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Strongly connected to the migrant experience while growing up, a PhD candidate is already receiving recognition for her research on asylum seeker policy.
Like many people, Carly Gordyn didn’t consider her upbringing to be particularly unique, until she left her home town of Sale, in the Gippsland region of Victoria, then came back again.
The granddaughter of Herzegovinian and Croatian migrants grew up in a household rich in traditions from the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
But it is perhaps these experiences and seeing first-hand, some of the difficulties migrants from a war-torn nation would have faced in regional Victoria in the late 1960s, that has set her on an already rich journey exploring the subject.
“They still struggle, I guess,” says Gordyn of her grandparents.
“They fit in well with the community, but I can see them having difficulties with some things.”
Since leaving school Gordyn has worked alongside asylum seekers at Nauru and on Christmas Island.
After studying international relations and Indonesian at Deakin University in Victoria as part of her Bachelor of Arts, she taught English in Yogjakarta.
She is now continuing work on asylum seekers at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, where she’s doing PhD research on Australia’s engagement with the international refugee regime.
“I chose to do a PhD on this topic because I want to see this issue from as many perspectives as I can,” Gordyn says.
“I've seen a lot of this from the ground in the detention centres but that didn't answer all of my questions.
“I chose to study at ANU because it is renowned for being a leading Australian university in international relations and is well connected to the Asia Pacific region.”
One year in, she’s starting to focus on offshore detention and Australia’s bilateral relationships with Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Nauru.
While she is relatively new to the topic, joint research between herself and her honours supervisor, Amy Nethery, has recently won the Australian Journal of International Affairs prestigious Boyer Prize, for article of the year.
The paper was written while Gordyn was completing her honours thesis examining Australia’s policy on asylum seekers from Indonesia.
Launched in 2012, the Boyer Prize recognises the best articles published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs each year. Nethery and Gordyn’s article “was judged to be original and innovative and likely to have a lasting impact”.
For Australia, preventing the unauthorised arrival of asylum seekers by boat is a marker of policy success, with ‘stopping the boats’ a much recited slogan by Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
In comparison, as Gordyn points out, the Indonesian government hasn’t shared the same level of concern.
“The whole asylum seeker/people smuggling issue isn’t even in their top 50 list of priorities,” Gordyn says.
“I think Australia has been trying to change that.”
As such, securing a commitment from the Southeast Asian country on the issue has been no mean feat.
It includes the criminalisation of people smuggling in Indonesia, along with allowing Australia to fund detention centres in the south-east Asian country.