Words by Adeshola Ore

The University of Melbourne is launching a new program focusing on asylum seekers. The Melbourne Refugee Studies Program will include education programs and evidence-based discussions. The multidisciplinary initiative will also create an Australia refugee studies collection, including fact sheets, policy briefs, study guides and records of refugee policies. It will aim to engage the university community and wider public in discussions about  asylum seeker issues.

Associate Professor Harry Minas is involved with designing the program. He said the initiative would generate discussions about Australia’s asylum seeker policy.

Professor Minas, who works at the Melbourne School of Population and Global Heath, described the program as having an “initial very clear focus” on asylum seekers who arrive by boat.

He said the research program aims to move beyond the bickering of the differing opinions on asylum seekers and instead form a discussion based on evidence.

The idea for a refugee program was introduced after a roundtable discussion on the issues was held at the Parkville campus last year in October. Student interest in refugee issues also prompted discussion.

Enrolments in refugee-related subjects at the university experience high student numbers. The multidisciplinary breadth subject Human Rights and Global Justice, which examines refugee issues, regularly records hundreds of undergraduate enrolments. The Melbourne Law School also has high enrolment numbers in subjects about refugee law.

“There are a whole lot of initiatives that students are taking—there are various groupings that have formed around the issue of asylum seekers,” Professor Minas said.

Professor Minas said the research information can contribute to research interests for Masters and PhD students. For undergraduate students, a breadth subject will be developed to allow students to gain an awareness of refugee issues. Students will also have a chance to be a part of the program through involvement in policy direction and program events.

The Refugee Studies Program is still in the process of being developed.