Seeking Asylum—Holding Patterns: The 2020 Ballina Region for Refugees Poetry Prize


  • Bill Boyd Southern Cross University, NSW Ballina Region for Refugees
  • Emma Doolan Southern Cross University (SCU), NSW
  • Ruth Henderson Ballina Region for Refugees, NSW



refugee, asylum seeker, poetry, social advocacy, writing for social justice, poetry as social activism, insider witness


Poetry provides valuable and insightful ways to explore and record social and political experiences and engagements. The plight of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia is well known. Community groups such as the Ballina Region for Refugees provide support to refugees and asylum seekers both in Australia and offshore. To help raise awareness and validate the experience of refugees and asylum seekers, the Ballina Region for Refugees runs an annual Poetry Prize. The 2020 Ballina Region for Refugees Poetry Prize theme was Seeking AsylumHolding Patterns. This article presents the winning and highly commended poems, along with poems by refugee and asylum seeker poets. Poems from both insider witnesses – refugees and asylum seekers – and outsider witnesses – poets who seek to express an empathy with the plight of refugees and asylum seekers – have contributed to this collection. From haunting statements of human dissolution that should strike fear into anyone’s heart, through glimpses of hope, the poems explore the trails of asylum seeking and the dysfunctionality of the aftermath. 

Author Biographies

Bill Boyd, Southern Cross University, NSW Ballina Region for Refugees

Prof. Bill Boyd is a Member of the Emeritus Faculty at Southern Cross University. His scholarly interests range widely across the geographical, social, cultural and education disciplines. He is a Visiting Professor of the Australian and Transnational Studies Centre at Barcelona University.

Emma Doolan, Southern Cross University (SCU), NSW

Dr Emma Doolan lectures in the School of Arts & Social Sciences at Southern Cross University. Her research explores Gothic representations of place, particularly in writing about Australia’s hinterland regions. Her practice-led doctoral thesis was completed at Queensland University of Technology in 2017.

Ruth Henderson, Ballina Region for Refugees, NSW

Ruth Henderson is the current President of Ballina Region for Refugees. Ruth has been a Social Worker for over forty years.