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This New Ad Highlights Australia's Lack Of Empathy For Refugees

"This doesn't happen on our beaches. Don't let it happen on our borders."

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A new advertising campaign targets Australians who are apathetic towards asylum seekers and refugees, encouraging them to care and learn more about Australia's policies.

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Created as part of Ourstralia, an initiative from advocacy group Balmain For Refugees, the three-part ad series is set at a sunny Australian beach and features a pair of lifeguards.

In one of the clips, a drowning swimmer is left to fend for himself as the lifeguards justify their inaction to each other.

The scene ends with the slogan "This doesn't happen on our beaches. Don't let it happen on our borders."

The three-part ad series was created by advertising agency Common Ventures, using grant funding from the Balmain Uniting Church.

Ourstralia is hoping to raise funds so the ads can be played on Australian TV.

A lot of advertising around refugee and asylum seeker causes looks the same, Common Ventures managing director Damian Damjanovski told BuzzFeed News.

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The campaign deliberately eschews commonly-used images of refugee children and families. According to Damjanovski, such advertising usually only appeals to people who already care about the issue, and is ignored by those who are apathetic or unsure.

"As soon as you put up those images of refugee kids, people automatically think 'I know what this is about' and they're turned off by it," Damjanovski said.

By using lifeguards and the iconic Australian setting of the beach, Damjanovski hopes the ads will connect with this disengaged population and present them with the idea that not helping refugees is un-Australian.

"We consider ourselves heartwarming, welcoming, down to earth. That Australianism, of 'We're all equal', we suspend that when we talk about asylum seekers," he said.

"Lifesavers are mostly volunteers who put their life in danger and would never let any harm come to someone. So why do we allow it in this other way?"

Lane Sainty is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Lane Sainty at

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