Refugee student scores top marks for uni entry

BETHANY HIATT EDUCATION EDITOR,

The West Australian Updated December 30, 2011, 3:00 am

Iranian refugee Arash ArabshahiAn Iranian refugee who started school in Australia just three years ago speaking almost no English was among 15 WA students to achieve the highest possible university admission rank of 99.95.

Arash Arabshahi, 19, who worked nights at a fast-food outlet so he could buy textbooks, attended the intensive English centre at Cyril Jackson Senior Campus for a year before going on to complete Years 11 and 12.

Pushing him every step of the way was older brother Amir, 20, who also did Year 12 this year and achieved a stellar Australian Tertiary Admission Rank of 97.05.

After leaving Iran, the brothers spent four years in Turkey with their mother Maasoumeh Tanabi before being accepted into Australia. They live in Bentley.

Ms Tanabi, who lectured in nursing in Iran, said they had to flee because of her involvement in human rights activities. She was reluctant to give details.

The boys’ father, a teacher, remained in Iran.

Arash said he was “really happy” when he found out his results at 12.30am yesterday because he had not expected to do so well.

He studied two maths courses, physics, chemistry and English and said it had been difficult to adapt to learning in a new language and education system.

“But I think with hard work you can do anything,” he said.

The brothers hope to study medicine at the University of WA.

Cyril Jackson principal Karen Woods said Arash had been dux of the school and his perfect score was an amazing achievement.

“What we find with our refugee students is they are highly aspirational and they work very hard,” she said.

“And they’re very interested in the caring professions because they want to give back.”

Among other students to achieve a perfect ATAR was Rossmoyne Senior High School’s Norris Lan, who plans to study law, and Christ Church Grammar School’s Harald Breidhal

Kalamunda Senior High School student Marisa Duong, on holiday overseas, also overcame great odds to make the top 15.

The international student arrived from Vietnam four years ago with only a basic grasp of English but went on to become dux of her school. She hopes to become a biomedical engineer.

Also holidaying overseas is St Mary’s Anglican Girls’ School student Thisuri Jayawardena, who continued a family tradition of academic excellence by achieving the top rank.
Her brother Binu won the Beazley medal as top student in 2008.

Source

Elsewhere

Leadership Australia – A New Generation

Refugees make their mark after hard slog

Asian migration a tour de force

You’re in Australia: Speak English!

Prejudice and Myths Cloud View of Asylum Seekers

More needs to be done to expose the myths surrounding asylum seekers to break down the prejudices that exist against this group, according to a new Murdoch University study.

The research showed that people with a negative attitude towards asylum seekers are less likely to remember factual and accurate information about the treatment or situation of asylum seekers.

It follows a previous Murdoch research project that found that prejudiced people need to be provided with the correct information several times before it is absorbed.

Senior psychology lecturer Dr Anne Pedersen, who supervised the study by Murdoch Honours student Jared Croston, said it showed the importance of the media in educating the public about these issues.

“We know it takes time to get prejudiced people to accept the truth so it is vital that the media – where most of them get their information from – present the facts accurately,” she said.

Mr Croston surveyed 186 residents in Perth about their attitudes to asylum seekers and their acceptance of a series of myths. First he gauged the level of prejudice of study participants, and then asked whether they believed or disbelieved 11 commonly held myths about asylum seekers.

These myths included that asylum seekers are safe in Indonesia or Malaysia and don’t need to come to Australia; Australia takes more asylum seekers than most Western countries; only asylum seekers who apply through the right channels are genuine and seeking asylum without authorisation from Australian authorities is illegal under Australian law.

Participants were then given the correct information, debunking the myths, and asked to recall what they had been told.

Dr Pedersen said: “Highly prejudiced participants were significantly less likely to accurately recall the correct information that debunked the myths.

“It would appear that prejudiced participants lack the motivation to absorb the information properly.

