Understanding the meaning of rights: issues faced in refugee communities

Stream: Panel 94 - Human Rights & Democracy: Elusive Justice and Rights Vacuums for Mobile Populations; New Issues and Debates
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 1.30 pm – 3.00 pm


Among the many difficulties of adjusting to life in a country of settlement, refugees face challenges in relation to one of the very things that have led them to seek asylum: human rights. The possibility for refugees to seek asylum is grounded in human rights that are underpinned by the rule of law. Yet human rights are not only matters of law and policy but also have many different implications for the way in which everyday life is lived. This paper presents preliminary findings from an in-depth study undertaken by the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research with refugee communities settled in Australia and some of the non-government agencies that support their settlement. It explores the way in which human rights in Australia are perceived and experienced by refugees individually, in families and at community level. In particular, a discrepancy is noted between the ways in which human rights both safeguard refugees’ rights in settlement and at the same time are perceived by some members of these communities to be undermining cultural values. These in turn are often matters that within the Australian context are widely regarded as questions of social justice and equality, especially in relation to the rights of women and children. The paper considers preliminary ideas about implications of these findings for resettling refugee communities and settlement services.


Linda Bartolomei (Presenter), UNSW

Geraldine Doney (Presenter), UNSW

Richard Hugman, UNSW

Eileen Pittaway, UNSW