Principles for Australian refugee policy

“I just worry for my grandchildren to be safe and have decent lives,” says Zhanna, 84. Zhanna saw many difficulties throughout her life. When she was only five, she lost her mother in one of the air raids during World War II.Later, she lost two of her children and raised one of her grandchildren, who was 15 when her mother passed away. Today, we meet Zhanna* (84 years old) when she is taking care of her great-grand daughter Milana for two weeks, while her granddaughter Nadiia (33) is away looking for a place to live in Kyiv where she recently found employment and where she will be taking both Zhanna and Milana to live.For four months, Zhanna is staying in one of the collective centres in Zakarpattya oblast in the west of Ukraine. She was evacuated from Lyman village near Odesa amid heavy fighting and shelling. The village is now occupied and Zhanna has no connection with her other family members. “When the war came to Lyman, it was absolutely terrible. I was lying in the corridor, and there were loud sounds of explosions everywhere,” says Zhanna. Her granddaughter, who left Lyman right after the war started, insisted that Zhanna flee the danger.After the house windows were broken, she asked volunteers to help evacuate her grandmother.“Volunteers knocked on my door and said that I have 15 minutes to pack my belongings and leave. There were 20 people in the bus evacuated on the same day. We had to lie low as the bus was passing the dangerous areas where the fighting was ongoing, and the bullets were flying,” recalls Zhanna.After four months in the collective centre, Zhanna has warm words about the people she met.“I have received so much support from local people and from other IDPs. I feel that all the kindness expressed towards me somehow lifts my spirits and gives me health, and I become stronger,” said Zhanna. ;

The Kaldor Centre Principles for Australian Refugee Policy are grounded in evidence and informed by good practices from other countries, as well as from Australia’s past.

Revised and updated in March 2022, the Principles provide real-world examples of how, and why, Australia can develop a better refugee policy.

They challenge us to reimagine our current approach, so that both refugees and the nation can prosper amid today’s real global challenges.

Australia can achieve this, because we’ve done it before. We have a rich history of welcoming refugees since 1945, and we can draw on our past experiences – as well as good, current practices from overseas – to create a more positive, sustainable, long-term refugee policy.

“A successful refugee policy not only manages national borders, but also protects people who need safety.”

Launch of the Kaldor Centre's Principles & Priorities for Australian Refugee Policy

When Australians talk about people seeking asylum, the discussion tends to be 'emotional and often not very thought through', but the Kaldor Centre Principles for Australian Refugee Policy challenge us to change that debate, said UNSW Chancellor David Gonski AC as he launched the evidence-based policy agenda on 13 June 2019 in Sydney.

Set out in a comprehensive paper as well as in a summary with Key Priorities, the Kaldor Centre Principles are grounded in evidence and informed by good practices, providing real-world examples of how a more humane, sustainable and manageable approach can benefit both refugees and the nation. 

Presented by Scientia Professor of Law and UNSW's Kaldor Centre Director Jane McAdam. She said the approach is both principled and pragmatic. 'A successful refugee policy not only manages national borders but also protects people who need safety, and demonstrates leadership in meeting the global challenge of displacement,' said Prof McAdam.