The Federation Press

Yearning to Breathe Free

Seeking Asylum in Australia


“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ...” How has Australia risen to Emma Lazarus’ great challenge?

This overview of the historical, social and political contexts that have shaped Australia’s recent treatment of asylum seekers offers a clear-eyed view of the many dimensions of the asylum seeker predicament, including its psychological and humanitarian consequences, and lays out an agenda for change in policy.

Sir Gustav Nossal, the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser, Senator Lyn Allison, Phillip Adams, Professor Stuart MacIntyre, and Lindsay Tanner MP introduce the six sections. Julian Burnside QC, Dr Carmen Lawrence, Peter Mares, Pamela Curr, Michael Clyne, Linda Briskman, Derrick Silove, Michael Gordon, Arnold Zable and David Manne are among the contributors to the 20 chapters.

Yearning to Breathe Free is a passionate but informed work that is multi-faceted, thought-provoking, and ultimately hopeful.

All royalties for this book go to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.


Yearning to Breathe Free is a collection of essays on the human impact of Australia’s asylum laws and policies written by commentators, politicians, refugee advocates and other human rights icons in Australia....the collection provides a compelling critique of certain aspects of Australian immigration law and practice...
This book brings together a diverse range of people who examine the problems facing refugees and asylum seekers from a variety of perspectives...
should be compulsory reading for those assigned the demanding tasks of striking balance between compassion and control in Australia’s political and legal response to the phenomenon of asylum seekers and forced migration. - Australian Year Book of International Law, Vol 27, 2008

Table of Contents

Foreword Professor Glyn Davis
Introduction Dean Lusher and Nick Haslam

Part I – Historical Perspectives and Background

Stuart Macintyre
Australia’s response to asylum seekers
Dean Lusher, Nikola Balvin, Amy Nethery, Joanne Tropea
Been there, done that?
Klaus Neumann
Boats and borders: asylum seekers and elections, 1977 and 2001
Chelsea Piper Rodd

Part II - Coming to Australia

Senator Lyn Allison
Reassessing the Tampa
Peter Mares
Perilous journeys
Arnold Zable
The ’Pacific Solution’
Michael Gordon

Part III - Treatment of Arrived Asylum Seekers

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser
Not in my name: the People’s Inquiry into Detention
Linda Briskman and Chris Goddard
The impact of immigration detention on the mental health of asylum seekers
Patricia Austin, Derrick Silove and Zachary Steel
Mandatory detention and brain structure and function
Christine Canty and Christopher Benjamin
The invisibles: asylum seekers holding bridging visas
Margaret Theologou and Winsome Roberts

Part IV – Resettlement in Australia

Sir Gustav Nossal
Two asylum seekers’ stories
Erin Taylor
Supporters of asylum seekers
Pamela Curr
Meaning in life and social connectedness: the experience of Sudanese young people (re)settling in Australia
Susannah Tipping, Di Bretherton and Ida Kaplan

Part V – Public Opinion about Asylum Seekers

Phillip Adams
Those people
Carmen Lawrence
The news media’s representation of asylum seekers
Angela Romano
Words excusing exclusion of asylum seekers
Michael Clyne
Attitudes towards asylum seekers: the psychology of exclusion
Nick Haslam and Anne Pedersen

Part VI – The Future of Asylum Seeker Policies

Lindsay Tanner MP
Post-Palmer reform of the Immigration Department: progress and pitfalls
David Manne
The need for a uniform community-based reception policy for asylum seekers in Australia
Grant Mitchell
Australia’s refugee policy
Julian Burnside QC

Of interest...