‘A shock through the system’: Histories of crisis in Australian child refugee policy

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

This paper will explore how 'crises' around refugee and asylum-seeking children have been repeatedly produced and mobilised as an art and technique of government in Australia since 2001. Described by policy makers as 'shocks,' 'jolts' and 'circuit breakers', these moments and discourses of crisis within the Australian political landscape have served as a tool of racialised nation-building, effecting policy change and working to manage the place of child refugees and asylum seekers.

Moments such as Children Overboard, and the practice of mandatorily detaining child refugees and asylum seekers, will be historicised in order to understand the ways that the figure of the refugee child across the 21st century has discursively carried a particularly potent mobilising and affective force.

Jordana Silverstein is an ARC Postdoctoral Associate with the ARC Laureate Fellowship Project 'Child Refugees and Australian Internationalism: 1920 to the Present', led by Professor Joy Damousi. As part of this project, Jordana is investigating the history of Australian Government policy directed towards child refugees from 1970 to the present.