6-8 October 2016


Melbourne Law School (Building 106)
185 Pelham Street, Carlton
The University of Melbourne


The plight of refugees has become the global issue of our times. The United Nations has estimated that over 65 million people worldwide are displaced as a result of conflict and persecution, the highest number since the 1990s. In most recent events, an estimated 9 million Syrians have fled their homes since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.

Throughout the twentieth century and now into the early decades of the twenty-first century, involuntary displacement of peoples has become a defining feature of the modern era. This 3-day international conference seeks to explore all aspects of the history of the past and present plight of refugees.

The conference aims to address a broad range of questions relating to this history, such as:

  • What has defined different refugee crises at different times in history?
  • What has been the magnitude of the refugee crisis and how can we explain its scale?
  • How have governments, humanitarian aid agencies, philanthropic and other organizations responded to refugee crises in modern times?
  • What have they learnt from past campaigns?
  • How have refugees experienced displacement?
  • How has the refugee experience changed over time?

Conference papers explore themes such as:

  • The place of personal testimony in understanding the histories of displaced people
  • How the category of refugee has been defined in different times and places
  • The changing process of regulation and administration of displaced people
  • The role of place and space in understanding histories of displacement
  • The relationships between historical and contemporary debates about refugees
  • The place of gender, families and nations in understanding refugee histories
  • The place of sound, speech, music and visual representations in refugee histories
  • How displacement and migration has been remembered, and the narratives used to understand these histories; and
  • The historical and political work of humanitarian endevours with displaced people

Conference program

Download the conference program

Download the conference abstracts

Conference registration

Note: registrations for this event have closed

Keynote speakers

Professor Peter Gatrell, University of Manchester

Author of The Making of the Modern Refugee and Free World? The Campaign to Save the World's Refugees

Title of Public lecture: From the history of refugees to refugee history

Saturday 8 October
5.30 - 7.00pm
David Derham Lecture Theatre
Melbourne Law School (Building 106)

Professor Linda Briskman, Swinburne University

Title of Public lecture: How will Australians be remembered: Compassionate advocates for refugees or silent collaborators?

Thursday 6 October
9.30 - 10.30am, Theatre 106
Melbourne Law School (Building 106)



Dr Alexandra Dellios
+61 3 8344 3478

More information

Presented by the EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges, the ARC Laureate Fellowship on the History of Child Refugees, the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne and the Melbourne Law School.

ARC Laureate Fellowship on the History of Child Refugees

Faculty of Arts logo

European Union Centre on Shared Complex Challenges Melbourne Law School logo

Image credit

Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrive from Turkey to Skala Sykamias, Lesbos island, Greece. Spanish volunteers (life rescue team - with yellow-red clothes) banner image

Refugee image