“What we know is that giving prejudiced people information just once is not effective. They need to be given the correct information more often.

“People who feel negatively towards asylum seekers find ways to hang onto their prejudice, such as denigrating the source of information. That is why these people are more likely to accept the information if it comes from multiple sources.”

This study supported previous findings which showed that highly prejudiced participants were more likely to accept myths about asylum seekers as being true.

Dr Pedersen said the problem was compounded by the fact that when people believe they share a common view with others, they are comfortable speaking out.

“We’ve found prejudiced individuals are more likely to over-estimate their support in the community and are vocal in expressing their opinions,” she said.

“Conversely people who are accepting of asylum seekers may fall silent as they feel they are in the minority. As a result prejudiced people often have an influence that is disproportionate to their numbers.”

Despite a commonly held belief that asylum seekers are not genuine, research has shown that over the last decade, more than 90 per cent of people arriving by boat are legitimate refugees

Source

Voters Support On-Shore Processing

ONLY one in five Labor voters supports Julia Gillard’s desire to press ahead with sending asylum seekers offshore for processing as cabinet this morning considers legislation to get around the High Court’s decision striking down the Malaysia solution.

In The Age/Nielsen poll, 22 per cent of ALP voters said asylum seekers should be sent to another country to be assessed, 62 per cent said they should be allowed to land in Australia and processed here and 13 per cent took the hardest option of wanting the boats sent back to sea.
Coalition voters were also unenthusiastic about the offshore solution with only 32 per cent supporting it, 44 per cent saying people should be processed here and 19 per cent wanting them sent back to sea.

Greens voters were overwhelmingly in favour of Australian processing (83 per cent), with just 10 per cent favouring an offshore solution and 6 per cent wanting boats turned around.
Women are more likely than men to support processing in Australia (58 to 51 per cent) as are younger voters, with almost two-thirds of those aged 18-24 in favour compared with less than half of those over 55. Capital city voters were more likely to support local processing than those in regional areas (58 to 48 per cent).
A special cabinet meeting today will consider the form of proposed legislation before caucus meets at 9am. The government priority is to try to revive the Malaysia deal.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland said cabinet would consider an amendment to the Migration Act. He said there were various ways this could be framed. It could be drafted to encompass three particular sites, one particular site, ”or indeed, [give] a broader discretion to the minister. They are essentially the drafting options,” he told Channel Ten.
At a faction meeting before the full caucus meeting, the left is expected to support onshore processing although it is not united. A left convener, Doug Cameron, said yesterday: ”The federal Labor Party should respect our obligations under the UN convention, the 2009 Labor platform and the High Court decision.”
With the Greens against any offshore processing, the fate of the legislation will rest with the opposition. It has declared itself strongly against the Malaysia people swap and wants processing in Nauru.
Internally there are different shades of opinion. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott is said to be very much against allowing people to be sent to a country like Malaysia that is not a signatory to the UN convention and where Australia doesn’t control the processing.
Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison is said to have a more flexible attitude. The opposition’s final attitude will depend on the wording of the legislation and the outcome of internal debate among senior Coalition figures.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/national/voters-say-no-to-offshore-process-20110911-1k49e.html#ixzz1YICdIR3C

High Court Decision: opportunity not disaster

justice

The Government, the Opposition and the media punditocracy are out in force analysing and dissecting the High Court decision made on 31st August in the case of

PLAINTIFF M70/2011 v MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP PLAINTIFF M106 OF 2011 BY HIS LITIGATION GUARDIAN, PLAINTIFF M70/2011 v MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP[2011] HCA 32

In summary the principles established in the High Court’s judgement are:

1. Malaysia cannot be used as a country where asylum seekers arriving in Australia can be processed. Nor is it the case that Malaysia is legally bound to provide the access and protections the Migration Act requires for a valid declaration. Malaysia is not a party to the Refugees Convention or its Protocol. The Arrangement which the Minister signed with the Malaysian Minister for Home Affairs on 25 July 2011 said expressly that it was not legally binding.

