Asylum seeker subcommittee
The Asylum Seeker subcommittee is concerned
with the human rights and civil liberties of one of the
most deprived sections within our community. The committee
aims to expose abuses in these areas as and when they
occur and seek to achieve legislative and institutional
change through advocacy and public awareness. The priority
of the subcommittee remains the overturning of mandatory
If you are a CCL member and would like
to be involved in this process of policy formulation,
please contact the CCL
office and ask to be put in contact with the subcommittee
to read more on this issue...
Notes from an asylum seeker advocate
I am an asylum seeker advocate working
to ensure asylum seekers applicants receive due process
in their claims for asylum. Although armed with a Law
degree, I do not practice as a lawyer in this role.
As a member of the NSW Council of Civil
Liberties I am part of a group of people who communicate
directly with people in detention in Australia. Amongst
asylum seekers there is usually a spokesperson with a
good command of English who liases between myself and
the group and this is usually my starting point.
The task I set myself is to ensure everyone
who needs it, has legal support as well as medical/psychological
support. It is as much a matter of sleuthing as it is
one of communicating with the bureaucratic minefield that
is the Department of Immigration, Additional challenges
comprise dealing with the Detention management company
at present SERCO, together with the practical difficulty
of making phone or email contact with individuals detained
in remote detention centres such as Scherger (in the Gulf
country of Northern Queensland).
Case managing, tracking the progress
of a case, negotiating and talking with authorities on
behalf of a detained person; referring cases to solicitors
and barristers – liaising between the legal professional
and the detainee are some of tasks I undertake.
The everyday communication processes that we all take
for granted are not available to detainees; understanding
how this situation affects a detained person is one of
the driving forces for me to act.
The CCL works to ensure the rule of
law is maintained. Working with individuals who are frequently
unaware of their civil rights, who are marginalised and
often traumatised by their past histories brings into
focus the necessity to be actively involved in ensuring
all individuals who are part of our community are given
a fair go according to our laws of natural justice. It
is a very worthwhile and satisfying experience to advocate
under the umbrella of the CCL.
If you’d like to become involved
contact NSWCCL on 02 8090 2952 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The work requires only commitment and
Tips on approaching
Everyone who has ever pitched to media
has their own modus operandi. There is no real right or
wrong way. This is what has worked for me.
• The most important thing is to
know your material and research your outlet. Are
you looking for print, electronic or social media? Reading
and watching is the best way to become familiar with outlets.
Who runs what sort of story? On what days, at what time?
My main outlet for refugee stories has been, ABC, radio
and television.Fairfax media, Sydney Morning Herald, Good
weekend. That being said, I’ve also had luck with
News Ltd, namely the Telegraph. The Telegraph wasexcellent
with the children in detention issue. They ran photographs
on the front page which generated much sympathy in the
community. As the largest selling newspaper in NSW, they
are always worth considering. The idea is to know beforehand,
the type of work that a particular journalist does and
if they are likely to be sympathetic to the material supplied
• Personal contact is the best
way in. This can be achieved by persistence. Going
cold to any editor takes much persuasion but if you have
a story to tell they will be open to it. News always has
a market. Breaking news is top of the pops. Editors are
keen to steal a march on their competitors. Collect mobile
numbers. You aremore likely to be listened to you if you
speak to someone direct, rather than the switch or their
voice mail. If you speak to someone who is non committal,
they’re more likely to be on a tight deadline than
giving you the brush off. Ask to ring back at a more convenient
time. Become familiar with the length of words and style
of publication. The SMH does a lot of 500 and 700 word
stories.If you don’t know who the immigration roundsman
is, (at present Kirsty Needem is on maternity leave) ask
for the person covering refugee issues.
• Be clear on theinformation
you are offering. If you can supply phone numbers,
address etc, itmakes it easier for a journalist. I preferto
telephone first, then follow with and email. Even a fax.Faxes
because they’re not used so much.But they are eye
catching and on hard copy. They arrive on a desk, as opposed
to at the bottom of a long line of emails. A fax can thenbe
followed by an email.
• Verify everything before
passing on anything. One inaccuracy or exaggeration
and they’ll never come back to you. Make yourself
into a specialist and you’ll find that the media
will come to you. Good news refugee stories are uncommon
and generate interest. There are thousands of them.