issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Resisting refugee policy22general policy: operations of or changes to(15%), behaviour of detention/immigrationstaff (15%), impact on own life (8%), andrefugee family issues (3%).The mean stress levels of our participantswere generally on the high side (M = 3.44 outof a 5 point scale). Dividing the stress scores ofparticipants at the 33rd and 66th percentilesresulted in only 3% of participants with lowstress (scores 1.0–2.3), 58% with moderate(scores 2.4–3.6), and 39% with high (scores3.7–5.0) levels of stress. Most participants(87%) related their stress to ongoinginvolvement in refugee advocacy rather than toa single acute event. We also found high levelsof vicarious trauma as measured by theMorrissette (2004) scale which wassignificantly correlated with stress scores (r= .77). This adds to the validity of the stressscale, but is beyond the scope of this paper totake this finding further.Coping Strategies and their EffectivenessThe two most used coping strategieswere seeking emotional support andinstrumental support. However, the differencebetween the mean scores of the two copingstrategies was significant, t(65) = 2.38, p < .05)indicating that participants used emotionalsupport significantly more often than they usedinstrumental support. However, the two mostsuccessful coping strategies were instrumentalsupport and emotional support. Both strategieswere perceived as equally successful, t(64)= .66, p > .05.Only 27% percent of participants soughtprofessional support (e.g., counselling) toassist in coping with stress at the time of theCritical Incident, almost half of them (44%)from an official organisation. All (100%) ofthem reported the professional support washelpful.Changes in Relationships and PositiveExperiencesMost of the advocates (69%) reportedchanged relationships with some of theirfriends, family, or work colleagues as theresult of their involvement in refugeeadvocacy. For 15% of the respondents, therelationships changed in a positive way (e.g.,found support, the quality of relationshipsimproved). For over a third of participants(39%) the relationships changed in a negativeway (e.g., lost a friend, became distanced fromthe family) and for almost half (46%)relationships changed in both positive andnegative ways (e.g., strengthened relationshipswith some friends, but alienation from theother). There were nine themes of positiveexperiences as revealed by thematic analysis.Overall, 57 participants (84%) reported 118incidents. The three primary themes were newfriendships or broadened networks (29%),personal growth (19%), and appreciation of life/humanity (12%). The less reported themes wereunderstanding of others’ cultures (9%), thedeveloping of strengths (9%), the developing ofnew skills (8%), awareness of politics or socialjustice (7%), satisfaction from or valueoriginating from the work (4%), and findingmeaning in one’s life (3%).DiscussionWe now discuss the four major findings,and compare such findings with previousresearch. Finally, the findings are discussed interms of implications in relation to immigrationpolicy and community support.Stress Levels Compared with PreviousAdvocacyThe negative impact of the refugee regimeon the refugees themselves has been welldocumented (e.g., Austin et al., 2007; Briskmanet al., 2008). Not surprisingly, many concernedcitizens who in the past were seeking socialjustice for other disadvantaged anddiscriminated people (e.g., IndigenousAustralians; victims of domestic violence;people with disabilities) formed alliances tosupport refugees. Indeed, over two-thirds of theadvocates in the present study came to therefugee movement with experience in othersocial justice areas. This finding is in line withone of the motives for refugee involvement asreported by a quarter of the advocates of theRaab (2005) study: they were already involvedThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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