Klaus Neumann’s history of Australia’s response to refugees

Across the Seas: a history of Australia’s response to refugees

Wednesday 8 July 2015 8:35AM

There’s no question that Australia’s approach to dealing with asylum seekers is a hotly debated issue in the country today.

But has it always been like this?

According to a new book on the subject being launched in Sydney today, Australia’s policy on refugees and asylum seekers has long been a contentious and controversial issue.

Across the Seas, by Swinburne University professor Klaus Neumann, investigates how Australia’s response to refugees has evolved from Federation until 1977.

Professor Klaus Neumann joins Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast.  

Across-the-Seas-(print)     Across the Seas: Australia’s Response to Refugees: A History

Today, Australia’s response to asylum-seeking ‘boat people’ is a hot-button issue that feeds the political news cycle. But the daily reports and political promises lack the historical context that would allow for informed debate. Have we ever taken our fair share of refugees? Have our past responses been motivated by humanitarian concerns or economic self-interest? Is the influx of ‘boat people’ over the last fifteen years really unprecedented?

In this eloquent and informative book, historian Klaus Neumann examines both government policy and public attitudes towards refugees and asylum seekers since Federation. He places the Australian story in the context of global refugee movements, and international responses to them. Neumann examines many case studies, including the resettlement of displaced persons from European refugee camps in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and the panic generated by the arrival of Vietnamese asylum seekers during the 1977 federal election campaign. By exploring the ways in which politicians have approached asylum-seeker issues in the past, Neumann aims to inspire more creative thinking about current refugee and asylum-seeker policy.