issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Resisting refugee policy23in activist networks. It is also in line with thefinding of Gosden (2006) that some advocateshad prior involvement in other social justiceareas. However, it would appear that oursample were more likely to have had previousexperience with social justice work. Why thisis the case can only be speculated upon.Clearly, there were differences in method used– different channels of dissemination; theaccessing of different individuals and groups.However, one notable difference between thestudies is that Raab’s research took place a fewyears before the present research; similarlyGosden’s research went back as far as 2003. Itmay be that the participants who continuedlonger with such advocacy may have beenmore experienced with such work generallyand thus more robust (Gosden, D., personalcommunication, January 20, 2008).The nature of the problem with whichadvocates were dealing defines theirperception of refugee work as more stressfulthan previous social justice work. In theconditions of refugees’ uncertainty, deprivedfreedom and endangerment, over four-fifths oftheir advocates saw this as more distressingcompared to other social justice involvement.The critical nature of refugee advocacy, whichcan be a matter of life and death, is wellexpressed in the words of one of the advocates:‘So many times my refugee friends faceddeportation and possible death, torture,imprisonment. This was a lived, real possibilityfor them, and greatly effected (sic) me … ‘.The fear described by this advocate regarding arefugee returning to his or her homeland andbeing killed is not without merit. As brieflydiscussed in the introduction, it has been foundthat some refugees who were returned to theircountry of origin were not only brutalised andtortured on their return but some were killed(Briskman et al., 2008; Corlett, 2005).Levels of StressApproximately three-quarters of theadvocates worked with refugees as volunteers,and of course there were costs associated withthat. They responded to the situation ofrefugees by providing money, housing them,giving presents, sending parcels, and visitingthem at detention centres. It is no wonder thatmost advocates felt a significant impact on theirfinancial situation as expressively depicted by arefugee advocate: ‘We have had a great deal ofexpense. We have paid for airline tickets, rentfor family left behind, support for returnedrefugees, donations and fees to migrationagents, support for a family to live in our home,necessary items. It is impossible to estimate theexpense. Probably $30,000. It just goes outweek after week’.Results revealed that the advocatesexperienced not only financial hardship butemotional hardship too. Were advocates morestressed and traumatised than helpingprofessionals in other fields? The anecdotalaccounts of advocates’ experiences of stress(Gosden, 2005; Mares & Newman, 2007;ACHSSW, 2006) were generally supported bythe results of the study. The majority of theadvocates reported either moderate or highlevels of stress. It is not possible to make directstatistical comparisons with previous stressresearch as different scales and categorisationshave been used. However, judging by meanstress scores, it would appear that our advocates’stress levels (M = 3.44) were higher than thestress levels experienced by AIDS workers (M =2.60; Demmer, 2002) and physicians (M = 2.40;Linzer et al., 2002). In the Demmer study,service providers reported a lack of support,societal attitudes toward AIDS, poor salary, anddeaths of their clients to be major triggers ofstress. Similarities can be found within our ownsample. Refugee advocates did not experiencemuch structural support for their position andcertainly, societal attitudes toward refugees werenegative (Pedersen, Watt, & Hansen, 2006).Their finances were depleted, and they oftenfeared that the refugees they supported may bedeported and face death. In another study,Raviola, MacKoki, Mwaikambo, & DelvecchioGood (2002) found that AIDS carers reportedfeeling highly stressed because of the absence ofa cure for the disease. Again, similarities can beThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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