The Australian Government posted a job advertisement online a few days ago looking for applicants for a landmark refugee advisory panel. This is the first time that this type of formal body has been implemented in Australia.
The panel will have between 7 and 9 members who would serve for an initial 18 months. This would equate to about 10 hours of work a month.
The job advertisement says that the Advisory Board members would be expected to:
Use their lived experience as refugees to inform and advise the Government on refugee-related decisions and policies
Help the Government be a leading force internationally on these issues
Connect governments and other high profile people/institutions globally with a network of individuals working to improve the lives of refugees
They’ll also be extensively involved in preparation for the UNHCR Global Refugee Forum and have direct input into what Australia presents while there.
Sounds progressive, right? It is, except there’s a pretty big catch. Being on this panel is an unpaid position. An unpaid position offered to some of Australia’s most vulnerable and marginalised. This is consistent with advisory panel models in other countries.
Asking for their time and expertise without so much as a drop of reimbursement in return.
Dung Tran, Co-Founder and Director of Our Race, has written a letter to the Minister for Home Affairs - highlighting the fact that the Department is asking the most marginalised people to work for free. “The concern we have is multifaceteed, which is the undervaluing of lived experience by not prioritising the payment of people partaking in an expert panel,” the letter states.
In a statement to Missing Perspectives, a Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said:
“Having a Refugee Advisory Panel is the next logical step in the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to our humanitarian obligations and ensuring successful resettlement journeys. The importance of lived experience in shaping national and international dialogue and policy around refugees cannot be over emphasised; we look forward to receiving applications from talented, passionate people to champion humanitarian interests and issues.”
How can the government get things halfway right by recognising that lived experience matters enough to shape what they do, but not value it enough to pay it? Most people couldn’t make that time commitment without losing hours they could’ve used for paid work. The Department of Home Affairs needs to do better.