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Shen Narayanasamy on the Great Immigration Con
The Di Gribble Argument returns for a third year, pushing us into constructive disagreement in efforts to break a conversational deadlock. This year we’re taking on one of the most intractable conversations in Australian public life: stopping the boats.
We are – proudly – a flourishing multicultural society. Most of us carry family histories of migration, seeking safety and prosperity in this vast and varied continent. But something is broken. We spend billions imprisoning asylum seekers on remote Pacific Islands. Whenever this offshore regime hits the headlines, we reach a dead end before we even start. The solution is not ideal, chorus politicians and pundits, but there simply is no other way.
Only a country that hides from its migrant past and present could accept such a fiction – but that is Australia today. From Pauline Hanson’s return to 457 visas, we continue to leave immigration policy and practice to fear-mongering politicians and disingenuous shock-jocks.
It’s time for a proper argument. One that lays out the stunning changes to our social contract on immigration that quietly took place behind the mantra of Stop The Boats. One that looks at the system in its entirety, that replaces publicity-snatching catchphrases with a broader, deeper perspective. And an argument that actually proposes solutions. As she did in her work on the No Business in Abuse and #LetThemStay campaigns, human rights campaigner Shen Narayanasamy brings together business, government and social threads to detonate the dead end nature of this debate.
In conversation with the Wheeler Centre's co-head of programming, Sophie Black, Narayanasamy articulates the argument she presented at the annual Di Gribble Argument dinner – with substantial insights, disagreements and questions from the floor. #argument16
Shen Narayanasamy is GetUp!'s Human Rights Campaign Director. She founded the No Business in Abuse project, targeting corporate involvement in offshore detention of asylum seekers, and led #LetThemStay, which prevented the deportation of hundreds of asylum seekers to Nauru.
Recently, she led GetUp's response to the Federal Government's attempts to change the Racial Discrimination Act, and ongoing attempts to change citizenship requirements. Shen's background is as a human rights lawyer and advocate, working in Australia and across the Asia Pacific on issues of economic justice and land rights.
‘Women have many reasons to be wary, depressed or downright terri ed of the internet. No guaranteed safe space exists for a woman online. Especially a lippy one. And yet ... as a tool for social change, the internet, to the extent that we can still refer to it as a single entity, still offers immense possibilities.’
Sophie Black is head of publishing at the Wheeler Centre where she has worked on projects such as the national to writers scheme The Next Chapter, the multi-award-winning podcast, The Messenger, and the ABC RN program, Talkfest. Previously she was editor-in-chief at Private Media, where she headed up titles such as Crikey, Women’s Agenda, Daily Review and SmartCompany. In 2013, she delivered the Adelaide Festival of Ideas as Director. She sits on the advisory board for Melbourne University’s Centre for Advancing Journalism and the human rights publication Right Now.
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