Lecture Series for Asylum Seekers evaluation report released

Asylum seekers invited to a lecture series at the University of Melbourne found it to be an “overwhelmingly positive” experience, according to a new evaluation.

The Lecture Series for Asylum Seekers began in 2014 as an initiative of the Melbourne Social Equity Institute and Researchers for Asylum Seekers. Lectures focus on issues of Australian society, including immigration, education, human rights and health.

The series challenged attendees’ perception of the University as a place closed to them, and they said that they appreciated the opportunity to meet students and academics for higher learning and discussion.

Report author Cassie Kotsanas said that the evaluation showed the value of the initiative.

“The feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. Lectures on Indigenous cultures and superdiversity were particular favourites”, she said.

“For many participants it was their first opportunity to learn about Indigenous Australians, so there was great interest in that.”

Five participants were among 14 people interviewed about the 2015 lecture series, which ran Monday evenings in September-October.

At the time the series was set up many refugees and asylum seekers in the community did not have the right to work or study, and this was having significant impacts on mental health and social connectedness.

“We’re seeing people left for years on prohibitive visas without meaningful access to tertiary education, many of whom were highly educated in their country of origin”, said organiser Dr Karen Block.

“With the lecture series we hope to provide real opportunities for intellectual and social engagement.”

Participants said that the subject matter of lectures could sometimes be challenging. One attendee said that because of their experience of immigration they found the lecture on human rights to be difficult.

“It was not boring, but it is not applied 100% anywhere. I am so worried about the migration process I am a part of, I hate the politics so the lecture was a bit hard to listen to”, they said.

Recommendations from the report are being considered in the planning of future lectures.

The third series will begin in September 2016.

Click here to download the report. [PDF]

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Gary Dickson

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