Collective responses and the university: Challenging the exclusion of people seeking asylum from Higher Education


This post forms part of our series in showcasing abstracts of presentations featured at our annual postgraduate interdisciplinary conference on refugee and forced migration research, hosted in October 2017 at The University of Melbourne.


Dr Caroline Fleay

In contrast to Australian Government policies that aim to prevent the arrival of people seeking asylum by boat, and the effective exclusion of those who do arrive from being able to resettle, a range of civil society groups and individuals have responded with acts of welcome, including some within universities.

People who arrived by boat since 13 August 2012, denied permanent protection even if found to be refugees, are forced to remain in limbo. For those who wish to study, their temporary visa status means that many are effectively excluded from accessing higher education.

This research will explore a university-community research and advocacy collective that seeks to challenge this exclusion of people seeking asylum from pursuing university studies. Underpinned by the lived experiences of people seeking asylum who are part of the collective, the projects aim to develop practical and useful outcomes that enable their access to higher education.

The projects also seek to elevate understandings within the university and beyond of the exclusionary impacts of government policies as well as foster the development of more inclusive education communities. This presentation will explore some of the outcomes and challenges of this ongoing project, and the role of the academic within such a collective.


Dr Caroline Fleay is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University, where she teaches human rights and conducts research into the experiences of people seeking asylum in Australia. She has been a regular visitor to sites of immigration detention and has a range of publications about the impacts on people seeking asylum of indefinite detention and living in the community with minimal supports. Caroline has also been involved with a range of community groups and human rights campaigns over the past three decades, including those focused on the rights to seek asylum. She is currently a Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia and continues to liaise with state, national and international refugee support organisations and activists to campaign on the rights of people seeking asylum.

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