2. An unaccompanied asylum seeker under the age of 18 cannot be removed from Australia without the written consent of the Minister for Immigration.

3. Under s 198A of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth), the Minister cannot validly declare a country as a country to which asylum seekers can be taken for processing unless the country is bound either by domestic or international law to provide proper assessment of claims, proper protection while awaiting assessment and provide protection for persons given refugee status pending their voluntary return to their country of origin or their resettlement in another country.

4. The Court also held that the Minister has no other power under the Migration Act to remove from Australia asylum seekers whose claims for protection have not been determined unless the country fulfils the requirements outlined in (3).

In effect, the decision has also thrown the whole of the contentious Section 198 of the Migration Act into doubt. This section among other things enabled both the notion of off-shore processing of asylum seekers and specifically the so-called “Pacific Solution” used by the Howard Government.

Further, s198C (7)already states that decisions of the Refugee Review Tribunal are subject to potential challenges under Section 75 under the Constitution.

Ron Merkel, QC, in an opinion sought by the advocacy organisation GetUp! said there would be ”reasonably good prospects”of a successful legal challenge to any new attempt to use Nauru and Manus Island as third country processors

That such a fundamentally flawed section of an Act should have withstood challenge for so long has its origins in the elections of 1996, 1998 and 2001.

Howard set out to appeal to the millions of poor Australians whose futures had been
thrown into turmoil by the economic restructuring of the Hawke and Keating Governments… He and other conservatives supported that restructuring, but sought to mobilise the anger and resentment into racist nationalism and hostility towards welfare. Liberal Party pollster, Mark Textor, assiduously studied the racial outlook of Australian voters. His polling formed the basis for Howard’s notorious 2001 election campaign. In this way, some working class people were turned against their own interests. In 2000, when Labor politician Anthony Albanese, campaigned against the GST in northern NSW amongst some of the poorest people in Australia—those living in caravan parks—he found far more concern about the supposed threat of boat people, than about a tax that would make them even poorer.

However Labor was not free of responsibility either. Labor long had the White Australia Policy as a centrepiece of its own platform.

Since the Vietnam war, Labor has been identified with anti-racism. But Labor’s ability to fight the racism of Coalition governments has been compromised by its own history and ideology.

In a response to what at the time were changing and more enlightened community attitudes, by 1973 Labor had been confident enough to declare the end of the White Australia Policy.

The Liberals, firstly under Fraser then under Peacock and Hewson, had also moved away from the party’s former rabid bigotry and for a while there was effectively a bi-partisan approach to dealing with asylum seekers arriving in boats from conflicts in South-East Asia and later, East Timor. But then

It was an ALP government that began the cruel business of locking up asylum seekers in the late 1980s. Finally, Labor’s electoralism makes it hesitant about confronting racist hysteria. This cowardice saw the ALP back the Tampa kidnapping, the ‘Pacific solution’ of dumping refugees in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, the detention centres and then the draconian ‘security’ laws passed as part of the ‘war on terror’. Labor’s leader from late 2003, Mark Latham, shared most of the Coalition’s economic liberalism and much of John Howard’s hostility to welfare and refugees.

Hard on the heels of the mandatory detention decision came the Pauline Hanson “phenomenon”. The main driver of the Hanson campaign was the channelling of the focusless xenophobia of sections of the Australian electorate, never far from the surface when economic woes hit. The main pre-occupation of a resurgent Liberal Party was to maximise the damage to its own brand caused by the overwhelming popularity of Bob Hawke and the adoption by Paul Keating of what were effectively neo-liberal financial reforms. Howard’s strategy was to woo the “battlers”, often traditionally Labor voters, by parading a convenient scapegoat for the economic hardships brought about by both the transition to economic reform in this country and by the state of the world economy at the time.

