Publication Date: May 2023
RRP: $34.99
ISBN: 9781922633873
Format: Paperback
Size: 153mm x 234mm
Pages: 320
Category: Australian History, Politics, Public Policy

Cruel Care

A History of Children at Our Borders

Jordana Silverstein

Also available as an ebook from your favourite retailer.

Victorian Premier's Shortlist Awards 2024

‘Brilliant … with a cut-through otherwise largely absent from Australian public discourse on refugees.’ Professor Frank Bongiorno AM, author of Dreamers and Schemers

‘The aptly named Cruel Care is a groundbreaking book – confronting, deeply disturbing and revelatory.’ Arnold Zable, author of The Watermill

Cruel Care charts the way so-called “Australia” metes out violence in the name of care to the most vulnerable among us, children seeking asylum. Blackfullas are all too familiar with this violence and its perverse justification from politicians, policymakers and the general public. This book represents a most vital truth-telling of “history”, with an anger that does not compromise the discipline. I strongly recommend this text, which is demonstrative of the type of intellectual work needed in this time, in this place.’ Professor Chelsea Watego, author of Another Day in the Colony

Cruel Care is a reminder that political strategies built on the innocence of some assume the guilt and disposability of others, and reinscribe the authority of the colonial state to decide between the two. It is a tender but exacting call to think, dream, write and organise based on justice that far exceeds settler benevolence.’ Sanmati Verma, managing lawyer, Human Rights Law Centre

‘A powerful and damning account of the way Australian government policy, policymakers and the media have conspired to create the current conditions for the treatment of refugees and their children. In this meticulously researched book, Silverstein weaves interviews with policymakers, archival research and media accounts to tell a new critical history. Taking sharp aim at the Australian state and its policymakers, and the discourses they create and perpetuate to govern and control refugee children, Silverstein’s analysis reveals the links between Australia’s treatment of refugees and First Nations peoples, along with related racist discourses. Drawing these connections is crucial for fighting these brutal systems, and so this book will be vital for those who seek to create a new world where people are treated with humanity and dignity. Closely evidenced and told with incredible skill, Cruel Care will push you to challenge ideas you may hold about state benevolence and good intentions. Each eloquent page delivers analysis that strikes blows at the cruelty of the policy and practices of the government towards refugee families. This book is an urgent call to action for us all, to demand better from the government and to overhaul a brutal system.’ Crystal McKinnon, Associate Professor in History, Law and Justice, University of Melbourne

‘This is a readable and indispensable analysis of a much-obscured area of Australian immigration policy, viewed through an ingenious lens that shows how Australian colonialism and the immigration system are linked. Although it will provide insightful and engrossing reading, Silverstein’s excellent book does not feel as though it’s intended as an introductory guide to Australia’s treatment of refugee children, but rather a deep dive into the politics and policies, as well as a reframing of the issue, for those already armed with some understanding of Australia’s refugee history.’ Matilda Dixon-Smith, Meanjin

A groundbreaking examination of Australia’s treatment of child refugees

Australia has long grappled with how to treat refugees, particularly children, who come to our country. Cruel Care asks why Australia pursues such unforgiving immigration policies, and why successive Australian governments say that the cruel acts they perpetrate are a form of care.
This is a story of government: of the politics and emotions that drive national policy. Meticulously researched – and drawing on interviews with key Australian policymakers, along with a rich set of archival sources – this book explores how legislation, ministers, political parties and the public service have combined to create a narrative of compassion while pursuing repressive policies. It details the weaponisation of rhetoric such as ‘best interests of the child’ and the histories of race – and racism – that influence Australian discourses of national security.
Cruel Care asks provocative questions about how policymakers are shaped by, and in turn shape, their histories, communities and the nation. It is a clarion call for better treatment for all who arrive on our shores.

Jordana Silverstein

Jordana Silverstein is a senior research fellow at the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness at the University of Melbourne. She has also been a visiting scholar at the ANU’s Humanities Research Centre. She is the author of Anxious Histories (2015)...
Read More