Australian law and policy reform

Exploring contemporary challenges in Australia’s refugee law and policy, and identifying priority areas of reform.

a woman holding her child

The challenge

In recent years, there has been extraordinary innovation in Australia’s policy, legislation and executive decision-making pertaining to people seeking asylum. This has raised important questions about the domestic law boundaries within which Australia’s refugee policy takes shape. It has been underlined by significant litigation testing these boundaries, and it has been marked by a sharpening of the public conversation about refugees and people seeking asylum.

Our impact

Policymakers have told us – and shown – that our Policy Brief Series, which brings top scholarly expertise to bear on key contemporary displacement challenges, can shape outcomes and change lives.  This work has led to real improvements for people seeking protection in Australia and others displaced around the world. Our 2022 Policy Brief on temporary protection visas paved the way to permanent, legal pathways for refugees otherwise stuck in limbo. A legal roadmap, it was produced with and garnered widespread support from civil society and the people whose safety was at stake. Ultimately it shaped the solution adopted by the Australian government for nearly 20,000 people. 

This legal and policy work followed the Centre’s public-facing, award-winning storytelling project, Temporary, which shed light on the policies that kept people onshore but in limbo, through their own voices, including in a narrative podcast series co-produced with The Guardian.  

Our work  

The Kaldor Centre’s ability to provide non-partisan, expert insights – grounded in our research and scholarly expertise – enables us to make a distinctive, highly sought-after contribution to public policy debates. Parliamentarians on all sides of Australian politics rely on the Kaldor Centre as a source of independent, authoritative advice. Our work is policy-relevant by design.

Week in and week out, our team provides briefings, analysis and media commentary, and plays an active role in contributing to parliamentary committee inquiries through submissions and in-person evidence. Our Data Lab, launched in 2022, is transforming the analysis of judicial and administrative decision-making, and provides a valuable tool that legal advocates can tap into for insights that could prove the difference for their clients seeking protection. Our Strategic Litigation Network and Legal Centres Teleconference connect practice and scholarship to ensure that advocates can access practical, evidence-based solutions.


Legislative and case developments

The project keeps track of significant legislative and case law developments that shape the domestic law framework that governs people seeking asylum in Australia. The team conducts analysis of key cases and legislation, and plays an active role in making submissions and providing evidence to parliamentary inquiries into proposed legislation.

The History of Australian Refugee Policy (Claire Higgins)

The history of Australian refugee policy has been shaped by the political priorities of successive national governments, developments in international refugee law, and the evolving nature of forced migration around the world. This project examines Australia’s response to asylum seekers and refugees over the past six decades, including mechanisms for refugee status determination and humanitarian resettlement.

Shaping Public Attitudes Towards Refugee and Asylum Policy (Daniel Ghezelbash)

Building public support is essential for advancing law reform aimed at developing more humane asylum and refugee policies. Using experimental design, this project aims to provide an evidence base as to effective messaging and value framings that can persuade the public to support reform proposals.

Explore our research

J. McAdam and F. Chong, Refugee Rights and Policy Wrongs: A frank, up-to-date guide by experts, NewSouth (2019)re 

C. Higgins, Asylum by Boat: origins of Australia’s refugee policy, NewSouth (2017) 

M. Crock, K. Bones, D. Ghezelbash, J. Hollonds and M.A. Kenny, 'Children and Young People in Asylum & Refugee Processes: Towards Best Practice' Federation Press (2020)