So it seems that if either the Government or the Opposition want to revisit dumping asylum seekers in any third country in the name of chasing the votes of a noisy minority of Australians, that option is now blocked.

There is an opportunity here for both parties, along with the Greens and independents, to take the resettlement and processing of refugees out of the political sphere completely. At various times the idea of having an independent commission looking after the needs of refugees and asylum seekers has been proposed. This would effectively defuse the issue as an opportunistic occasion for the promotion of xenophobia. At the moment, extremist groups are using the race to the bottom of the two major parties as a signal that racism and bigotry are now “respectable” components of political discourse, while the leadership of major parties, whatever their personal views, have not hesitated to amplify these groundless fears in the name of clinging to marginal seats.

There is an opportunity too for major parties to take back the disillusioned voters who used to be the backbone of their organisations, but who will not involve themselves in parties which remain silent in the face of resurgent xenophobia – a resurgence which not only demonises new arrivals, but also older immigrant groups, Indigenous Australians and religious minorities.

Prime Minister Gillard needs to tough things out and to use the asylum seeker decision to revisit Labor policy on the issue, thus taking it out of the political arena. Trying to pander to the lowest of the low does not work in either Labor or the Coalition’s best interests.

Phil Griffiths: Racism: whitewashing the class divide

The High Court Decision

A view from Skeptic Lawyer

I Say Debate, You Say Gotcha. Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

By Greg Jericho

Last week before the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network, the Secretary of the Department of Immigration and Citizenship did something rather bold for a public servant – he suggested politicians question current policy.

How bold was Andrew Metcalfe? Here are some of the questions he posed:

How do we manage reception? By this I refer not only to the policy of mandatory detention, but refer to the broader issue of how we manage unauthorised arrivals at our border, and indeed how we manage our detention network? Does immigration detention facilitate case resolution? What range of facilities should be utilised? For how long is an immigration arrival and status determination process in a detention centre environment required? There are many questions for you, as parliamentarians, to consider.

So it was not like Metcalfe was entering the hairdressers and asking for a bit of a trim. Nope he went in, sat down and said, “I’m in the mood for something new – surprise me”.

And how did the politicians respond? Did they surprise anyone? Well that’d be a no.

Here was the Opposition Immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison:

“It is not in Australia’s interests for there to be any further confusion about the Government’s policy on asylum seekers.”

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen was also quick off the mark, a spokesman saying:

“The Government’s position is clear: mandatory detention is an essential component of border control and we make no apologies for detaining unauthorised arrivals for checks of health, identity and security risks to the community.”

Whew, that’s good. No need for debate, then. Even better is that we finally found an issue on which the ALP and Liberal Party are able to display some of that old fashioned bipartisanship. Here again is Morrison:

“Mr Metcalfe last night I think simply echoed the terms of reference for this inquiry.”

And Chris Bowen? A spokesman again:

“Mr Metcalfe was clearly referring to the inquiry’s terms of reference in relation to mandatory detention.”

Ah, so we have an inquiry but we are not to answer any of the questions posed because they are not really questions – merely echoes of the terms of reference. It rather makes you wonder about the whole point of the terms of reference, given they state the committee has been “appointed to inquire into and report on:

(g) the impact, effectiveness and cost of mandatory detention and any alternatives, including community release”

If “reporting on” and “inquiring into” means automatically rejecting doing anything, it rather reduces the degree of difficulty in the whole exercise doesn’t it?

Mandatory detention was of course brought in by the Keating Government in May 1992 in response to the massive flood of asylum seekers arriving by boat in the previous year. How many are we talking about? Try six boats and 214 people.

Yep – panic stations.

The passing of the bill didn’t really do a great deal. In 1992 there were another 216 people, down to 81 in 1993 and then nicely up to 953 in 1994. You can read about it all in the Parliamentary Library’s excellent Background Note: Boat arrivals in Australia since 1976.

