Imogen Bailey fronts the Hot Potato campaign in ANU talks to students about talk to the locals about their views on asylum seekers. Photo: Jay Cronan
Former Canberra actress and model Imogen Bailey says she is now consumed ''24/7'' with asylum-seeker issues after her life-changing involvement in the SBS television documentary series Go Back to Where You Came From.
She is still supporting families she met in Indonesia during the program and has become a determined voice against the ''fear and fibs'' about asylum seekers.
''I'm committed to this cause for life,'' she said.
Bailey is also the face of the Hot Potato Campaign, which is tackling the hot potato issue of asylum seekers by visiting 10 towns in 10 days, speaking to as many people as possible with the ice-breaker of a free hot potato meal.
The campaign hopes to bust 10 myths about asylum seekers, including that they are illegal (they are not) and that most are economic migrants (more than 90 per cent of asylum seekers who arrive by boat are found to be refugees).
Bailey said she had found people were either for or against asylum seekers or seemed too afraid to express a view.
''Because the media and the government message is so honed in on fear, people are actually afraid to get information,'' she said. ''They're afraid to have an opinion.''
The Hot Potato project, including a documentary being filmed along the way, has been co-ordinated by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in Melbourne.
Centre spokeswoman Jana Favero said an anonymous donor gave $500,000 for the project in the lead-up to the election.
On Friday, the campaign visited Queanbeyan, where Ms Favero said they found ''the strongest anti-asylum seeker sentiment that we have seen so far''.
''But it was also really hopeful,'' she said. ''It was the most I'd heard people on the streets being concerned about kids on boats and kids in detention.''
The campaign also spoke to students at the Australian National University.
Ms Favero said they were focusing on the myth that asylum seekers come to Australia because they get ''Centrelink and the red carpet treatment'' when asylum seekers did not receive any payment from Centrelink and ''most live below the poverty line, relying on charity''.
However, the Immigration Department said asylum seekers on a bridging visa did receive an assistance payment, although it was not through Centrelink.