Speech by Senator the Hon Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

Address to National Workshop for Humanitarian Settlement Services Providers


I am very pleased to be able to join you at morning tea at this National Workshop for Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) Providers.

Thank you for travelling to chilly Canberra to join us here today. As you may know, I have been actively involved for many years in a wide range of community activities. I know first-hand that the settlement sector is filled with committed and hard-working people who make a real difference to refugees and humanitarian entrants and you do so on a daily basis.

Since I have become Parliamentary Secretary with special responsibility for Multicultural Affairs and Settlement Services, I have seen first-hand this commitment and hard work and I thank you for your dedication.

As you know, the Government has a strong commitment to the successful settlement of our refugees and humanitarian entrants and working in collaboration with you, we are now preparing to welcome a further 13,750 people through the Humanitarian Programme in 2014-15, and we remain very proud of our record as one of the top three refugee resettlement countries in the world.

You may have seen the recent announcements by Minister Morrison, Minister for Immigration and Border Protection that 16,000 places over the Budget and forward estimates, including 4,000 in 2013-14, will be allocated to SHP places under the Humanitarian Programme.

These additional places, I think, present new opportunities for family reunion for your clients in the programme and others who will be arriving under our Humanitarian Programme.

I understand that some will have been granted visas this year and have begun to arrive in Australia, although most of course are not expected to arrive until early in 2014-15.

Can I just take the opportunity and thank you for the agility that you have demonstrated in responding to the specific needs of these clients.

We know that our settlement services are world-leading, and we are very proud of that, especially with our focus on building self-reliance and encouraging people to begin to participate in Australian life as quickly as possible.

We are keen to see Settlement Services be flexible and innovative and be able to respond to the changes that necessarily happen under this Humanitarian Programme.

We are keen to strengthen our commitments in settlement services on what I term the 3 Es – English language, education and of course fostering positive employment. We also believe in discussions with many of you that it is clear that the shift of Settlement Services out of Immigration and into the Department of Social Services has been a positive one and I think affords greater opportunities for early connection and support through our mainstream programmes.

I know that over the next couple of days you will have an opportunity to discuss how HSS and other settlement programmes can contribute even more to these outcomes.

Can I also say as someone who has spent a lot of time involved in the CALD ageing space I think it is really important here also that we do take into account assistance to our older Australians, the older humanitarian entrants who may be perhaps more in need of culturally responsive services. I know that you intervene at different processes of the settlement journey and you do provide assistance across different age groups and, as I have indicated, including our older refugees.

We know that reducing red tape and administrative burdens on service providers is important to support innovation and efficient approaches and we are certainly keen to work with you to see how we can look at ways we can facilitate this space.

Clearly Settlement Services and Multicultural Affairs are 2 areas that straddle a number of different portfolio responsibilities and so naturally I and Minister Andrews will be working closely with my Government colleagues, such as the Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries across different portfolios – Employment, Industry, Education, Aged Care and others.

Can I conclude by thanking you for the work that you do. The settlement services we have in Australia are a result of decades of work and constant improvement and making our refugees and humanitarian entrants welcome as newcomers to Australian society.

I look forward to working with you in the foreseeable future to look at ways that that we can improve our services and I look forward through Cate McKenzie to hearing the deliberations of your two days.

So enjoy your time in Canberra even though it has now become chilly and I look forward to chatting with you over morning tea.

Thank you.