‘It put me in their shoes’: challenging negative attitudes towards asylum seekers among Australian children





This paper evaluates a short school-based intervention run by Australian Red Cross, designed to reduce children’s prejudice towards asylum seekers. A total of 121 children aged between 10 to 12 in four schools in Perth, Western Australia, completed questionnaires at Time 1 (pre-intervention), Time 2 (immediately after the intervention), and Time 3 (8-9 months after the intervention).  The intervention used a mixture of approaches: providing information, encouraging empathy, making positive social norms more explicit, and fostering imagined contact with asylum seekers. The intervention content was also reinforced by teachers throughout the school year. The study found that the intervention was effective in increasing the children’s positivity towards asylum seekers, reducing prejudiced attitudes, and increasing intentions to interact with asylum seekers. It also found that the intervention increased the children’s accuracy in defining ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’. These results occurred both in the short-and long-term, although there was some regression over time.


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Author Biographies

Lisa Hartley, Curtin University

Lisa Hartley is Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Human Rights Education since February 2012. Her interdisciplinary teaching and research is focused on questions of human rights and social change and is driven by a desire to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Lisa's research cuts across the fields of refugee and migrant studies, sociology, and community and social psychology. 

Caroline Fleay

Caroline Fleay is an Associate Professor at the Centre for Human Rights Education, Curtin University, where she conducts research with people seeking asylum. She has written extensively about the impacts on people seeking asylum of indefinite detention and being released into the community with minimal supports. Caroline is currently a Board Member of the Refugee Council of Australia.


Anne Pedersen

Anne Pedersen is a community/social psychologist and adjunct associate professor at the Centre for Human Rights Education at Curtin University.  Her current research interests include prejudice and antiprejudice with an emphasis on asylum seekers to Australia, Indigenous Australians, and Muslim Australians.  


Alison Cook

Alison Cook has worked as the WA Program Officer for In Search of Safety since June 2017 and volunteered with Red Cross in various capacities since 2009. She currently oversees this community education program on a national level. Her background includes work within the Department of Health, an Aboriginal corporation and university admissions. She has studied extensively in the fields of social justice, politics, international relations, humanitarian assistance and community development.


Alenka Jeram

Alenka worked over a decade in the refugee and asylum seeker sector, firstly with Association of Services for Torture and Trauma Survivors (ASeTTS), following by a long stint at Australian Red Cross where she managed Migration Support Programs in Western Australia. Alenka now works at Western Australian Council of Social Services.


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How to Cite

Hartley, L., Fleay, C., Pedersen, A., Cook, A., & Jeram, A. (2021). ‘It put me in their shoes’: challenging negative attitudes towards asylum seekers among Australian children. Human Rights Education Review, 4(2), 85–104. https://doi.org/10.7577/hrer.3951



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