Now you would think that one of the Key Performance Indicators of mandatory detention would be to halt the influx of asylum seekers – it must be otherwise Scott Morrison wouldn’t suggest that changing it “can send very significant messages to the people smuggling trade”.

However, if we have a look at the four years prior to mandatory detention going full scale, 624 asylum seekers arrived by boat. In the four year period afterwards, there were 2,182.

There’s nothing like seeing a policy meet a Key Performance Indicator is there?

But hey, I know you can prove anything with statistics, so I guess when the numbers increased to 921 in 1998-99 that was just another indicator of mandatory detention doing a bang-up job of halting asylum seekers coming by boat.

I know – it’s all just part of a bigger scheme and the introduction of Temporary Protection Visas in October 1999 did the trick. So the 4,175 that came in 1999-2000 or the 4,137 that came in 2001-02 was just another great example of a policy working well.

Ahh yes, but it was the off-shore processing that did the trick I hear you say. And yes it did knock the stuffing out of the numbers – but why would anyone think it would work again? Here was Tony Abbott describing Nauru in Parliament on June 16:

“I have seen where boat people will be accommodated—and well accommodated. I have seen where boat people’s children will be educated—and well educated. I have seen the police headquarters which will deal with security issues involving boat people in Nauru. And I can tell you this, Mr Speaker: there are no rattans in Nauru and there are no whipping posts in Nauru.”

Well accommodated, well educated, secure, no whipping posts.

Yep, a real deterrent.

But “off shore processing” is not mandatory detention, and while yes the public is firmly in favour of the policy – the latest Nielsen Poll on the issue showed 64 per cent of voters were in favour of mandatory detention – to think that politicians can’t even debate the issue for fear of looking “soft” is a bizarre reaction, when you consider that detention has been pretty comprehensively shown not to be any deterrent whatsoever.

Add to this, the president of the AMA, Dr Steve Hambleton also stated:

The AMA believes that the system of mandatory detention of asylum seekers is inherently harmful to the physical and mental health of detainees. The harm is especially acute in the case of children.

Did this provoke a need for either the Labor or the Liberal Party to “inquire” into mandatory detention? Err no.

Not debating issues has become the norm for contentious issues in recent times. It is part of a tactic which plays nicely into the standard media “gotcha” type questions.

We saw this in great occurrence earlier in the year on the carbon tax. Wayne Swan was asked about petrol and the carbon tax. He responded that it was inappropriate for people to suggest anything is included or excluded from the tax, given that it was still being formulated. The headline?”

Wayne Swan refuses to rule out petrol tax in proposed carbon tax.

When it came to dealing with the “tax forum” in October, Swan was much better prepared, and was ready to rule out anything that might actually ensure the tax forum discusses anything remotely like fundamental tax reform:

Negative gearing? Hell no.

GST? What – why on earth would you discuss at a tax forum the third-biggest tax in this country after income and company tax? That would just be silly and so Swan came out straight away when announcing the forum, stating:

I’ve made it abundantly clear what the Government’s position on the GST is – we are not touching its base or its rate. If people want to talk about it at the forum they can, but the policy of the Gillard Government is not to touch the base or the rate of the GST.

So yes – you can talk about it, we just rule out doing anything.

Unfortunately for Swan the tax forum discussion paper did include a congestion tax on the agenda. And so we got on the front page of The Daily Telegraph:

Second Wave of a Tax

More levies on horizon could add to carbon woes

STILL reeling from the announcement of a carbon tax, drivers could be hit by another wave of green-induced financial pain.

A string of new taxes are on the agenda, with the federal government exploring more options to hit taxpayers where it hurts. A road congestion tax, designed to limit the use of cars on city streets.

This was despite Swan actually having already ruled it out (even ruling things out isn’t enough at times).

It is thus no surprise that politicians have become too scared to even enter into debate on an issue. Rationality is discarded even before the conversation has begun – talk of any contentious issues quickly becomes an intention to implement.

