Thursday, 16 April 2020 18:59

WSROC meets with the Minister for Multiculturalism

Western Sydney Community Forum staff assisting at a Blacktown City Council Harmony Day event. Western Sydney Community Forum staff assisting at a Blacktown City Council Harmony Day event.

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils and Fairfield City Council met with NSW acting Minister for Multiculturalism, the Hon. Geoff Lee, this month to discuss how the federal and state governments can better support councils settling migrants arriving under humanitarian visas.

Councils play an extensive and multi-faceted role in migrant settlement, as the level of government working most immediately with local communities. This is particularly true in Western Sydney where, in the past five years, around 80 per cent of NSW’s humanitarian intake have been welcomed. Some of the settlement activities delivered by Western Sydney councils include:

 

  • Providing a first point of contact for community members seeking assistance;
  • Supporting community and charity groups to access information, resources and funding;
  • Facilitating cross-agency coordination;
  • Developing resources that support and promote community membership
  • Analysing data and advocating on behalf of their communities;
  • Delivering hands-on community education programs;
  • Developing translated communication materials; and
  • Delivering local cultural events to promote belonging and community cohesion.

Unfortunately, formal mechanisms such as the National Settlement Framework do not always recognise the role councils play, and as such councils are rarely directly engaged in policy and planning discussions, asked to participate in the evaluation of existing programs, or given appropriate funding to deliver such programs.

In meeting with Minister Lee, WSROC and Fairfield City sought to increase the NSW Government’s understanding of the settlement role councils play, particularly, sharing some of the stories and experiences at the community interface. Subsequently, we outlined some of the ways in which councils receiving high numbers of humanitarian migrants could be better supported, including:

  • Ensuring councils have access to timely, nuanced settlement data to better plan for arrivals.
  • Giving councils a seat at the table in planning and policy discussions so that grass-roots challenges can be better identified and addressed.
  • Financially supporting LGAs experiencing exceptional rates of humanitarian migration.
  • Supporting calls for a Commonwealth safety net for those awaiting determination on their claim for asylum or visa approval; reducing pressures on individuals and the community.
  • Providing assistance to vulnerable groups during the Covid-19 pandemic to avoid problems such as overcrowding and homelessness which may promote local disease transmission.

Subsequent to this meeting, Minister Lee has undertaken to further discuss these issues with his federal counterparts and to seek a meeting to pursue the matter with the Commonwealth Government.

NSW settles about a third of Australia’s humanitarian entrants, with about 80 percent settling in Western Sydney, particularly in the LGAs of Fairfield, Liverpool, Cumberland and Blacktown.

Western Sydney has a long and proud history of migrant settlement. However, recent increases in Australia’s humanitarian entrant intake have seen a surge in the number of people requiring settlement support. At the same time, little additional support has been provided to local councils to support settlement processes and to cope with the increased demand for both settlement-related services, and broader community services.

 

Last modified on Friday, 01 May 2020 08:16