Sights and sounds of Australian immigration

More on character cancellations and bridging visas, plus some gorgeous photography.

Hello and happy Friday!

The immigration and population news that matters is below. This week’s memo has a surprising amount of art, architecture and even song.

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Difference in architecture

No stories on immigration or population from me this week (I was too busy writing about nuclear energy). This piece caught my eye though. It marks the release of a new book by Mirjana Lozanovska from Deakin University’s School of Architecture and Built Environment called ‘Migrant Housing: Architecture, Dwelling, Migration’.

“In the post-war period in Melbourne, architecture was the reason that culture was on the agenda for discussion. The whole idea of cultural difference emerged in Australia because of the very visual changes that Southern Europeans were making to the built environment.”

-Mirjana Lozanovska

What are today’s architectural trends driven by migration? The best I could come up with was the precinct around Broadway in Sydney and its link to the influx of international students at UTS and Sydney University. Reply to this email if you have any other ideas.

People of Australia

The Guardian featured a beautiful portrait series by Noel McLaughlin of Australians with foreign backgrounds.

“I grew up in Vietnam and came to Australia on a boat with 47 people. I was on a boat for four days and [because I was pregnant] it was very scary. I was in Thailand for eight and a half months and then we flew to Sydney. We lived in Guilford, then in Auburn and I cooked for three men and looked after three boys for $20 each. Back then, rent was only $65 a week. I learned how to use a sewing machine and worked day and night. The government gave us blankets and a bed, and we were happy.”

-Lan Vo

What else happened


The Guardian and SBS reported of the joint submission from some of Australia’s most prominent migration experts including Henry Sherrell, Abul Rizvi, Peter Mares, Shanthi Robertson and Laurie Berg to a committee looking into the Government’s plan to make it easier to cancel visas:

While it is not possible to confidently state exactly how many people will be affected, there is evidence to suggest it could be by a factor of five, including people who are unlikely to be an ongoing threat to the Australian community.

On Thursday, Immigration Minister David Coleman held a press conference criticising the Labor Party for failing to support the bill. The ABC sought a response from Labor. The party is yet to reach a position and is waiting for the committee to complete its report.

There has also been associated ($) coverage ($) from Jade Gailberger in The Advertiser about deportations.

Henry Sherrell and Shanthi Robertson wrote an article in The Conversation about why most migrants on bridging visas aren’t scammers:

Evidence is emerging that increasing numbers of migrants arriving on tourist visas are applying for humanitarian or protection visas once they’re in the country. This is the group Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, refers to as “airplane people”. She criticises the Coalition for trumpeting a hard-line approach to offshore detention and “stopping the boats” when asylum seekers are arriving by other means and seeking protection onshore in increasing numbers.

This exploitation of temporary visa pathways is a growing concern and warrants investigation. But associating all bridging visas with “scammers” and “illegal migrants” misses the bigger picture of the role bridging visas play in our changing immigration regime and the inequalities they can create for migrants who are operating completely within the rules of the system.

SBS reported the Government relaxed a requirement that results in more than 15 people with disabilities or illnesses having their Australian visa application rejected each year.

The Australian reported ($) of the looming Senate inquiry about the Government’s visa processing transformation plan which was set up by Labor and the crossbench. Labor is emphasising the potential of job losses from the plan.

SBS Punjabi looked into the possible expansion of the backpacker visa program by speaking to a Griffith farmer.

ABC reported that advocates for Australia's Seasonal Worker Program are remaining positive despite some high profile cases of labour exploitation involving Vanuatu workers.

SBS Hindi reported hopefuls have been left disappointed after Queensland temporarily shut down its general skilled migration program within two days of making it available, due to 'unprecedented demand.'

SBS Hindi also reported on caps for each occupation on this year’s skilled migration program. I hadn’t seen these before. For the experts among you: how significant are they?


The story of a family from Singapore facing deportation received widespread coverage, including on ABC, The Project and 3AW. The appearance on The Project featured a rendition of the song ‘I Am Australian’ by daughter Vanisre.

According to reports, an application for permanent residency was dismissed by the AAT on the basis that medical costs for Raj, the family’s father, would prove significant due to a kidney ailment. This statement was provided to the ABC by Home Affairs:

The Minister only intervenes in a relatively small number of cases which present unique and exceptional circumstances and where he considers that it is in the public interest to do so. What is or is not in the public interest is entirely a matter for the Minister considering each case on its own merits.

He was not asked about the family’s case at Thursday’s press conference.

Elsewhere, The Conversation reviewed a new Australian film set in an immigration detention centre, describing it as “a jarring mix of violence, satire and humanism”:

In a pivotal scene in Maziar Lahooti’s provocative but thoughtful satire Below, Iranian refugee and conscripted fighter Azad decries public ignorance of the realities of detention centres. “People don’t want to see,” he tells the white Australian guard, Dougie, on their way to a match in the detention centre’s fight club. Azad’s line seems emblematic of Below’s own mantra, both with regard to the current refugee crisis and the treatment of the issue on film. Yet paradoxically, Below’s insistence on expressing the severity of our detention system actually dilutes its message.

And in more news of creative expression around migration policy, the ABC reported a Bondi mural had been painted over following a council dispute.


The controversial mural at Bondi Beach


A jogger runs past the vandalised mural.


The Regional Australia Institute released a report comparing living costs and employment opportunities between urban and regional areas. The Australian ($) and Domain covered it.

The ABC reported from The Kimberley that travelling retirees are being urged to brush up on their manners as small towns confront a nationwide increase in camping and caravan holidays.

The world

A report commissioned by the Scottish Government comparing post study visas across nine nations, including Australia, was released this week. It found the UK’s offer to enable overseas students to stay and work once their studies are over compares “poorly” with international competitors, according to the Belfast Telegraph. The report is available here. Here’s an excerpt about the Australian framework:

As further growth in numbers of enrolments is expected in the coming years, concerns around the sustainability of the programme and international graduates displacing native workers have been raised. This topic is currently subject of political debate yet it is too early to evaluate the effects of the policy change on labour market outcomes.

In an Australian story reported around the world, the High Court decided the sacking of a Department of Immigration over tweets from 2013 that were critical of Government policy on asylum seekers was lawful.

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Have a good weekend.