'Go Back' show highlights ignorance, but changes little: CSU academic

1 JANUARY 2003

The 'Go Back' television series recently broadcast on SBS highlights the ignorance to the plight of refugees around the world, but will do little to shift the community debate on policies and issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, says a CSU academic.

The ‘Go Back’ television series recently broadcast on SBS highlights the ignorance to the plight of refugees around the world, but will do little to shift the community debate on policies and issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, says a Charles Sturt University (CSU) academic.
 
Coordinator for child and adolescent welfare courses at CSU, Mr Neil Barber, said the TV show ‘Go back to where you came from’ made a critical point. “It establishes why the Federal government’s pursuit of Malaysia as a regional asylum ‘holding place’ is inappropriate, especially for children,” Mr Barber said.
 
“It was a bit like ‘The Amazing Race’ without the prize gnomes. It emphasised the participant’s xenophobia. Participant Raquel was the barometer of the experiment. Whatever she was confronted by, she reacted from her only reference point – her limited social and cultural life experiences.
 
“It’s little wonder that despite the dramatics, she emerges as the person who perhaps is the most honest and most affected by the experience, but least effected. Raquel will probably return to her normal life and wonder what it all meant.
 
“Critically, for me, the key line from the series was in last night’s response program, when ‘Roderick’ observed that while his view on policy hadn’t shifted, he realised he had to take a much deeper and wider interest in international affairs. This was the key context of each participant – they were reacting from their own lack of awareness of what events cause people to seek asylum.”
 
On the way the show was presented, Mr Barber is more circumspect.
 
“Although informative, I felt the participant’s reactions overwhelmed the information about the realities of refugees,” Mr Barber said.
 
“More interesting and influential as a social experiment would be to extend the time that the participants spend with the refugees, seeing how they move into and live in their new homes in Australian communities.
 
“And if the six Australians with firm views on asylum seekers, refugees and boat people for this ‘social experiment’ were Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Steve Price, Barnaby Joyce, Bob Katter and Pauline Hanson, it may have a wider effect on mainstream Australians.
 
“But maybe not, as the wider social context in which they formed their firm views are still as limited as Roderick’s wardrobe.”
 
Mr Barber is with the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at CSU in Wagga Wagga, NSW.

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