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Will refugees be welcome?

Panel discussion

The decade ahead.jpg

Each of our panels will discuss a scenario set a decade in the future. This scenario is not a prediction, but provides a picture of a plausible future in order to help us to explore and anticipate some of the issues we might need to grapple with to ensure protection for displaced people.

Panel 3 will discuss the following scenario:

It is 2033. Our sense of social cohesion has further fractured. In Australia, as throughout the world, society is split between competing narratives of nationalism and hyper-localism on the one hand (fuelled by growing inequality and socio-economic uncertainty) and global solidarities on the other (driven by shared environmental threats). Democratic institutions have weakened.

Global North countries still decide ‘who comes to their countries and the circumstances in which they come’ – but now they’re assisted by big data and algorithms that select migrants and refugees for resettlement based on risk profiles and their likelihood of successful integration. The algorithms do not prioritise humanitarian considerations, so the marginalised and most vulnerable are up against it. But tech-vetting has led to increased support for migrants and refugees, as people feel confident that the programs are well managed.

As we read the news in 2033, our personal AI assistants send us ‘critical thinking reminders’ nudging us to explore outside our bubble of AI-aggregated news and urging us to critically assess news stories, which now carry a blockchain ‘proof of provenance’ at the end of each article, showing who created and modified it and when. Still, these are hard work; they’re no match for large-scale disinformation campaigns leveraging generative AI, AI-generated images and fake videos, which have made it impossible to discern what is real and what is not on social media or aggregators, which are the main sources of news for people around the world. Regulation never got in front of the tech developments. People don’t feel they can trust most information they encounter.

However, virtual communities based on shared interests have begun to challenge traditional government power systems. Tech and demographic shifts have opened the way for new players to gain new prominence as influencers of public policy and the discourse on displacement. Social movements with digital firepower have nurtured charismatic new leaders and broader, more engaged memberships that operate both virtually and locally in person. There’s growing cooperation between refugee-led movements and climate movements, which clocked up some vital successes and are more powerful as a result.

Audience Q&A can be submitted through Slido at this link or #2579146


Peter Lewis

Executive Director, Essential Media


Peter Lewis is executive director of the progressive strategic communications agency Essential Media, the founder of the collaborative engagement platform Civility and a fellow with the Australia Institute’s Centre for Responsible Technology. For more than two decades he was worked with progressive organisations including unions, NGOs, not-for-profits and responsible businesses to affect progressive social change. He is a regular columnist with Guardian Australian and Fairfax newspapers as well as the author of five books including Webtopia and The Public Square Project.

Shabnam Safa

Chairperson, National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG)

@ShabnamSafa @NraagAus

Shabnam Safa grew up as a Hazara Afghan refugee in Pakistan before arriving in Australia at the age of 15. Inspired by her own experience of forced displacement, she is a strong advocate for meaningful participation of refugees in addressing the complex challenges of resettlement. She is the Community Development & Training Lead at Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA) and also leads the National Refugee-led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG) working to create spaces for strategic and influential inclusion of voices with lived experience in shaping policy and public discourse about refugee and people seeking asylum in Australia. Shabnam serves on various Australian civil society and government boards influencing policy design and delivery to address the challenges and opportunities facing refugee and migrant communities. She was recently appointed to the Australian government’s inaugural Refugee Advisory Panel advising Australia’s engagement with the international refugee protection system and humanitarian assistance.

Amanda Tattersall

Associate Professor of Practice, Sydney Policy Lab

@AmandaTatts @sydneypolicylab

Amanda Tattersall is an Associate Professor of Practice with the Sydney Policy Lab and School of Geosciences. She is the founder of some of Australia’s most interesting social change organisations, including the Sydney Alliance and She hosts the ChangeMakers podcast that tells stories about people trying to change the world. Her book, Power in Coalition, was the first international analytical study of alliance building as a strategy for social change.  As an urban geographer, she focuses on questions of how the city can be a subject for democratic politics, exploring how it can be a space where citizens develop different forms of people power to craft solutions to wicked global problems like climate change, poverty, inequality and the politics of refuge. At the Sydney Policy Lab she is the academic leader of its co-design research method and instigated the Real Deal project, which coordinates place-based projects across the country where communities are supported to develop solutions to climate and economic crisis from the ground up. Her PhD was in industrial relations, and she has previously worked as a union organiser. She has experience in many large social movements including against the War in Iraq, in support of refugee rights and as the President of the National Union of Students (NSW) in 1999.

Lenore Taylor

Editor, Guardian Australia

@lenoretaylor @GuardianAus

Lenore Taylor has been the editor of Guardian Australia for seven years and has been with Guardian Australia since its launch in May 2013, when she joined as political editor. Lenore has been honoured with two Walkley Awards and has twice won the Paul Lyneham Award for excellence in press gallery journalism. She is a formidable commentator on the Australian political landscape and has long been a regular guest on radio and television current affairs programs, including the ABC's Insiders.

Chair: Lauren Martin

Communications Manager, Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law

@ozlozmartin @KaldorCentre

Lauren Martin was appointed the Kaldor Centre’s first Communications Manager in 2016, joining from the Sydney Opera House, where she was Head of Communications. An award-winning journalist, she co-produced the Kaldor Centre’s storytelling project, ‘Temporary’. She was an editor in Australia at The Sydney Morning Herald and later of The Global Mail, appearing in that capacity at the Sydney and Melbourne Writers Festivals. In the United States, she was Managing Editor of the [Martha’s] Vineyard Gazette and Washington Editor for Institutional Investor publications. She earned a BA in Journalism and Political Science (Phi Beta Kappa) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. 

Image credit: Jonathan Martin/Pexels

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