AARE Refugee Statement

The Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) is deeply concerned about the severe impact and harm being caused to refugees in immigration detention in Australia. We add our voice to the list of associations, organisations and professions that condemn the current situation on Manus Island and Nauru, and Australian refugee and asylum seeker policies more generally.

It is now more difficult to accurately ascertain how many people remain in the offshore processing system because of how the Australian Government reports on: issues related to asylum seekers; numbers of people living in ‘regional processing centres’; and those left living outside the ‘regional processing centres’. However, other sources indicate that the situation remains dire. Amnesty International estimates that the Australian government has ‘indefinitely trapped over 1,200 men, women and children on Nauru and over 800 men on Manus Island’, and the Refugee Council estimates that there are more than 900 people left in Nauru and more than 700 left in Papua New Guinea.

AARE is the national association for fostering educational research in Australia. Established in 1970, AARE promotes, supports and improves research and scholarship in education to enhance educational processes, policy and practice at all levels, for the public good.

The following statement was signed by over 200 AARE members and sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Department of Home Affairs and the leader of the Opposition late in 2017. A year later it seems that little has changed. This situation seems indefensible and we call for the well-being of those who remain within the asylum seeker offshore detention system to take priority as a human rights issue over politics.


The Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) condemns the inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island. 

We demand that the Australian government urgently provide medical services, food, water, and other services to those in need, and to take immediate action to resettle these asylum seekers and refugees safely.

We believe that the current situation whereby asylum seekers and refugees have been abandoned is a breach of their basic human rights. We regard the current situation on Manus Island to be the product of an indefensible refugee policy. We call on the Federal Government and the Opposition to make immediate changes to Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies, including a review of practices related to off shore detention within centres on locations such as Manus Island and Nauru. Children, families and adults are currently being held in detention for long periods of time under Australian authority, and as educators we condemn this policy.


Thanks to the many AARE members who supported this statement and particularly those members who first presented this as a motion at the AGM and who helped write the original Statement.

15 thoughts on “AARE Refugee Statement

  1. Michele McCre says:

    Thankyou for this statement. I am not a member of AARE but I am an educator and researcher and have shared it among my networks.

  2. Hi Michele
    Thanks for your support for AARE members who think this is really important. I’m pleased to hear that you have shared the statement among teacher friends. We need to keep talking about the issues and have them on the agenda and being debated.
    Thanks and i hope you will continue to engage with AARE. we are an association that is passionate about children and young people and education – so I’m sure we have lots in common with you.

  3. jane kenway says:

    It is so important for educators to take a stand on this issue. We must express, and live by, values of welcome, compassion, care and support for people in difficulty and distress. If we do so, hopefully future generations will also. Our political class conspicuously lacks such values and hence feels no compunction about inflicting the cruelty of indefinite incarceration on the refugees and Manus and Nauru. And Nauru has just restricted mental health support for refugees on the island, leaving deeply traumatized children without proper help.

  4. Melissa Wolfe says:

    I am very proud to be a member of AARE and thank the leadership for their public stance regarding this matter. It is a shameful state of affairs and needs to be continually brought into the public arena.

  5. Mary Lou Rasmussen says:

    Great to see AARE making a stand on this issue. The ways in which we treat asylum seekers is one of the dire lessons currently being reinforced within our national polity by both sides of politics. It is critical that other ways of thinking are featured that counter this cruel pedagogy.

  6. Rosie Joy Barron says:

    Thanks to the AARE and the members who pushed for this statement. Australia’s treatment of refugees is indefensible and I encourage all AARE members members who support this statement to find other ways to put pressure on the government for humane policy: go to rallies, share information, support the work of organisations such as RISE to agitate for change and support refugees, survivors and ex-detainees in Australia. Donating money is a good place to start:

    Thanks again for making this happen.

    In solidarity

  7. Emily Gray says:

    Australia’s refugee policy should be a stain on the nation’s conscience for years to come – I welcome the statement from AARE on this as a teacher educator and passionate supporter of refugee rights worldwide. The policy is indefensible – it is cruel and unusual punishment.

