Unsettling the Settler State: The State and Social Outcomes of Temporary Migration in Australia

Elsa Koleth


The exponential growth of temporary migration to Australia since the late 1990s has unsettled the model of permanent migration, state supported settlement and multicultural citizenship on which Australia has been built. This article draws attention to the emergence of a gulf between Australia’s immigration policies and social policy frameworks for migrant integration in the course of Australia’s transition from a permanent to a temporary migration paradigm. It does so through an analysis of interviews with migrants, government officials at federal and local levels, and migrant service providers. It argues that the system by which temporary migration has been governed in Australia has enabled the Australian state to strategically divest itself of responsibility for the social welfare of temporary migrants and the long-term outcomes of temporary migration policies. Specifically, this has been achieved through the construction of temporary migrants as disposable, risk-bearing subjects, the exclusion of temporary migrants from social policy frameworks for migrant integration, and the elision of long-term social outcomes of migration policies through a focus on short-term economic outcomes. It concludes by pointing to changes required for instituting a temporal re-orientation of government policies from short-term economic outcomes towards the long-term social outcomes of migration.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.18357/mmd31201717072

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