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Is the concept of a country obsolete?

Listen to Is the concept of a country obsolete?

Responding to a huge volume of questions on borders, refugees and migration, Geraldine Brooks, Tom Elliott, Voranai Vanijaka and Mark Colvin search for insight and progress on this charged and crucial subject.

'I've had a lot of experience in places where people squander a great deal of human life fighting over five metres of sand. For me, the less borders, the better.'

Geraldine Brooks

As a nation composed mostly of migrants, modern Australia’s relationship with refugees and asylum seekers runs deep: through regional and global wars, famine and disaster, and economic and political upheavals. In recent years, that discussion has become increasingly polarised and fearful. Meanwhile, asylum seekers continue to suffer in conditions that most people agree are unacceptable, cruel.

Throughout all this, Australia’s challenge and policy response has made world news. Now, with Europe’s dramatic influx of refugees mostly from Syria, the question has renewed urgency – of a kind that demands answers beyond the obfuscation of politics.

Photo of the panellists

Left to right: Geraldine Brooks, Tom Elliott, Voranai Vanijaka and Mark Colvin


Portrait of Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in Sydney's western suburbs. 

In 1982 she won a scholarship to the journalism master's program at Columbia University in New York. Later, she worked for the Wall Street Journal, where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans.

In 2006, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel March. Her novels Caleb's Crossing and People of the Book were both New York Times bestsellers, and Year of Wonders and People of the Book are international bestsellers, translated into more than 25 languages. She is also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence.

In 2011, she presented Australia's prestigious Boyer Lectures, later published as The Idea of Home.

Portrait of Tom Elliott

Tom Elliott

Tom Elliott is the host of 3AW's Drive program. He is also a director of Melbourne-based wealth management firm Beulah Capital. Tom writes a weekly opinion column for Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper and appears regularly on the Nine Network’s Today and ABC TV’s Agony Uncles series. 

Portrait of Voranai Vanijaka

Voranai Vanijaka

Voranai Vanijaka is the editor in chief of GQ Thailand. He teaches political communication and intercultural communication at Thammasat University. From 2008 to May 2014, he was a political commentator with the Bangkok Post newspaper. 

Portrait of Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin

Mark Colvin is an Australian journalist, filmmaker and broadcaster. He has been the presenter of PM, one of the flagship Australian radio current affairs programs on the ABC Radio network, since 1997.

The Interrobang

Catch up with the best discussions and reflections from The Interrobang: a new festival driven entirely by your questions, from the Wheeler Centre.