Moving to Australia as a progressive in 2016: discrimination, violence, and activism

This article is the conclusion of a short series on one person’s perspective on what people might want to know before considering immigrating to Australia as a person with progressive politics, in 2016.

The goal of this series is, if there’s issues that affect you and/or you are active in and/or you want to know more about, to give you a capsule summary of the issue from my point of view, with links for further reading. Where I have them, I’ve given details of activists and organisations I follow in the space, and in some cases well known organisations that I don’t personally follow. In this last entry, I’m dealing mostly with identities and rights where I am not in the affected group and where I have no specific expertise. (Being a woman is the major exception to this, but even there I’m not a specific expert on women’s rights in Australia.) So rather than attempt to do justice to anything in detail, in most cases I’ve listed up to five things to learn more about, and then some follows of groups and individuals you can learn from.

Thanks to the many folks over the years who’ve developed the resources I relied on for this, ranging from Twitter to Wikipedia to our beleagured ABC. Most links from this entry are to Wikipedia; this is due to my limitations in finding the best sources. I strongly encourage you to treat Wikipedia articles as an overview and one source of further reading, not the last word.

Indigenous dispossession and oppression

Warning: this section uses the surnames of deceased Indigenous Australians, and links from this section may contain images and names of deceased Indigenous Australians.

In moving to Australia, unless you are an Indigenous Australian, you are inevitably taking part in the dispossession of Australia’s Indigenous peoples, who lived here for tens of thousands of years prior to European invasion two centuries ago.

Four things to learn more about:

Follow: The Land Councils (the list seems very incomplete, it is missing eg the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council), Black Australia Tumblr (see their FAQ on non-Indigenous readers), Celeste Liddle at Black Feminist Ranter and Daily Life, the @IndigenousX tweeters together with @TheKooriWoman, the 2015 IQ2 Racism Debate and 2016 Wallace Wurth lecture speeches and ‘The Australian Dream’ Quarterly Essay by Stan Grant. National Indigenous Television is made by and for Indigenous Australians under the auspices of the public Special Broadcasting Service, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation maintains an Indigenous news portal and The Koori Mail is an Aboriginal-owned and operated national newspaper.

On January 26 each year, Invasion Day protests and Survival Day observances protest the original invasion and celebrate the continuance of Aboriginal communities and culture. If you are visiting or living in Australia on January 26 2017 as a non-Indigenous Australian, observing, supporting, and attending these (where appropriate) is a possible way to begin to support Indigenous activism.

Refugee rights

Australia has a punitive, human rights-violating regime of imprisoning asylum seekers, particularly those who arrive by sea. Many asylum seekers are imprisoned on Papua New Guinea and Nauru where the refugees have less access to basic needs, lawyers, activists, and the media (and as noted in the last entry there are also strong restrictions on media reporting). The government is trying to arrange it so that any refugee held in these prisons will never be offered asylum in Australia, with recent proposals that they would never be allowed entry to Australia under any circumstances on any visa.

The UN has repeatedly condemned this regime, finding that it violates the Convention Against Torture and calling for immediate movement to humane conditions. Among the deaths in offshore detention centres are those of Reza Berati in 2014 at the hands of prison staff and, just recently, Faysal Ishak Ahmed after alleged serious medical neglect.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott (whose party remains in government now, under PM Malcolm Turnbull) has given lectures promoting this system to other countries. At present, while dislike of and protest against our torture of asylum seekers is widespread, it is not a core political issue for many Australians, and it gains support whenever it is relaxed and asylum seekers begin arriving by boat, and dying at sea, in larger numbers. The ALP, currently in opposition, supports offshore imprisonment continuing. The Greens are the largest party committing to ending it in their policy platform (and as best I can tell, even the Greens are not opposing imprisonment within Australian borders).

A selection of detailed reading on Australian refugee policies and immigration detention:

Follow: RISE (Refugees, Survivors and Ex Detainees), Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Human Rights Law Centre, Refugee Action Coalition. Julian Burnside (a barrister who acts pro bono on refugee rights) has assembled a long list of asylum seeker support organisations. In May 2016 No Award published things australians can do to support asylum seekers.

Workers’ rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the ALP’s workers’ policies (see also those of the Greens), the ACTU’s list of individual unions and Diversity Council Australia for equality initiatives in the workplace.

Racial equality and anti-racism

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: I don’t have a solid set of follows in the anti-racism and racial justice space yet. I’d love some suggestions in comments.

LGBTI rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: the Star Observer has a list of national and state LGBTI Community Services and Organisations.

Women’s rights

Five things to learn more about:

Follow: the monthly Down Under Feminist Carnival collating feminist writing in Australia and New Zealand

Disability rights

Four things to learn more about:

Follows: Sam Connor, Lauredhel at Hoyden About Town and Feminists With Disabilities, the late Stella Young and other writers at the ABC’s now defunct Ramp Up website, Australian Centre for Disability Law, The Conversation‘s disability rights writing, Our Consumer Place (a guide by and for consumers of mental health care).

Sex work

NSW is one of the few jurisdictions in the world where sex work is decrminialised. Some other states and territories have legal sex work in some circumstances (eg in brothels, or privately) but not others, it varies quite widely. The Scarlet Alliance has a state-by-state breakdown.

Follow: Scarlet Alliance.