Journal article

Refugee children, boats and drownings: a history of an Australian ‘humanitarian’ discourse

J Silverstein

History Australia | Informa UK Limited | Published : 2020


What are the stories of humanitarianism that Australians tell? What are the ‘collective narratives’ that create an imaginary of Australia as shaped by a culture of humanitarianism? This article explores one such story: that ‘we must stop the boats of asylum seekers so the children don’t drown’. This is a twenty-first-century narrative told by governments, media and the public that has served to create an idea of a ‘we’ who are in control and know best. In this article I move through the history of the development of this narrative, providing an exploration of when and how it emerged. I think through this narrative’s reliance on, and exploitation and further production of, humanitarian discou..

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University of Melbourne Researchers