University Email author 
  • , Farida FozdarAffiliated withAnthropology and Sociology, The University of Western Australia
  • , Mary Anne KennyAffiliated withSchool of Law, Murdoch University

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The arrival of asylum seekers in Australia during the 1980s through to the first decade of the twenty-first century caused much controversy. A number of prejudicial false beliefs have formed around this phenomenon. This chapter discusses and counters four common false beliefs: ‘most asylum seekers arrive by boat’, ‘seeking asylum without authorisation from Australian authorities is illegal under Australian law’, ‘refugees get all sorts of government handouts’ and ‘giving temporary protection visas will stop asylum seekers coming to Australia by boat’. We note these myths are often found in political rhetoric indicating the social nature of individual attitudes. We also examine refugee advocates’ public rhetoric in challenging common false beliefs by arguing that they are ‘just like us’. While this is a useful strategy to challenge dominant discourse, it can backfire in that it implies the impossibility of social harmony based on diversity. We also examine the need for community-based action to engage with and counter prejudice and its bases. We conclude with an argument for the value of an interdisciplinary approach and the need to address both micro and macro issues within the framework of peace psychology in order to effect social change.