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This issue discusses mental health and may bring up topics that can cause mental distress. If you or anyone you know needs assistance, please call Lifeline on 131114, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or 000 for immediate help.


Australia’s complex history of migration

Australia has a long history of migration that dates back to its First Indigenous Nations. The treatment of migrants has been complex and ever-evolving, from European settlement in the late 18th century to the White Australia policy and rather harsh policies in recent years. Since World War II and after Australia became a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention in the 1950s, the country has accepted refugees from conflict zones and persecution through its humanitarian settlement program.

The first and second waves of migration between the 1970s and 1990s were met with relatively flexible policies, and most refugees were allowed to settle in Australia. More people from other parts of the world started seeking asylum in Australia from the 1990s to the 2000s. 

After the Tampa boat scandal, when a Norwegian freighter rescued 433 mostly Afghan asylum seekers from a sinking vessel en route to Christmas Island in 2001, Australia introduced mandatory detention and temporary protection visas (TPVs) to toughen its immigration policies. The Tampa Effect also stirred up negative public opinion of people seeking asylum, painting them as illegals, queue jumpers, and economic migrants which has had a multifaceted negative impact on people’s lives. 

Offshore processing and international response

While governments worldwide have adopted similar immigration policies, Australia’s treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum has been subject to international scrutiny and perceived as hypocritical and imbued with ethnic double standards by human rights activists and supporters. For example, Australia’s response to refugees from conflict zones such as Afghanistan does not seem to be as empathetic as the response to refugees from Ukraine.

Australia offered unlimited visas to Ukrainian refugees, but not for the more than 700,000 displaced people from Afghanistan. In addition, Australia has one of the strictest immigration detention policies in the world. Detention conditions have been reported as dire, exposing people seeking asylum to serious security, health and safety risks. The indefinite detention and prolonged processing timeuse of force, and restrictions such as prohibiting mobile phones do not bode well for the well-being and livelihood of those in detention centres. 

Given the current condition and policies, the Albanese government’s attempt to reauthorise offshore processing, and the recent federal budget cuts to critical areas such as settlement services and more offshore spending, it is difficult to predict how Australia will treat refugees and asylum seekers in the future. However, the government’s review of Australia’s migration system offers hope for policy change. The continued call for policy reform by advocacy groups and human rights organisations to ensure fairer and more humane treatment of migrants and people seeking asylum is needed more than ever.

What future policies may hold and how you can help

A policy favouring efficient onshore and offshore processing, uniting displaced families, granting more permanent visas, and building a holistic approach to support people seeking asylum and refuge and resettlement is overdue and eagerly anticipated. It is important to note that the future of migrant treatment will depend on various factors, including political will, socio-economic considerations, fulfilling humanitarian obligations, and complying with international laws.

It is time for Australians to realise that the people seeking asylum and wanting to migrate here can offer culture, skills, values, and resilience and will contribute to the socio-economic assets of the country. A migration system and policies that open doors to opportunities here are both humane and strategic for the long-term national interests. We have seen countless examples of excellence from descendants of immigrants, with the inclusion of our current Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese.

Ways to support people seeking asylum and refugees

  • Write letters to and/or call your local MP
  • Advocate and raise your voice in support of people seeking asylum independently or through organisations like Women of Colour Australia and allies. 
  • Volunteer with these organisations and donate to groups like Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) to help with services, including casework. 
  • Donate goods and food to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) to provide health and housing relief for affected families and individuals.


Mental health and other supports are available.

These organisations provide various services to people affected by trauma and torture, including specialised counselling and mental health support services. Health service providers can make referrals to these organisations with the affected person’s consent. 




kamela Rezaie

Kamela Rezaie and her family came to Australia on a humanitarian visa in 2007. She has interned with a human rights organisation and has worked in the disability sector. Kamela has also contributed to a think tank in Malaysia and Thailand.


Kamela has received multiple awards for community leadership and advocacy, volunteering, and academic excellence;including the New Colombo Plan Mobility Program. She is currently studying psychology and working as a student ambassador at the University of Queensland. She aspires to use her skills and voice to help those who most need it.