Dr Rachel Stevens

Research and administrative officer Dr Rachel Stevens

Rachel completed a PhD in immigration and refugee history in 2011 (Monash) and recently published her first book, Immigration Policy from 1970 to the present (Routledge, 2016). Based in part on her doctoral research, this book examines national debates on immigration, asylum seekers and guest worker programs in North America, Europe and Australia over the past 45 years.

As part of the Laureate project, she has conducted extensive archival research throughout Australia and in the United States and Britain. Rachel is responsible for communications, the project's twitter account and managing the Refugee History Network.

In terms of research, she has recently completed research with Monash colleague Associate Professor Seamus O'Hanlon on the effects of immigration on Australian cities since 1945 (forthcoming in the Australian Journal of Politics and History). Rachel is currently completing an article (with O'Hanlon) on intercultural intimate relationships in Australia, a paper which is based heavily on the Australian generations oral history project interviews at the National Library of Australia.

Current project: The other Asian refugees in the 1970s. Australian responses to the Bangladeshi refugee crisis in 1971

The Bangladesh Liberation War against West Pakistan in 1971 triggered a mass exodus of 10 million refugees, the deaths of approximately 1.5 million people and destruction of villages and crops. Complicating matters further, the vast refugee camps in eastern India were plagued by a cholera outbreak. Despite this widespread violence and destruction, western governments were reluctant to intervene as they were preoccupied with the Cold War and their own domestic politics. International aid agencies, however, were undeterred by this unfavourable political climate and stepped into the void, offering substantial financial and material assistance. Among these were Australian aid agencies as well as individuals from a range of backgrounds. Despite the inertia of the Australian Government, Australian individuals and organisations proactively raised awareness, fundraised and organised humanitarian activities for Bangladeshi refugees.

This project is based on archival research of Australian aid agencies and is supplemented with a close reading of student, church, political and mainstream newspapers. At a time when the Australian Government was focused on the war in Indo-China and the Cold War, this chapter considers why the Australian public so eagerly offered aid to Asian, Muslim refugees, some of whom held communist views. This project also reflects on the schism between government refugee policy and community attitudes, an issue that still resonates today.