National Conference on Reconciliation, Multiculturalism,Immigration and Human Rights

Dr Diane Barnes
Senior Lecturer, School of Social Work, University of NSW

Where does the Heart Belong? An Exploration of how Refugees Relate to Australia and their Country of Origin

We all strive for a personal identity and a sense of where we 'belong'. This paper reports on recent qualitative research interviews undertaken with fourteen people from Vietnam, who came to Australia as refugees some fifteen to twenty years ago. Interviews were conducted with men and women from various walks of life, now living in diverse areas of Sydney. As these people reflected back over their experience of leaving their homeland and building new lives in Australia, they shared deeply held convictions about these two lands and the personal significance each now has for them. Insights are gained into how long the emotional turmoil can continue for refugees as they struggle to resolve the loss of their original homeland, and develop a sense of 'belonging' to this, their adopted homeland. Interviewees also described ways in which their personal identities, values and attitudes have been influenced by each of the contexts in which they have lived.

Dr Barnes is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Work at UNSW, and participates in the Centre for Refugee Research. She has conducted several research projects on aspects of refugee settlement, and is also interested in issues of identity and affinity in Australian society.

Presentation Type
30 min paper

University of Technology, Sydney, 1-2 December 2000

Papers & Workshops