February 28, 2018

Mr HAYES (FowlerChief Opposition Whip) (19:50): Tonight I want to speak about one of the greatest challenges of our time—namely, the protection of and the provision of assistance to the rising number of forcibly displaced people around the world. While this is not a new concept to my electorate, a community that has played a significant role in supporting large migrant and refugee populations, the recent increase in the intake of refugees under Australia's humanitarian program has put a considerable strain on local service providers. With the arrival of refugees comes the need to ensure that we develop and provide settlement services that are both efficient and effective and are beneficial not only for newly arrived refugees but also for the economic and social wellbeing of our communities generally. To put this in perspective, the Fairfield City Council revealed that, on average, Fairfield receives 1,000 people annually as part of Australia's humanitarian program. This is more than any other Australian city. With one-fifth of the nation's refugees settling in the Fairfield area, local services have voiced a major concern about the lack of resources, funding and employment opportunities to integrate new arrivals—more than 7,000 over the last two years—into our community.

While it is pleasing that the government is taking action in the wake of the crises in Syria and Iraq, the government has not shown the same willingness to ensure that migrants are adequately equipped to properly integrate into the communities. Local health, education and other migrant based service organisations have warned they have cannot cope with the rising numbers. Carmen Lazar, of the Assyrian Resource Centre, highlights the need to emphasise the role of community capacity building if we are to work towards reducing the demand of the one-stop-shop culture and address the major issue of secondary settlement.

One organisation in my electorate applying a very innovative approach is the Great Lakes Agency for Peace and Development. Building on the agriculture background of the African states surrounding the Great Lakes region, the organisation has developed a resettlement program for refugee families in regional Australia. This program has been successfully implemented in a number of rural towns, including Tenterfield. I congratulate Emmanuel Musoni, Dr Nadine Shema and the GLAPD board for this great initiative.

I am also pleased to note that the Fairfield City Council has launched the Fairfield City Settlement Action Plan in partnership with 50 service providers and community organisations in a bid to tackle this very complex issue. Addressing this issue, and echoing the sentiment of many of the local service providers in the area, Frank Carbone, the mayor of Fairfield City Council, went to the heart of the problem when he said: 'When Fairfield is resettling so many refugees for the nation, almost 7,000 over the last two years, there is an expectation that the government will do more to ensure that infrastructure and services are available to meet that demand.' Similarly, Liverpool, the other major city in my electorate, has seen a very significant increase in refugee arrivals. Kamelle Dabbousy, CEO of the Western Sydney Migrant Resource Centre, is concerned that local service providers have been stretched beyond breaking point due to the lack of certainty in resource allocation.

One option worth considering in facing the global refugee crisis is a notion of community based sponsorship of refugees. This has been modelled in jurisdictions such as Canada and seeks to increase the number of refugee settlements in the community through financial and practical support provided through private sponsors, such as individuals, communities and faith based organisations. The Save the Children foundation highlights that such a program will not only ensure protection and successful integration of more refugees in Australia but also do it with minimal budgetary impact.

I call on the government to take action to address the challenges posed by the increase in the refugee intake in my community and also to promote positive development in settlement services more generally. I also take this opportunity to thank all my local service providers for their tireless efforts in supporting our refugee migrants and ensuring proper settlement services are provided throughout our community.