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Refugee Council of Australia
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Home > 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

Building the Declaration into a Program of Action

In the past few months, I’ve participated in quite a number of discussions about the development of the global compacts on refugees and migrants. There is a risk, of course, that the nice-sounding words in the New York Declaration may result in no change for real people who seriously need greater protection. However, the proposal to develop a Program of Action to implement the Compact on Refugees offers some hope of change.

Anyone who is paying attention would know that the international system of refugee protection is seriously broken. We need change. Too many people who need protection from persecution are not receiving it or are living difficult and precarious lives in countries where they have sought refuge. Despite the temptation to give up in despair, we have to continue trying to plot a constructive way forward.

We need to be grounded and realistic in our thinking but, the longer I have been in my role with the Refugee Council, the more I have come to realise the importance of working with a sense of idealism and optimism. Constructive change can only come through a vision of how things could be better, backed up with a strategy for how it might be achieved.

A practical program of action associated with the Global Compact for Refugees could result in the Australian Government developing a much clearer plan for its international engagement in refugee protection. An effective national program of action would not just be about Australian citizens asking the government to do things but would include strategies that communities and civil society organisations could work on themselves, regardless of what the government does.

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