ASRC – Communicating effectively

Taking Refuge from Our Rhetoric: A Language Analysis on Behalf of Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Refuge From Our Rhetoric.  Finding words that work to change the asylum seeker debate.
(summary of ASRC presentation 26 Oct 2015)

Despite years of campaigning and hordes of passionate advocates, government policies toward asylum seekers have harshened and community support has weakened. We need to change the way we speak about this issue if we are ever to gain public support and succeed in creating lasting policy change.

The forward thinking folk at the Asylum Seeker Research Centre recognised this and engaged renowned messaging expert Anat Shenker-Osario to lead ground-breaking research into how we shift the asylum seeker debate in Australia. We were lucky enough to be in the audience as Anat and her passionate team of researchers presented their key findings.

The key take-out was that we need to humanise the issue. We need to recognise that people seeking asylum have achieved an extraordinary amount. They have saved themselves and do not need saviours, but rather supporters and allies who recognise their contributions and listen to their voices.

The team concluded that an effective message is one that is:

  • Aspirational and presents solutions
  • Provides a chance to create good, rather than eliminate bad
  • Provides a shared value-problem-solution framework
  • Names the reasons people seeking asylum come to Australia, rather than the reasons why they leave
  • Speaks to us as humans, not Australians
  • Seizes the moral high ground without naming practical benefits
  • Treads lightly on current abuses

It is time for the sector to come together. All organisations and advocates need to embrace this valuable research, change the way we speak about the issue and project a message that is aspirational and solution focussed.

As Anat reminds us, ‘Martin Luther King did not become famous for saying ‘I have a problem’.

Read the findings of the report here