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Academics Abroad: Learning About Human Rights & Government Policy in Sydney

Jun 27, 2016 8:30:00 AM / by Stephanie Sadler

CAPAStudyAbroad_Sydney_Summer2016_From_Matthew_Ramsay_-_Official_CAPA_Blogger.jpgMathew Ramsay is an official CAPA blogger/vlogger for summer 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World, sometimes including short video snippets. A political science major and economics minor at Morehouse College, he is studying abroad in Sydney this term.

In this week's post, Matthew talks about academics in Sydney - the "study" part of studying abroad.

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Probably the last thing you are looking forward to when studying abroad is ironically your course load and class time - especially if you are traveling to a vibrant global city such as Sydney. However, I can tell you that going to class has been one of the highlights of my trip abroad.

I am enrolled in PSCI 3356 Campaigning for Change: Advocacy in the Digital Age, which focuses on advocacy and campaigns that enact real change related to human rights issues and government policy. Our class would meet twice a week and regularly after the lecture was over, our professor would take us out for coffee to discuss our major project.

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 During the fourth week of the semester our professor, Connor Keene, took myself and the two other students in the class on a field trip. The destination was the Parliament on King; which was located in Newton. This establishment was founded in 2008 as a place for refugees and asylum seekers to receive hospitality training so that they may have a path into employment and stability. The owner of the café was able to sit with us and tell the story behind his inspiration and current events that were affecting the café. The shop was small, one room with a massive bookshelf covering one wall, the kitchen and coffee-making tools covering the opposite end, with seating and couches in the middle. Professor Keane had also invited one of his colleagues who worked under the division of Government Affairs for Amnesty International, and after the owner finished his biography and left for the backroom to take care of a malfunctioning frige, she talked with us for the remainder of class, sharing her own story along with the mission and work Amnesty International does.

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We spent a great deal of time discussing the atrocities in the Manus and Nauru detention centers where the Australian government deports refugees or asylum seekers that have come ashore. In fact this has been an immense source of controversy for the Australian government because of the grievous human rights violations that have been reported on in these offshore detention centers. Georgie, the Amnesty International official, also informed us about a protest she had just left before coming to share with our class wherein the demonstrators were organizing against a new law that was passed in the state of New South Wales which barred any protester from locking arms or attaching themselves to an object. She went on to explain how in cases such as these, as Amnesty International representatives, they show up in bright neon vests and observe the situation. You can imagine any law like the one mentioned above would be instantly challenged in the courts in America as a violation of the first amendment. But unfortunately, Australia does not have a Bill of Rights and it was eye opening to realize even in this developed Western country, citizens still had to struggle and fight for the basic right of free speech.

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This field trip allowed me to see a very different side of Australia. I was thoroughly surprised at the government’s harsh treatment towards immigrants escaping violence and human rights violations in their own country.

Thanks Matthew!

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Topics: Sydney, Australia, Official Bloggers and Vloggers