Changing Australia's Perceptions on Refugees

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This report was commissioned to examine the behaviours and beliefs held by Australians in regards to the people identified as asylum seekers who arrive in Australia in search of humanitarian aid.

The research draws attention to different newspaper commentators and evidence found by the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre that displays an overall negative and ill-informed opinions regarding asylum seekers. Further investigation revealed that many Australians, because of political jargon and journalistic hate-mongering, aren’t fully informed on asylum seekers, their human rights, and the expectation that Australian, as a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, will assist them when they have been forced to flee from unlawful persecution.

The information regarding the negative attitudes from many Australians towards asylum seekers was used to investigate ways in which a social marketing campaign could be implemented to influence a more open-minded and humanitarian approach towards asylum seekers.

Through the use of the Social Cognitive Theory as a foundation for a social marketing campaign it is recommended that:

Marketers wishing to eradicate racist and prejudicial feelings toward asylum seekers should aim at younger generations to stop racist behaviours starting from a young age.

For older generations, it would be advisable that social marketing campaigners use newspapers and informative websites that dispel ill-informed rumors and mistruths about asylum seekers to make Australia a more racially tolerant society.

Table of contents
Analysis of Australia’s perceptions of asylum seekers
The Social Cognitive Theory
The Social Marketing Planning Process


During the last Australian Census in August 2006, 22.2% of the Australian population was born overseas (ABS, 2006). Even with this vastly multicultural society however, racism is prevalent and is still a major issue in Australia. Starting with the horrendous treatment of the Aboriginal people during the original settling of Australia over two centuries ago, the focus of racism in this country has now shifted to asylum seekers.

Analysis of Australia’s perceptions of asylum seekers

The politically correct term for an asylum seeker is, ‘a person who has fled their own country and applies to the government of another country for protection as a refugee’ (UNHCR, 2010). They are people that for some reason, whether it be race, religion, gender or political opinion, have been ostracized in their home country and are unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted (ASRC, 2011). As a signatory to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (ASRC, 2011), Australia is, by law, bound to protect people fleeing unlawful persecution.

Many asylum seekers arrive in Australia with a variety of needs, like Iranian asylum seeker Reza, who was in need of medical and psychological care after being beaten and starved for over three months, all because he wanted his political vote to be counted fairly (ASRC, 2011), yet are still seen as illegal migrants. With the ethical treatment of human beings at the heart of this social issue, the almost callous belief amongst Australians that they do not have a responsibility to protect these people fleeing from abuse and belittlement because they are ‘illegal immigrants’ who are, ‘coming to our country and taking advantage of us’ (ASRC Poll, 2010), is an issue that needs to be addressed through the implementation of a social marketing endeavor.

The Social Cognitive Theory

The concept of social marketing has been defined by Gerard Hastings (2007) as, ‘the application of marketing knowledge, concepts and techniques to enhance social ends’. His book also cites the definition of Susan Dann (2006), who defines social marketing as ‘...the simultaneous adoption of marketing philosophy and...
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