Interestingly, even sections of the media have caught this disease. When at the National Press Club in July, Julia Gillard said in response to a question about a media inquiry that she would “be happy to sit down with the parliamentarians and discuss that review that people are contemplating”. The Australian responded the next day suggesting “This is no time for PM to bow to Brown”, with Dennis Shanahan writing:

Media inquiries into convergence, ownership, market share, service delivery, public-private control, ethics and its very “role” are messy, disruptive and difficult enough to conduct in a calm atmosphere with a stable and mature government.

Ahh so they’re messy. Best not inquire then – especially when we have editorials, opinion pieces and front page stories all telling us that there is nothing to see, move on.

I guess while The Australian can write:

When bureaucrats complain about being held to account the rest of us start wondering what they have got to hide

such a sense of wonder does not apply when media organisations complain about being held to account…

And so the tactic of no debate has a strong hold over political and media discourse (or lack of it). No debate means no possibility of change – especially if such change may be unpopular for a Government, or (even worse) may lead to a conclusion the Government, or opposition, or media organisations want.

This however is not the only tactic for stopping conclusions and decision. The other is that of constant debate. And for the issue that most sees this tactic employed climate change and a price on carbon has no peer. Yes small things will be ruled out but for those opposing a carbon price, the debate must continue – for the time is not ripe, the Government needs to discuss things with the premiers, with industry, with farmers, with the electorate (or God help us with a community forum), the science is not settled, we need another election, we need to wait for America, for China, for the next UN summit.

But at some stage you need to stop talking and act.

On the weekend I read this interesting statement about pricing carbon:

By far the most efficient and effective way to spur conservation is to raise the cost of fossil fuels. Current prices fail to reflect the very real environmental costs of pumping carbon dioxide into the air. The answer is a tax on CO2 emissions – or a CO2 user fee, if that is a more palatable term. The fee need not raise a country’s overall tax burden; it could be offset by reductions in income taxes or other levies.

Now I know such a line does not seem all that interesting – after all it essentially mirrors what Julia Gillard and Greg Combet have been saying all year. What is interesting is that quote came from Time Magazine in January 1989. Twenty two years ago.

Debate is good and we need to move past the reflex fear that even discussing an issue means implementation and change. But at some point you need to call time and make a decision.

Otherwise we might as well save everyone a lot of time and rule out everything now.

Greg Jericho is an amateur blogger who spends too much of his spare time writing about politics and not enough time watching all the DVDs he buys each weekend.

Public Poll Shows Majority of Australians Support Asylum Seekers

Phillip Coorey
August 16, 2011

MORE than half the population believes asylum seekers arriving by boat should be landed and processed in Australia, contradicting the policies of the two main parties, which advocate processing in a third country, a poll finds.

The latest Herald/Nielsen poll of 1400 people was taken from Thursday night to Saturday evening, after the High Court imposed an injunction on the Malaysia plan.
The poll finds 53 per cent of voters preferred that asylum seekers arriving by boat be allowed to land in Australia to be assessed.

Only 28 per cent felt they should be sent to another country for assessment, the approach of Labor and the Coalition, while 15 per cent said the arrivals should be ”sent back out to sea”.

Of those who thought asylum seekers should be processed in Australia, 55 per cent thought they should be held in detention while being processed, and 41 per cent thought they should be allowed to live in the community.

Half of those who opted for assessment in Australia or a third country thought those found to be refugees should be allowed to settle in Australia permanently.

The Greens are the only party that advocates processing asylum seekers in Australia. The government’s policy centres on Malaysia and Manus Island, Papua New Guinea, while the Coalition would send the asylum seekers to Nauru.

A Labor MP from Victoria, Anna Burke, spoke out yesterday against her party’s Malaysia plan. ”I’m very concerned that we can’t really guarantee the safety of the individuals, the 800 who will be sent there,” she told the ABC.

Source

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