Let’s Fully Welcome Refugees

On the 8th of August 2013 St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral Melbourne, in cooperation with the Brotherhood of St Laurence, strung a 7meter banner on one of the spires of the Cathedral directly facing Federation Square… (TMA, 8/8/2013)


This stance was made in the context of Australians reeling at more than 1000 deaths at sea  of asylum seekers trying to reach the safety of our shores (The Conversation 23/7/2013). Labor, under Prime Minister Rudd and bowing to public pressure, had virtually adopted the Coalition’s hardline stance on refugees and off shore processing; there was a virtual bipartisanship in the looming 2013 federal election. In the papers there was benign acceptance as they reluctantly reported the Greens protests in 25 words or less.

Today, almost 3 years later, the newspaper headlines read: ‘…public needs to keep fighting for refugees’ and ‘Asylum seekers – is there a better way’ while refugees continue to languish ‘in our offshore gulags’ (SMH 5/4/2016). Was this early refugee campaign successful? What segment of society did it appeal to? What was the target audience and how well was the campaign positioned? Was it profitable in any sense of the word?


In the 2011 census 10.8% of greater Melbourne or roughly 430 000 people identified with the Anglican faith while approximately 60% [16.4 Million] of the [Australian] population identified more broadly with Christianity (McCrindle, 2013). About 1 in 7 that identify with Christianity attend a Christian congregation regularly and could be considered ‘active’ in their religion. Not everyone that identifies with Christianity would take a favorable stance with refugees. However, as Christian organisations on the whole dominate poverty related charity at home and abroad, it is likely that this segment will be the most sensitive to the plight of refugees.

And yet the advocates for refugees are not completely dominated by the religious. The Greens were the only prominent political party to consistently speak out. And despite prior rigorous debates with conservative Christianity (Same Sex Marriage, Right to Life and Euthanasia among others) the Greens and Christianity found a holy alliance, at least in their shared compassion toward refugees.


In 2010 close to 1.5 million voters had voted Green, well over 11% of voters. 1.8 million Christians attended a Christian religious service every week, not many of whom would vote Green. 14.5 million Australians identified with Christianity and the associated Christian charities. Minority religions would, on the whole, be compassionate toward refugees.

The target of the ‘Let’s Fully Welcome Refugees Campaign’ can be equated this way:

Segment Gross Allowance Target
Green Voters 1.5 60% 750 000
Active Christians 1.8 80% 900 000
Identify with Christianity 16.4 40% 9 840 000
Total 17.5 60% 11 490 000


The geographical position of the banner in Melbourne opposite Federation Square and Flinders Street Station was spectacular. The duplication of these banners on cathedrals throughout Australia and then internationally was of incalculable value. But how did this campaign position itself in the Melbourne market?

The 2013 banner and related programs acted to unite active Christians in a common cause with a focal point in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. Those that identify with Christianity and who would heartedly embrace many of its values were given a rallying call. But perhaps most significantly the conservative Christian segment and left leaning Green Politics were brought together. In 2015 the more than 1 million members of GetUp previously advocating for same sex marriage voted to shift emphasis toward the plight of refugees in Australian detention.

Analysed on only measurable criteria, the ‘Let’s Fully Welcome Refugees’ campaign failed. Most of the refugees that were in detention offshore in 2013 stayed there a very long time and suffered terrible physical and psychological damage, some are still there. However, segments of the social justice movement have been brought together since 2013. The 7-meter banner on St Paul’s cathedral was one of the first among many voices of compassion.


The Melbourne Anglican: ‘Banner welcome for refugees at St Paul’s Cathedral’, [online] 8/8/2013, Available at: http://www.melbourneanglican.org.au/NewsAndViews/NewsArchive/Banner-welcome-for-refugees–000446.aspx
[Accessed 8 Apr. 2016]

Davies, Sara: The Conversation [online] 23/7/2013, Available at: http://theconversation.com/factcheck-have-more-than-1000-asylum-seekers-died-at-sea-under-labor-16221
[Accessed 8 Apr. 2016]

Sydney Morning Herald [online] 19/7/2013, http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2013/kevin-rudd-to-send-asylum-seekers-who-arrive-by-boat-to-papua-new-guinea-20130719-2q9fa.html
[Accessed 10 Apr. 2016]

Sydney Morning Herald [online] 19/1/2017, Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/saturday-feature-asylum-seekers–is-there-a-better-way-20160126-gme9fb.html
[Accessed 11 Apr. 2016]

Sydney Morning Herald [online] 5/4/2016, Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/let-them-stay-campaign-has-had-some-success-but-the-public-needs-to-keep-fighting-for-refugees-20160404-gnygi6.html
[Accessed 11 Apr. 2016]

McCrindle, [online] 2013, Available at: http://www.mccrindle.com.au/the-mccrindle-blog/church_attendance_in_australia_infographic
[Accessed 10 Apr. 2016]

Submitted By: Simon Koefoed
E-mail: skoefoed@deakin.edu.au
Student id: 214486705
Wordpress Username: @skoefoed


One thought on “Let’s Fully Welcome Refugees

  1. Pingback: Let’s Fully Welcome Refugees | Mark Geoffrey Kirshner

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