Media Releases

SSI Speaker Series: Perception is reality


Settlement Services International’s (SSI) third Speakers’ Series event for 2014 will explore the theme: Perception is reality: How do we form our perceptions of refugees and asylum seekers?

The live panel discussion will approach the complex question from different angles following a presentation by Professor Andrew Markus, who heads the Scanlon Foundation’s Mapping Social Cohesion research program based at Monash University.

The 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report suggested that the majority of Australians support a humanitarian settlement program, which assesses refugees overseas but are negative towards asylum seekers arriving by boat. The predominant view is that asylum seekers are illegal economic migrants. Claims of persecution are often ignored as a push factor. These views have increased since 2011. 

Professor Markus said his presentation would examine survey findings since 2000 and seek to establish whether attitudes were consistent or had changed over time. It will also discuss differences within demographics of the population, he said.

“Examination of survey data is useful to provide understanding of the extent to which attitudes are shaped by political debate and the media, as distinct from basic values of Australian people,” Professor Markus said. “Consideration of public opinion within the European Union provides scope to further understand the distinctive characteristics, if any, of Australian opinion. Are Australians, for example, more xenophobic than Europeans?”

A panel discussion featuring Professor Markus, journalist and author Chris Rau and Commander of Management and Leadership Development for the NSW Police Force Mark Wright, will follow the presentation. 

Chris Rau is a print journalist with 30 years’ experience writing for national and metropolitan newspapers and magazines in Sydney and Melbourne. She also published a handbook for media newcomers and students titled Dealing with the Media (UNSW Press, 2010). She has written on asylum seeker issues since 2005. She is also the sister of Cornelia Rau, a German citizen and Australian permanent resident who was wrongfully detained in 2004 and 2005 as part of the Australian Government's mandatory detention program. 

Superintendent Wright was Local Area Commander of Blacktown Police from June 2008 to December 2013. During his time at Blacktown, Superintendent Wright was highly commended for his work with the multicultural community. In 2010 he was awarded a Humanitarian Award by the Refugee Council of Australia and NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and in 2012 was named a Paul Harris Fellow by Rotary (International) in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the better understanding and friendly relations between peoples of the world. He is the founder and former chair of the COM4Unity Project. His work in Blacktown has been the feature of positive news stories on A Current Affair and the ABC’s 7.30 programs as well as in The Sydney Morning Herald and local newspapers.


Date and time: Tuesday August 26, 2014 from 6:00 to 7:30pm

Location: SSI Auditorium, Level 2, 158 Liverpool Rd, Ashfield


Attendance by media: see contacts below

Attendance by public: register at




Media enquiries:

SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491 or  02 8799 6746

SSI Communications Officer, Rekha Sanghi 0422 304 578

SSI Marketing and Communications Manager, Angela Calabrese 0401 284 828

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