Address at the Australian Greek Welfare Society launch of the journey of new Greek migrants to Australia report, Immigration Museum, Melbourne
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Ladies and Gentlemen Good morning
Thank you for your warm welcome.
Thank you Voula for your presentation on The Journey of New Greek Migrants to Australia.
Here in Melbourne we boast that we have one of the largest Greek communities in the world outside Greece.
Greek migrants have been coming here for more than 160 years.
They have helped make our city – indeed our nation – a fascinating mix of cultures, enriching our lives and our society.
They have helped us build one of the world’s most vibrant democracies.
Of course, the great majority of migrants from Greece sought haven here in Australia following troubled times in Europe.
Nearly 160,000 after World War II and most of them settling in Victoria.
Now we are again welcoming Greeks, albeit in smaller numbers, following economic difficulties that have plagued Europe in recent years.
Most migrant settlers from Greece or Cyprus arrive under the Family stream of the migration program, followed by the Skilled stream of the migration program.
There is also anecdotal evidence that some Australians living in Greece or Cyprus are choosing to travel to Australia and remain in Australia longer term.
There are however, some that are not joining extended families here in Australia.
This is where organisations like the Australian Greek Welfare Society is stepping in.
I would like to thank and congratulate the AGWS for the enormous amount of work you do not only for new arrivals but for the wider Greek community here in Victoria.
In particular I would like to thank the large number of volunteers who provide community care and social support for their fellow citizens through the AGWS.
It was after all a Greek – namely Aristotle – who said:
What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.
As a nation characterised by successive waves of immigrants, Australia has developed wide ranging settlement support services.
It takes courage to leave the land of one’s birth, or where roots are well established, and start again.
Both civil society and government are involved in ensuring newcomers find their feet.
Those Australian citizens returning from long periods in Greece for example have access to the full range of services and supports that all Australian residents have, subject to ongoing residential and eligibility requirements.
Those coming to our shores for the first time have the benefit of services under our settlement programmes, again taking eligibility into account.
Settlement services focus on assisting eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants in their first five years in Australia.
Many of the on-arrival and longer term needs of new arrivals, such as employment, education and health care, are shared with the wider Australian community and are addressed through mainstream programmes and services.
The level of settlement support provided by the Government is based on need. Skilled migrants are encouraged to settle in Australia with limited government support.
Family migrants and family members of skilled migrants who speak little or no English are able to access help to learn English and access some settlement support services.
We do however, rightly reserve the most intensive assistance for humanitarian entrants in recognition of their greater needs.
When we took office after the last election, Settlement policy and programmes were integrated into my Department of Social Services.
This is because many of the key aims of settlement policies and programmes are closely aligned with those of other Social Services programmes, such as supporting wellbeing and facilitating self-reliance.
My Department is currently conducting a grant selection round for Settlement Services and we will be announcing the outcome of that at the end of the year.
As you know we have introduced reforms to streamline our grants programmes in the Department of Social Services.
AGWS has a strong focus on family support and earlier this year we were pleased to be able to assist you in this work through one of our new five-year funding grants.
The new long term arrangements give organisations such as yours the certainty to be able to plan ahead.
Aged Care is another area in which AGWS has been very active and for which the Government has been able to provide substantial funding.
Our new grant arrangements aim to provide civil society organisations such as AGWS with greater flexibility, less administrative burden and greater control over how you deliver services to meet particular needs of individuals, families and communities.
The Government is dramatically reducing reporting requirements for organisations like AGWS.
We want to minimise the institutional footprint of government.
This is part of our commitment to civil society, freeing up organisations so they can get on with the work they do best rather than wasting precious time on unnecessary red tape.
In the interest of creating a thriving civil society, we are undertaking other initiatives.
Like, for example re-establishing the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.
The Prime Minister recently announced the composition of the Partnership which he will chair with me as Deputy.
The Partnership is bringing together leaders from the business and community sectors to advise Government about practical strategies to foster a culture of philanthropic giving and volunteering.
The multicultural sector will play a significant role in identifying and addressing barriers to giving and to helping unlock alternative sources of capital and social investment.
In turn I would expect our multicultural organisations to benefit from increased philanthropy and volunteering.
Just two weeks ago the Scanlon Foundation released its 2014 Mapping Social Cohesion report which found continued public support for multiculturalism.
Some 85 per cent of Australians agree that multiculturalism has been good for Australia.
The Scanlon survey also found a strong sense of belonging.
Some 92 per cent of people surveyed felt a sense of belonging to Australia and pride in the Australian way of life.
As I have said, our way of life has been greatly enhanced by the diversity we enjoy within this social cohesion.
And the Greek community has played a major part in this achievement.
In conclusion, I would like to note that today is Remembrance Day when we remember the tumultuous effects of wars in which Australians have been involved.
Greek Australians served with distinction in Australian forces in both World Wars, one of which gave rise to the great wave of Greek migrants I referred to earlier.
In that War – World War II – many Australians died in the defence of Greece.
A memorial at the head of Anzac Parade in Canberra commemorates them.
Across the continent, on the far south coast of Western Australia the white Cretan Chapel of St John commemorates the Cretan Greeks who courageously sheltered many Australian soldiers during that conflict.
The ties that bind us all are very strong indeed.
The Foreword to the report you are launching today describes the new wave of Greek migrants as mostly university educated, intellectually adept, articulate … and in search of opportunities to unleash their talent and drive to achieve.
As you say, they present a unique human capital.
Given the example set by their predecessors as migrants to Australia, I would expect no less. And for this we thank you.