Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Celebrating a Global Milestone, Refugee Week, Parliament House, Canberra


Can I first start by acknowledging Minister Dutton, Minister Cash, Shadow Minister Michelle Rowland, Teju Chouhan and other community leaders, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Can I also add my acknowledgment of Welcome to the Country.

It’s a great pleasure to be here today to represent the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. George Brandis QC and Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP.

Can I also acknowledge the many parliamentary colleagues that have joined us here today.

Both the Attorney and Minister Morrison have asked me to pass on their best wishes for this special occasion.

As the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, I recognise how important it is to celebrate our humanitarian entrants during Refugee Week.

Australia is a world leader in settlement services and since the end of World War II, we have welcomed 7.5 million migrants, including over 800, 000 under our humanitarian programme.

Settlement Services focus on enabling self-reliance so that humanitarian entrants can effectively contribute to the economic and social life of Australia as soon as possible after their arrival.

And this settlement begins offshore with the Australian Cultural Orientation Programme which provides pre-departure information in UNHCR camps.

These programmes will support the increased intake for the Humanitarian programme over the next four years from 13,750 people to 18,750 people.

Refugee Week allows us to reflect on the important role our humanitarian entrants play in contributing to the social and economic life of Australia – a contribution that has helped make Australia we are today.

Today, by way of example, we are celebrating the settlement experience of our humanitarian entrants from Bhutan. And it reflects their community’s enthusiasm, motivation and desire to succeed.

In addition to settling in metropolitan areas like Adelaide and Hobart, a significant number have also settled in regional centres like Albury, Cairns and Launceston.

Since 2008, this community has grown from small numbers and thrived. Even in the early stages of their settlement the achievements and participation from the members of the Bhutanese community have been evident.

In Western Sydney, I joined Fiona Scott and the Association of Bhutanese in Australia where they held a four-day soccer tournament and youth festival, which attracted young people from Cairns down to Hobart.

These events organised by the community provide tangible benefits for their young people and how you need build confidence and leadership skills.

I had the pleasure of witnessing this and acknowledging Om Dhungel and his Association for the work they do especially with young people.

At that tournament, I had the pleasure of meeting many young people making the most of the opportunities that Australia has to offer and I would like to mention a couple.

Goma was born and schooled in a refugee camp. But just five years after arriving in this country, Goma made her community proud by achieving an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) of 91 in her HSC. There was another girl there who had achieved 94.

Nawal, a very talented artist in his community who has won many arts-related awards is studying at university.

Goma and Nawal prove that no matter where you grew up and what your past circumstances are, you can be you want to be.

Home ownership is another area that demonstrates this community’s desire to achieve, with about a quarter of the families from Bhutan now owning their homes.

Last year, South Australia celebrated its 100th family from Bhutan entering the housing market through a State Government finance scheme. This is out of about 250 families from Bhutan in the state.

You are one of the many communities making the most of the opportunities, freedoms and stability in Australia.

Can I extend my very, very best wishes to you all and congratulations during Refugee Week.

Thank you.