which was yesterday announced by the government has to be one of the most foolish yet. It is a measure designed to relieve the pressure on accommodation for some people seeking refugee status in Australia.
The idea is that people who already have approval to take in an overseas student for the "homestay" programme will volunteer to take in refugees instead.
In theory the idea sounds good. You take in a needy refugee rather than a student. In reality the idea is close to ridiculous. Students come because they want to learn the language. They want to study. Their home lives are, generally speaking, relatively stable. They usually come from well-off families. While some of their customs, dietary requirements and so on are different they are also sufficiently similar for adjustments to be made. They will, on the whole, be accommodating. It is why they are here. Most know it is a temporary experience.
Refugees do not come from such backgrounds. The levels of adjustment they, and those who try to help them, must make are enormous. They will not necessarily be accommodating. They will expect to be accommodated. They will often want to cling to some of their familiar things. Their routines, their food and the dietary rules surrounding it, their prayer times (and a quiet place to do this), their language and their ways of doing things. Some will have serious emotional issues. They may want to seek out people who come from the same parts of the world as themselves.
I know people who have taken in "homestay" students. It takes a lot of adjustments on both sides. There is a Mongolian student across the road. She lived with the family for four years several years ago. She is highly intelligent. She is now back here doing here doctorate on scholarship. They invited her to stay with them again. They regard her as being as much a member of the family as is possible if you come in from the outside.
We have talked at length about the problems she first faced and how much she had to learn. She has repeatedly said how fortunate she has been and how many other students have had not quite such happy experiences.. Nobody, she says, is to blame. It is just that there are sometimes huge barriers to cross and not all students have her resilience.
The government is planning to implement this programme with virtually no preparation for anyone. People will be "paid" to have strangers in their house - that, it seems, is sufficient preparation. Nobody appears to have given any thought to the potential for conflict, the legal responsibilities or whether this is actually safe.
There does not appear to be an adequate support network in place, or indeed any support network at all.
None of that matters to the government. It has the support of the Greens - indeed it was probably designed by them.
The alternative of housing in the community with high level culturally appropriate support services is more than the government is willing to pay - and more than the community is prepared to pay.
The idea however is still dangerous and foolish. It is cheap and simplistic. I doubt that any of those proposing it will actually participate in it - and that is perhaps the most telling thing of all.