Empathy is the watchword for Refugee Week

By Wenlei Ma | 17 June 2013

What do Frank Lowy, Eva Cox, Karl Kruszelnicki and Anh Do have in common? They all came to Australian shores as refugees. The Department of Immigration has launched a social media push to celebrate Refugee Week.

The campaign, which will run from today until 21 June, is centred around the tale of a Bhutanese family's journey from Nepal to Launceston, Tasmania. The family's personal story is designed to give Australians insights into the refugee experience.

People will be able to follow the family's passage through a series of videos which will be promoted through social media platforms such as Storify, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship spokesperson Sandi Logan told AdNews: “[Refugees] can be a contentious issue and it's been a challenge over the last three or four years to celebrate the contributions of refugees of the development and growth of our nation.

“What we seek to do is stay right out of the politics and get back to basics. There have been 800,000 refugees since the end of World War II and they've been an integral part of the development of our country.”

Asked if the campaign's target market, under-30s, are more empathetic to the message, he said: “They're not necessarily more empathetic. Most Australians are empathetic to migration generally. One in two of us are born somewhere else or have a parent who was. So we are quite empathetic because of our personal experience.

“One of the ways to reach tomorrow's decision-makers – university students, high school students and even primary-aged children – is through social media.”

Of course social media, due to its open nature, does carry the risk of generating heated debate around the contentious issue. However, Logan said the department has always been very active in monitoring its social media channels and they strive for 24/7 engagement. He added most people understand the department is there to do a job and serve the policies of the government of the day and that it is not the political face of immigration.

Refugee Week coincides with International Refugee Day on 20 June, which was established by the United Nations in 2001. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship was been celebrating Refugee Week for over two decades.

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