What is it about?

Australia has some of the most stringent immigration policies in the world, coupled with often negative media and political rhetoric about refugees. Despite this, many Australians believe they live in a fair, tolerant society. So, how do everyday Australians make sense of media coverage towards refugee issues, and how do the narratives impact them? We asked ten advocates and supporters of refugees from New South Wales, Australia, about their interpretations of media and political rhetoric regarding refugees and asylum seekers. The themes that emerged centred on various forms of oppression, such as patriarchal and racial marginalization. Politics and media were perceived as working in tandem to perpetuate harmful myths of refugees and asylum seekers as “other”, whilst inflicting systemic cruelty.

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Why is it important?

Negative media and political rhetoric about refugee issues impact not only refugees but the wider communities in which they resettle. For those who work with or support refugees and asylum seekers, negative media can cause immense distress, trigger trauma and vicariously lead to burnout. The findings spark critical debate about refugee issues and highlight how the discord between personal views, media and political commentary has the potential to influence mental distress at many levels of society, creating a ripple effect in the wider community. The current research, therefore, encourages responsible, unbiased reporting of refugee issues in the media combined with depoliticization to help support the wellbeing of refugees, asylum seekers and the broader community.


The stories shared by the participants in this article had a profound impact on the first author in particular who was at the coal face of the narratives that provided the rich and insightful data. We hope that their powerful stories can broaden our understanding of how marginalisation negatively impacts everyone in society, not only refugees and asylum seekers.

Natasha Harding
University of Newcastle

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Refugee oppression in media and politics: Vicarious trauma, burnout, and opportunities to thrive in refugee advocates., Traumatology An International Journal, April 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/trm0000511.
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