“JOURNEY” – Propaganda extravaganza to deter asylum seekers

April 3rd, 2016  |  Published in Asylum seekers, Power, Privilege, Politics


Journey” is a government-funded movie intended to deter people from seeking asylum in Australia, and is part of a $70.7 million budget allocated for the purpose over a six-year period.

I’ve watched the complete 90 minutes of this $6 million Dutton deterrence propaganda extravaganzajourneydutton. (The photo gives an indication of how pleased the Minister is with his achievement.)
“Journey” is available in Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Arabic, and Farsi, but not English (at the time of writing, apart from a few snippets). I therefore didn’t understand it all but the (nonverbal) messages are, it seems to me, pretty clear.
(See note about the version with English subtitles that was provided as a comment after this post was published):

  • People, mostly young, are portrayed as embarking on their “journeys” from countries such as Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, for example, sometimes being farewelled by parties and tearful families, much as any young person travelling overseas.
  • There is very little shown of the situations left behind, and they are not portrayed as obviously dangerous. People are seemingly leaving to “find a better life”; are too impatient to “wait in the queue”, and hence prepared to pay thousands of dollars to “people smugglers” (who pay the actual boat crew a relative pittance). Even the Hazara who left Afghanistan “because of the violence” may, the suggestion is, be more in danger from in-fighting than oppression and human rights abuses.
  • The journey, on the other hand, is shown in extensive detail and is journey1indescribably bad, fraught with violence, deception, extortion, and betrayals. The heart-wrenching separation of family members is highly dramatised, as is the overcrowding, shortage of water and lifebelts, storms at sea, and ultimate sinking of the boat.
  • The drownings are shown in gruesome detail.
  • Footage of the boat entering Australian waters is, of course, precluded by its sinking. The inhumane conditions in offshore detention centres are therefore not on display. This may have been done to emphasise the risk of death at sea, but it also conveniently keeps the dirty political linen under wraps and out of the public eye. Some sacrifice of the deterrence “message” may have been seen as prudent.

It is a sadistic piece of work to my eyes, although the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) describes it as a “key part” of its anti-people smuggling initiative, and hence with a noble cover story of “saving lives at sea”.

The potential audience is 50 million people, according to officialdom, which says something about the extent of displacement and desperation – something that is not going to be fixed by scare tactics.

“Journey” has attracted substantial media attention, including some feedback from refugees in target countries about its success in scaring people off attempting the boat journey (1 and 2 below); some satire (3); condemnation from human rights groups (4); and praise for its effectiveness in “raising awareness” by the owner of the advertising agency paid $1.63 million to promote it, who himself came to Australia as a refugee (5).

  1. http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/mar/28/hard-to-watch-afghans-react-to-6m-australian-film-aimed-at-asylum-seekers
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/03/28/asylum-seeker-film_n_9555074.html
  3. http://www.sbs.com.au/comedy/article/2016/03/28/dutton-defends-asylum-seeker-film-hardly-worst-thing-weve-done
  4. http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/03/29/telemovie-aimed-deterring-asylum-seekers-condemned-human-rights-groups
  5. http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/former-refugee-paid-to-promote-duttons-antirefugee-telemovie-20160401-gnwfy6.html

An important purpose of this post is to keep some of the links on record, particularly of the movie itself. Many people I know hope they will see a day when a Prime Minister will apologise for the brutality of our detention regime, and punitive deterrence policies. In the meantime this post records a sign of the times.

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NOTE: After I published this webpost, a link was provided by an anonymous commenter to a version of the movie with English subtitles. Here are some additional aspects I drew from that version:

  • The “smugglers” are portrayed as dodgy characters who are exploiting their customers as well as the crews of the boats.
  • The asylum seekers come across as self-serving plotters and schemers, prepared to feign illness or falsify papers, and prone to treachery and violence among themselves – over money or as little as a cigarette.
  • None are portrayed as genuinely in need of protection. Rather, they are the ones sent ahead who will then secure “a better life” for the rest of their family.
  • Those waiting in Indonesia, some to get on boats for Australia, are portrayed as having other ‘choices’ but what these are is not made clear.
  • The deterrence theme is not in-your-face. The aspects above are subtly presented, tempered by more positive human interactions, and all the more powerful for being nuanced. If you lacked contextual background about the destructive impact of our policies on human lives, including those of children, the violations of international human rights law, the gratuitous abuse and cruelty, and the secrecy and lying by politicians, you might see this move through a different lens to mine. This makes it, in my view, powerful, deceitful, and dangerous.


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6 comments on ““JOURNEY” – Propaganda extravaganza to deter asylum seekers”

  1. The version of this movie, with English subtitles, that was posted here as a comment provided additional insights. I am embedding a Facebook post I wrote based on my second viewing to illustrate the additional aspects I was able to pick up from the dialogue.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here is the link to the film with English subtitles:


    • Awesome. Thank you so much. Will also re-post to my Facebook page so that it gets wider distribution.

  3. Embedding the Facebook post which promoted this webpost.

    TELLING THE STORY OF OUR POLITICAL TIMES…“JOURNEY” is a government-funded movie intended to deter people from seeking…

    Posted by 2020socialjustice on Saturday, April 2, 2016

  4. Embedding the link to the satirical article about “Journey” in “The Backburner” (SBS).

    This 'review' of "JOURNEY" from The Backburner is satire, but having watched the full 90-minute deterrence extravaganza,…

    Posted by 2020socialjustice on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

  5. Embedding the link to Facebook where I first posted about “Journey”.

    “JOURNEY” – SADISTIC SUBTEXT IN ANY LANGUAGE I’ve now watched the complete 90 minutes of this $6 million Dutton…

    Posted by 2020socialjustice on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

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