In Search of Safety program builds welcoming communities
The project in brief
Australian Red Cross
Started 2013 and is ongoing.
The program promotes welcoming communities through education, by highlighting the facts and journeys of people seeking asylum within the current global situation, building empathy in Australia's students, future leaders and the broader community. It also helps local communities safely grapple with fears and concerns they may have about refugees and people seeking asylum.
The program was started in response to a request from a school teacher who approached the Red Cross in 2013 seeking a fact based humanitarian perspective on the situation of people arriving in Australia by boat and a policy of boat turn-backs was introduced.
There are three components to our program: In Search of Safety (primary schools), Pathways to Protection (secondary schools, which also includes topics such as statelessness and migration caused by climate change or disaster), and Community Conversations (adult forums, including in workplaces).
All sessions are interactive and encourage two-way dialogue to enhance the learning experience and create a safe space for discussions.
To measure social impact, surveys are conducted before and after school programs to capture shifts in understanding and attitudes. Outcomes which are measured include being aware of relevant humanitarian and human rights issues, Australia’s scale of involvement and international responsibility, and the students’ own willingness to welcome and actively support people seeking asylum.
In line with Red Cross Fundamental Principles, information is presented in a neutral and impartial manner leaving participants to form their own conclusions based on facts. This allows for conversations that can change hearts and minds without confrontation or criticism based on a humanitarian perspective which removes the politics and places people back in the centre of the debate.
School sessions have led to donations for emergency relief to people seeking asylum, including Welcome Bags for newly arrived refugee children, letters of hope sent to detention centres, Christmas gifts for children from isolated migrant families, student YouTube media channels featuring forced migration, and specialised immersions for academic extension groups.
Adult forums are diverse and include businesses/employers, local government workers, teachers, universities, TAFEs, organisations and clubs, while tertiary education programs focus on future professionals who will work with forced migrant populations in their sectors of Education, Community Services, Aged Care, Disability Care, Youth Work, Mental Health, Early Childhood & Care.
- To foster welcoming communities that increase social and economic participation of asylum seekers and refugees by strengthening the capacity of people across Australia to welcome, understand and know how to support asylum seekers and refugees. For this then to lead to better local integration and increased support to resettle refugees, as well as increased understanding and capacity of workplaces to engage asylum seekers and refugees.
- Supporting local communities and work places to safely grapple with fears and misconceptions by utilising thought provoking presentations.
- Engaging group activities and enlightening real-life stories for participants to gain greater understanding of the lives, motivations and circumstances of people seeking safety.
Flexible and tailorable: Red Cross staff, Red Cross volunteers (including speakers with lived experience), PowerPoint, video, scenario simulation activity template, live-polling software, feedback banners, survey collection tools, prizes, follow-on action packs (electronic)
Schools, local communities, workplaces, federal and through funding, local governments.
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Funding and resourcing
- Ensuring volunteer availability
- Stress and vulnerabilities of volunteers with lived experiences
How they were overcome
- Using grant funding when it was available to develop and acquire physical resources such as pamphlets, prizes, printed resource packs action cards, posters to add as much value as possible, but when funding was scarce, all resources were provided electronically and non-essential items were stripped from core operations.
- Ensure bookings are scheduled for dates where a staff member is able to cover if no volunteer is available
- As the demand for the program grew, it became untenable to include a volunteer speaker with lived experience for each session due to frequency of availability required and also potential retraumatisation of regular story sharing. Volunteer guest speakers were supplemented with either filmed versions of their story, or other media that exists for storytelling either Red Cross created or licenses acquired as necessary. Such speakers are used for specific audiences or specialised purposes instead.
Results of the Good Practice
- Longitudinal study found the program led to long-term positive impacts on knowledge and behavioural intentions of participants. (E.g. an increase from 75% to 90% of students understanding that seeking asylum is a human rights).
- Employers have greater capacity to engage and support asylum seekers and refugees.
- Program volunteers with lived experience have increased self-reliance through confidence building, public speaking skill development, being empowered to self-advocate and an increased sense of belonging.
- Opportunity for the public to meet with and hear stories and engage with people with lived experience which can radically impact perspectives, humanising the refugee experience and lead to support for local integration and resettlement
Consolidate Community Conversations, In Search of Safety and Pathways to Protection as flagship outreach programs and increase our reach across Australia, including delivery through digital platforms. Work alongside young people to design, test and measure ‘calls to action’ for participants of In Search of Safety to encourage increased humanitarian action.
Work to increase the uptake of the modules which focus on environmental displacement due to the projections of accelerated and significant increases resulting from climate change making areas unliveable. Expand our Connect, Match and Support employment program.
Michael Kunz, Lead, Evidence & Influence, Australian Red Cross