JOHN MENADUE. Never underestimate a survivor, but Peter Dutton obviously under estimates refugees. They may be ‘takers’ in the early years, but they become great contributors.

The following are extracts from a blog I posted on 27 June 2013.  John Menadue

As responsible members of the human family, we have a strong moral case to provide protection for refugees who are the victims of persecution and violence.

There is also a strong case in our own self-interest Refugees are almost by definition risk-takers and entrepreneurial. It can be argued that refugees are amongst the most highly motivated and determined in the Australian community.

In desperate situations, refugees make a decision to flee. They abandon almost everything for the hope of freedom, security and opportunity elsewhere. In a sense they ‘select themselves’ better than a migration officer ever could. It is hard to assess the motivation and risk-taking of a migrant applicant. Refugees show it by doing.

Since WWII, Australia has settled over 750,000 refugees from war-torn countries and societies wracked with violence and persecution. Settlement in Australia has not been trouble-free. It is always work in progress. But it has been a great success story in which Australians can be proud. The loss of constructive bi-partisanship threatens what we have done well in the past.

Some well-known refugees have contributed to this success story – Judy Cassab, Anh Do, Mirka Mora, Wolfgang Sievers, Henry Szeps,  Tuong Quang Luu, Les Murray, Sir Gustav Nossal, Frank Lowy, Harry Seidler, and Bishop Vincent Van Nguyen.

But more important than the well-known names are the hundreds of thousands of refugee families who have quietly gone about building their families, communities, acquiring skills, getting a job and educating their children. Early days are difficult for refugees. They come with little or no financial resources, their skills are probably not recognised and they will usually have language difficulties. These early difficulties are reflected in higher levels of unemployment and concentration in lowly paid jobs.

But their situation steadily and rapidly improves. Professor Graeme Hugo, ARC Australian Professorial Fellow, in his study ‘Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants’ of May 2011, describes their contribution.

  • Refugees are younger and have higher fertility levels than the Australian population as a whole.
  • They are increasingly settling in regional Australia.
  • They place a high store on education for their children. 48% of second generation people who are Australian born have post-school qualifications. For the total refugee groups, the percentage is much high at 59%, with some refugee groups showing remarkably high levels of post-school qualifications, e.g. Estonia 65%, Latvia 65%, Slovakia 65%, Sri Lanka 61%.
  • Refugees are more likely to demonstrate entrepreneurial and risk-taking attributes. They have a higher incidence of owning their own businesses than other migrant groups.
  • The second generation of refugee settlers have a much higher level of labour force engagement than the first generation and in many cases, the level is higher than for second generation Australians.

Their commitment to Australia is also shown in their uptake of citizenship.  A study prepared for OECD by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (October 2010) reveals that the naturalisation rate by birthplace for all foreign-born is 80%. For significant refugee groups it is much higher – Croatia 97%, Poland 96% and Vietnam 97%. For New Zealand it is 45%, for the United Kingdom 71% and the United States 70%.

Not surprisingly, refugees in their early years are ‘takers’ of Australian generosity. But year by year they increasingly become great contributors. They pay back many times the generosity they initially receive. They contribute to Australia out of all proportion to their number. It is a great success story for all Australians.

In spite of Government timidity, coalition opportunism and media failure, we can draw inspiration from the very successful refugee programs of the past. Australian business and society generally have been great beneficiaries. It is in our self-interest, as well as for sound moral reasons that we need to break with the stalemate and toxic debate that surrounds refugees. Doing the right thing really pays off.

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4 Responses to JOHN MENADUE. Never underestimate a survivor, but Peter Dutton obviously under estimates refugees. They may be ‘takers’ in the early years, but they become great contributors.

  1. Elizabeth says:

    So what are Peter Dutton’s qualifications? Police Academy and a very much later Business degree. I have much to do with asylum seekers … often with the most impressive academic backgrounds – plenty of PhDs among them. But of course, their most important qualification is their courageous determination to succeed. I do understand the government’s nervousness about uncontrolled immigration – but I think there is a huge failure embedded in this fear to acknowledge the complexity of the world we are entering, and that newcomers are likely to have insights from which we can learn to negotiate it. We must not hide our heads in the sand. We must see immigrants as a chance to develop a more sophisticated view of the world than we presently have.

  2. John Coleman says:

    John Menadue’s comments demonstrate just how out of touch Peter Dutton is with his portfolio – and with the a huge voting block of thinking Australians.
    A saint, Pope John Paul 11, speaking in Australia in 1986, told of how as part of our diverse migration program we had accepted victims of poverty, war and religious persecution to make “a new beginning”:
    “This is your history. This is the shaping of your culture as the people of Australia. In this story there is much to be proud of.”
    No one, whatever their political allegiance, can be proud of Dutton’s comments. And that big voting block will recall them when they enter the booths on July 2.

  3. twitter_agkxx says:

    And we thought Ruddock and Morrison were awful…

  4. Richard Halliday says:

    Yes but for balance please draw attention to Amanda Vanstone’s article in the SMH Monday 23rd May

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