  8. Marie Brennan says:

    Refugees and asylum seekers who have desperately sought freedom and rights in Australia, travelling by what are often potentially deadly boats to get to Australian shores, are now in the latest form of concentration camps. As Beyrouz Boochani’s book “No Friend but the Mountains’ and the poems and stories from others incarcerated make clear, the conditions are inhuman. Australia should hang its collective head in shame for the ‘turn back the boats’ policy, whilst accepting visa overstayers and those who arrived by plane or happen to have friends in high places. Educators have particular responsibilities for future generations. Public discourse and policy needs to change. Academics for Refugees have a National Day of Action for Refugees on 17 October 2018

  9. Alicia Flynn says:

    Yes I echo the comments above. Australia’s long term, bipartisan treatment of people seeking asylum is unconscionably horrendous. Our government inflicts unimaginable traumas on generations of people who not only have done nothing wrong, but were on their way to seek help. Educators can stand in solidarity with refugees who do make it here in calling for an end to this draconian policy and practice of locking up innocent people in offshore concentration camps. We will be reading Beyrouz Boochani’s book in a read-in on Wednesday 17th October at Uni Melb. Thank you for taking this stance. Stand strong.

  10. Jessica Gerrard says:

    So wonderful to see this statement from AARE. The current policies of indefinite detention for refugees and asylum seekers are deeply troublesome and must be overturned. These practices intentionally cause harm and have no regard for human life and dignity. As educational researchers it is certainly important for us to stand in solidarity with refugees and speak out against Australia’s abuse of human rights.

  11. Carol Morrison says:

    Thank you AARE for your strong statement and all those who have, and will, comment on this page. The horrendous policy of offshore detention, simply leaves men, women and children to rot. All for what? To build politicians’ profiles as strong leaders “I stopped the boats” on the back of the pain and suffering that we are inflicting on people fleeing persecution in many forms in their own countries? As Behrouz Boochani has experienced this, detention on Nauru and Manus has become a modern form of slavery. So our voices must become louder than the fear mongers – our voices can change policy. I will take part in Melb Uni events next week and stand against the government and opposition policies.

  12. Leanne Higham says:

    Thank you, AARE, for taking a public stance on this issue, I am proud to be a member. As a former secondary teacher currently researching how schooling in Australia might be more ethical, my work aligns with AARE’s overall purposes and aims ‘to enhance educational processes, policy and practice at all levels, for the public good’. This year I have spent months researching everyday life in schools, trying to understand how we can make schooling better. It doesn’t take quite as long to understand how the lives of refugees in offshore processing could be made better. It is difficult to defend conditions which enable sexual assault, physical and psychological abuse, mental illness, self-harm and suicide attempts—including among children—and the deaths of twelve people who have died as a result of suicide, self-immolation, medical neglect or unprovoked violence while in offshore detention. Yet in June this year, then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned Australians against compassion, saying that a single act of compassion (bringing twenty off-shore refugees to Australia for medical treatment) could undo the ‘hard-won success’ of the existing off-shore policy. Behrouz Boochani, detained on Manus since 2013, says it plainly: “The [Australian] government is convincing people in Australia that they have this right to violate human rights on Manus and Nauru”.

    Clearly, compassion has already been deemed insufficient for any change in policy. But are governments so blinkered by election cycles, that they are incapable of thinking ahead to how this issue will be described, analysed and evaluated by future generations, in Australia and internationally? How will Australia’s actions be represented in the history books? How will these governments be remembered? In the words of Behrouz Boochani: “What the government has done on Manus and Nauru is systematic torture … I always wonder, ‘Why’?”

  13. Sophie Rudolph says:

    I wholeheartedly support AARE’s stand against the Australian government’s heinous treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. Government policies of off shore and on shore detention, boat turn backs and restrictive visa requirements over many years, are examples of racism and exclusion that continue to bolster white supremacy and settler colonial power in Australia. These dynamics of power are also present in our education policies and institutional practices and so I see this also as an alert to us as educators to work against racism, exclusion and oppression in schools and universities, and in solidarity with marginalised communities and their intersecting struggles. The closure of the Manus and Nauru camps and relocation of refugees to Australia is an urgent first step in addressing these issues.

  14. Melissa Seymour says:

    Thank you AARE for this statement. The comments above give me hope that together we can end a policy that does irrevocable harm to people in need.

  15. Susan Webb says:

    Great to see AARE taking a stand on this issue and recognising the responsibilities of Australian society to support access to education, including university education, for all – after all this is one of the UN’s sustainable development goals that the Australian Government has agreed to implement. But it’s practices with regard to people seeking asylum suggest otherwise.

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