September 9, 2016: Aussies believe we’re a generous nation, so let’s welcome refugees

Most Australians say we’re an altruistic bunch who will always chip in when someone is in need, a new survey of 1000 Australians by Plan International Australia and national polling agency Ipsos shows.

The survey, released today by Plan Australia, showed three-quarters (74%) agreed that ‘Australia is generous nation’, with only one in 20 disagreeing. One in four strongly agreed.

The vast majority (72%) believe ‘Australians always pitch in when someone is in need’. Only one in 20 disagreed and less than 1% (only 9 people out of 1000) strongly disagreed with this statement.

And when asked their views on how Australia is viewed on the international stage, one in five agreed that ‘other countries see Australia as a mean-spirited country’, but twice as many (42%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with this statement.

Of the political parties, Liberal voters were the most likely to have views of Australia as an altruistic place. The vast majority (89%) agree that Australia is generous and only 1% didn’t.  Conversely, less than half of Greens voters surveyed responded positively to the question, with 10 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. Labor voters were somewhere in the middle.

When Plan International Australia asked people how they felt about other countries, more people disagreed than agreed with the statement ‘developing countries should sort their own issues out’ and only one in five agreed that ‘problems in other countries are not relevant to Australia’.

Plan International Australia CEO Ian Wishart says Australians are welcoming and generous, but those values are not being reflected in our refugee policy.

“Most people believe Australia is a fair go for all, welcoming, place, but as long as we keep locking up children who suffer in our care, we can’t claim to be,” Mr Wishart said.

“Many other nations now see Australia as a cruel and unforgiving place because its draconian border protection policies have attracted notoriety world-wide.

“The government spent millions to scare off asylum seekers by sending a message they will ‘never, ever, be welcome’ and it’s worked. It’s also tarnished our reputation as a friendly bunch of people.”

Mr Wishart said Plan International Australia, along with five national charities, are today calling for the Australian government to resettle all 12,000 Syrian refugees by the start of 2017 as a show of good will. He says less than 30 per cent have arrived so far – which pales in comparison to Canada, who resettled 25,000 Syrians in only four months.

“We want the rest of the world to start thinking of Australia as we truly should be known – as a generous, giving and caring place. We need to prove that we are doing our fair share to help manage the biggest refugee crisis in living memory.

“We can start sowing the seeds of goodwill and repair our tarnished reputation by settling the other 10,000 Syrians our Government made a promise to take in as soon as possible. And we can also increase our annual refugee intake to 30,000. This figure pales in comparison to the 90,000 World War 2 refugees we welcomed in 1949.

“Plan International Australia is calling on the Government to make this commitment, while the world’s leaders are watching, at the UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants coming up later this month.”

Key findings: Australians views on our status as a generous nation

  • Australia is a generous nation - three-quarters Australians surveyed (74%) agreed with this, only one in 20 disagreeing. One in four strongly agreed.
  • Australians always pitch in when someone is in need - the vast majority (72%) believe this. Only one in 20 disagreed and less than 1% strongly disagreed with this statement.
  • Other countries see Australia as a mean-spirited country - one in five agree with this (18%) but twice as many (42%) disagree. More people strongly disagreed (9%) than strongly agreed (5%)
  • Developing countries should sort their own issues out - People were divided on this question – 32% agreed, and 33% disagreed. A further 33% were neutral about it.
  • Problems in other countries aren’t relevant to Australia - More than half disagreed with this sentiment (54%), another quarter were ambivalent and one in five agreed (18%).

About the Plan International Australia survey

The data is a selected pre-release from a large, comprehensive attitudinal survey about child sponsorship and global development issues which will be released later in the year. The survey included representation from every age group and state and territory. Of those surveyed, 730 stated their political preference.