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Survey on Refugees & Detainees - Your Response

18 February 2002 at 12:02 pm
Staff Reporter
A Not for Profit survey on refugees, asylum seekers and detention centres has produced polling results that show for the first time a clear disapproval of the Federal Government's refugee policy.

Staff Reporter | 18 February 2002 at 12:02 pm


Survey on Refugees & Detainees - Your Response
18 February 2002 at 12:02 pm

A Not for Profit survey on refugees, asylum seekers and detention centres has produced polling results that show for the first time a clear disapproval of the Federal Government’s refugee policy.

The survey prepared by a Victorian umbrella group of Not for Profits coordinated by the Justice for Asylum Seekers and Pro Bono Australia provides evidence that debunks recent media polls that have been showing that a majority of Australians are in favour of the Federal Government policy on detainees.

A Pro Bono Australia Special Bulletin went out on Monday 11th February discussing the involvement of Third Sector groups in the refugee area. Readers from or involved with Not for Profit organisations were asked to take part in the survey formulated by several Not for Profit organisations.

After only 13 business hours Pro Bono Australia received 275 responses – a six- percent participation rate. At the time of sending this edition the figure had climbed to 356.

The survey results show that 74% are not in favour of the Howard Government policy.

Separately from the survey, Pro Bono Australia’s web site carried out an Instant Poll that asked the question “ Do you agree with the current government policy on asylum seekers/refugees?’ Final results from the poll showed 85% voted ‘No’ another 14% voted “Yes” and 1% voted ‘Don’t know’.

One of the messages that was highlighted by the survey is the need for more information to allow Australians to formulate their opinions. The survey found 74% of participants felt that the information they are getting in the media is insufficient.

On the question of the length of time people should be held in detention centres, 69% thought that it should be restricted to less than six months. The same percentage of people thought the current policy was damaging to Australia’s International standing.

On the issue of whether women and children should be in detention centres, 83% disagreed with the practice, including a significant number of participants who generally agreed with the Howard Government policy on using detention centres for asylum seekers. (Of those who said they agreed with government policy on detainees, 30% did not approve of unaccompanied children in detention centres).

Another 89% did not agree with the policy that allows for unaccompanied children to be detained.

Recent media Polls have shown that a majority of Australians are in favour of the current government policy on detainees.

A recent Nine Network Poll put the figure as high as 90% approval, and a News Poll in The Australian newspaper put the approval rating at 58%.
A Morgan Poll taken at the time of the Tampa Boat crisis showed 68% approval by Australians of the government’s policy.

Pro Bono Australia has the largest e-mail distribution of any organisation dealing with the Third Sector as well as its corporate community links with the top 500 Australian listed companies, law firms and accounting practices across the country.

Pro Bono Australia agreed to use its web resources to assist the Third sector in the short term to survey the views of its readers while funds are raised by the umbrella group to commission detailed quantitative and qualitative research.

Josh Bornstein, a co-founder of the Coalition for Reform of Refugee Policy says this excellent piece of research undertaken by pro Bono Australia suggests the tide may be turning.

Bornstein says it points to the time being right to conduct further research into the values and opinions of Australians right across the board.

Louise Doyle from Pilotlight says she can now better target Pilotlight’s activities with the addition of this survey information and the comments that have flowed from it.

If you would like a full break down of the Not for Profit Survey on Refugees send us an e-mail to

Australian Volunteers International is hosting a community Forum in Melbourne on February 28th called “Why Leave Home? International Dimensions to Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker response.” One of the Guest speakers will be Julian Burnside QC as well as a number of expert speakers from the Not for Profit sector. For details call (03) 9279 1777 or e-mail

The following sites provide more information on the topic. Keep up with the debate:

Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
United Nations High Commission for Refugees

United Nations Association of Australia

One World at

Edmund Rice Centre

Refugee Council of Australia

Exile Images
Look at the Howard Davies photo exhibition for a balanced collection of images – refugees in detention, and positive images of families reunited and in rehabilitation in the UK

Amnesty International and search for article ‘a constitution lacking human rights is nothing to celebrate’.

Philip Ruddock answers questions on Woomera

Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Copies of reports on Woomera and comments from the Human Rights Commissioner on conditions at Woomera, Christmas Island and Cocos Islands

Pictures taken at Woomera 25 – 29 Jan 2002 by HREOC staff

Links to consultation docs and information on racism in Australia, including ‘Face the facts’

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