Refugees rejuvenating and connecting communities: An analysis of the social, cultural and economic contributions of Hazara humanitarian migrants in the Port Adelaide-Enfield area of Adelaide, South Australia (full report)

David Radford, Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, Heidi Hetz, Hannah Soong, rosie roberts, George Tan

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report (public)

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Negative Australian media and political discourse concerning humanitarian-background migrants has portrayed them as a burden, cost or threat to the Australian community, and/or unable or unwilling to integrate into the broader Australian community because of their (‘illegal’) means of arrival, or their cultural, religious and educational characteristics. It has been argued, however, that people from refugee backgrounds make very positive economic, social and civic contributions to host societies (Hugo et al. 2011; Collins 2013). The positive social, cultural and economic contribution of refugees can be clearly seen in the Port Adelaide Enfield Council region. The Port Adelaide Enfield Council is one of the most culturally diverse local government areas (LGA) in South Australia and has one of the largest Indigenous populations in Adelaide. Local stakeholders report that the Hazara-Afghans have had a transformative impact across the community including the economic rejuvenation of areas that were experiencing rapid socio-economic decline. There are a number of key themes that resonate throughout this report. The first is that an individual engages or contributes to the local community in which they live in ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ ways. For the most part contributions take place in everyday, banal, mundane or ‘invisible’ ways; and there are others who stand out in more overt, prominent or publicly ‘visible’ ways. We argue that we need to understand and acknowledge the contributions of humanitarian-background migrants, likewise, considering both ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ contributions. Second, there are those individuals and organisations who have the capacity to be social connectors, to bridge between communities. These individuals and organisations (from both refugee backgrounds and the local/wider community) are able to facilitate and positively promote ways that bridge between diverse communities. Third, humanitarian-background migrants arrive with assets, abilities, knowledge and experiences to contribute to the communities they live in, and many proactively find ways to do so. A strengths-based approach to understanding refugee contributions to local communities counters a deficit-based approach which focuses on these individuals and communities as victims who need our help rather than as individuals and communities who have much to give. Fourth, there is a conundrum for refugee communities who attempt to simultaneously strengthen, support and contribute to the development of their own communities or co-ethnic bonds, while strengthening, supporting and contributing to the local (and national) communities of which they are now a part. The report suggests that this is an ongoing, dynamic process that reflects both difficulties and opportunities. Refugees rejuvenating and connecting communities emphasises the importance of integrating social and cultural practices of refugees, in addition to their economic contributions, to local communities that they live amongst. Refugees rejuvenating and connecting communities recognises that challenges and benefits are part of any migrant settlement process, reflecting social, cultural or economic inequalities/prejudice/capacities on the part of receiving communities or the (in)ability of new migrants to engage or interact with host communities. Finally, Refugees rejuvenating and connecting communities deepens and broadens our knowledge of the potential transformative and rejuvenative impact that refugees can have on communities, including their own, adding valuable understandings of how this can be beneficial in other contexts across Adelaide, Australia and internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAdelaide, SA
PublisherUniversity of South Australia
Commissioning bodyMulticultural Communities Council of South Australia
Number of pages146
ISBN (Print)9781922046345
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


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