The Uniting Social Justice Forum in partnership with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), is helping Uniting Church congregations and communities change the conversation around refugees and people seeking asylum, through the #RightTrack practical workshops.
The #RightTrack campaign and workshops teach participants about framing and ways to use persuasive language focused on values and personal narrative.
The workshops also present a number of key messaging principles developed from the findings of the ground-breaking, sector-commissioned “Words That Work” research by Anat Shenker-Osorio. Shenker-Osorio’s research was aimed at finding more effective ways of speaking about refugees and people seeking asylum.
It is a time of heated debates around immigration policy, and Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum. More than ever, it is important to equip people with the skills and strategies needed for more open conversations about this issue that aren’t solely grounded in concerns around security, terrorism and border control. Continuing to use language in this frame, according to the research, perpetuates negative perceptions that demonise refugees and people seeking protection.
Hunter Presbytery social justice committee member, Debbie Carstens, said that the workshop made obvious how often “we have been drawn into using the security frame of language when it comes to this issue.”
Debbie, who also co-hosted one of the recent sessions, said that she was reminded by the importance of language framing in this context after hearing her friend’s comments.
“One friend commented that she had used the concept of framing regularly in her professional life, but had not considered how it could be applied in campaigning on social justice issues,” said Debbie.
The Hunter workshop was one of two presented in February. It was co-hosted by the Hunter Presbytery Social Justice Committee, Newcastle Anglican Social Justice Taskforce, Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Social Justice Council, and Newcastle-Lake Macquarie Grandmothers against Detention of Refugee Children. Over 60 people attended the workshop.
The Uniting Social Justice Forum team also presented a workshop for the Georges River Presbytery at Bankstown Uniting Church following a successful first session at Roseville Uniting Church in November last year. At Bankstown, participants were lucky to be joined by some people with refugee background from the community who shared their own stories and thoughts on the issue.
The next step for workshop participants and other Church members wishing to effectively advocate for refugees and people seeking asylum, is to have more conversations with those around them and, particularly, with local Federal MPs.
This was a key take away from the workshop, according to Debbie, who will be encouraging members of her presbytery to, “start talking to persuadable voters and in turn get them talking to their local MPs.” This, according to the ASRC and other organisations in the sector, will be essential in influencing policy and party position on this issue in the lead up to the next Federal election.
Watch this space!
For more information on bringing these workshops to your congregation or community and for support in organising an MP meeting, contact Alex Hogan at Give Hope: firstname.lastname@example.org/ 02 9407 3230.
Image: Participants from the Hunter Workshop with representatives from various local faith, advocacy and activist groups.
Alex Hogan is the Advocacy Officer at Uniting Social Justice Forum.