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Home > Publications > Speeches > Rebuilding our damaged reputation: A strategy for Australian leadership on refugee protection

Rebuilding our damaged reputation: A strategy for Australian leadership on refugee protection

Address by Paul Power, Chief Executive Officer, Refugee Council of Australia, at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, University of South Australia, 7 September 2017

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Kaurna people, who have been custodians of this land for many thousands of years. I pay my respects to their elders, past and present, and extend that respect to indigenous people present here tonight. I would like to thank the executive director and staff of the Hawke Centre of the University of South Australia for the invitation to give this public lecture.

The invitation came as a surprise to me as, while I speak publicly a bit, this is only the second time I have been invited to give something titled a public lecture. As an advocate, I have tried at times to lecture politicians and bureaucrats and found it to be a spectacularly unsuccessful strategy. My hope for all of you present tonight is that this lecture might be a little more successful. Thank you for coming along.

While I’m in a thanking mood, I’d like to thank people who have helped the Refugee Council of Australia to keep going as a voice for Australians who want to see our nation respond fairly to people who been displaced by persecution. You may recall that in 2014 the then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison completely cut the $140,000 of core funding we received from the Federal Government.

While this was only about a quarter of our income at the time, it was a significant threat for a very small organisation – just as it was designed to be. Many people came to our aid and, in six weeks, we received in public donations three times the amount Mr Morrison had taken away. Four years on, we are more active and vocal than ever, supported by public donations and contributions from our members. I think our experience is an example of the struggle organisations involved in advocacy have in the current political environment.

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