Speeches

PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS – SETTLEMENT RESOURCES FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS - MONDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2019

September 09, 2019

HANSARD

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA

MONDAY, 9 SEPTEMBER 2019

PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS – SETTLEMENT RESOURCES FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS

I second the motion. I rise in support of the motion put forward by the member for Fowler. We know very well that good settlement processes make for better settlement outcomes for migrants and refugees in Australia. Australia has a very proud history of providing good settlement processes and good settlement outcomes to people who come here. It's one of the reasons why Australia has a very successful multicultural society and also one of the reasons why we have managed to avoid many of the social issues of countries which have less thoughtful and less comprehensive settlement processes for refugees and migrants. It's because of this history of successful integration of new arrivals to Australia that we continue to enjoy the benefits of being a migrant nation, which is why this motion is so important. It is of utmost importance that we continue to ensure that migrants and refugees, particularly refugees who have more complex needs and higher needs, get the level of settlement services that they require to ensure that the outcomes, not just for themselves but for their children and for future generations, are positive outcomes. A positive settlement experience makes for better outcomes in the future.

When I was a teacher in the Adult Migrant English Program, which was quite a long time ago now, we weren't just teaching language to new arrivals to Australia; we were also helping them in the settlement process. We were giving them advice and we were giving them support. For many refugees and migrants coming to Australia, we were the very first Australians that they met. The 510 hours of English language tuition that they had in the AMEP was very formative for their settlement outcomes. But I would argue that 510 hours is certainly not enough, particularly if somebody is coming in with zero literacy or zero English language proficiency. It takes a lot more than 510 hours of English language tuition to get them to a functional level of English deemed to be an ASLPR2.

The member for Fowler specifically referred to changes in the funding structure for settlement services in parts of Western Sydney, in his electorate. In Western Australia, not only changes to the funding structure but also a reduction in funding to settlement services have meant that organisations like the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre—which operates just outside my electorate, in Mirrabooka, but which services refugees and migrants from my electorate—have had to cut back on the kinds of services they provide and are under considerable strain to continue to provide the level of service that is required to ensure successful settlement outcomes.

It should be noted that the cuts to these services often disproportionately affect women. For example, with the changes to the Adult Migrant English Program and the focus on job readiness, women—who may be learning English not in order to get employment but in order to function in Australian society, doing things like going to the doctor or the bank or doing the shopping—are significantly disadvantaged because they become ineligible for some AMEP classes. They are forced to attend community classes, and sometimes these classes are delivered by well-meaning though unqualified teachers. We already know that migrant and refugee women, because they are not in employment or education, tend to learn language much more slowly than their husbands or children do, so women are disproportionately affected.

I meet regularly with the Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre, which is in Mirrabooka, as I stated earlier. They've raised significant concerns about the lack of funding, about the cuts to funding and about changes to the funding structure, which continue to impact on the way in which they provide services.

I should, before I finish, to acknowledge all of those services, particularly the smaller ethno-specific service providers, who continue to do a fantastic job despite the challenges of funding, despite the fact that they have no interpreters available and despite the fact that they are continuing to deal with considerable cuts to funding in an area of great need.