Dr Eileen Pittaway
Dr Eileen Pittaway, Phd (Refugee Policy and Management), MBA (Social Policy and Administration), Grad. Dip. Social Administration, Grad. Dip. Education Studies, Dip. Social Welfare.
Eileen is the Director of the Centre for Refugee Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, and Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies, co-ordinating and teaching in the Master Programs of International Social Development, and Refugees and Forced Migration.
In the past decade she has conducted research, provided training to refugees, UN and NGO staff in refugee camps and urban settings, acted as technical advisor to a number of projects, and evaluated humanitarian and development projects in Kenya, Thailand, Ethiopia, Bougainville, Egypt, India, Sri Lanka and Australia.
A major focus of her work is the ethics of research with vulnerable populations, with a focus on refugees and migrants. In 2001 Eileen was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission for her work with Refugee Women and Children. In 2005 she received a NSW Premiers Award for services to Refugee Education In Australia.
Refugees escape from persecution, conflict, death threats and torture. The majority of refugee women and girls survive rape and sexual abuse in transit and in camps. Boys and girls are taken as child soldiers. Refugee camps are dangerous and services are inadequate to fulfil basic needs. Despite this, refugees fight to maintain their dignity, their families, their communities and their culture. They do this in the face of often insurmountable problems. Refugees bring an enormous and diverse range of skills and capacities to camps and on resettlement, but the structure of service provision often ‘de capacitates’ rather than recognise this. The rhetoric of self sustainability is empty when refugees are denied the right to work, and the most fundamental civil rights.
Little of the refugee experience is known in the developed world. The discourse of “border protection” silences their voices. Instead of compassion, and the recognition of their rights they are treated as pariahs, as illegal immigrants. We will examine the implication of this for countries such as Australia. We will suggest how this can be reversed so that refugee rights and dignity can be upheld and host countries can benefit from the skills and capacities which refugees bring with them. We will discuss how the work of the UNSW Centre for Refugee research is contributing to this change.