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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 3 Hansard (23 October) . . Page.. 4050 ..



Those three grants programs are examples of the support that we provide directly and monetarily to multicultural groups and organisations in the ACT. We also provide support to individuals, including newly arrived migrants and holders of temporary protection visas. We produce Communicado, a quarterly newsletter that supports the community by providing valuable advice and information, which is distributed widely in the multicultural community.

One of the most successful programs we have in place for migrants is the work experience and support program. That program provides training, work experience and continuing support for Canberrans from diverse backgrounds who are actively looking for employment. Between 50 and 75 per cent of participants in this program find employment. We also provide valuable support to migrants by assessing overseas qualifications free of charge. It is a service for which the Commonwealth government charges $145 but which we provide free of charge. In the past 18 months we have assessed 108 applications.

My fellow ministers and I attend multicultural community events as often as we can, so we get to know members of the community and hear their concerns first-hand. In that regard, I acknowledge the significant community event I attended at the Italo-Australian Club on Saturday night. I say without any malice and without any point to make that not a single member of the Liberal Party attended that event. It is likely that none of them were invited-because they are not particularly welcome-but we had a wonderful evening on Saturday. I am not suggesting that the evening was enhanced by the absence of any Liberals, but it was notable that there were no Liberals at that function.

The Office of Multicultural Affairs also takes on an advocacy role, stepping in to help members of the multicultural community whenever they need assistance. For example, the office provides access to translation services, makes its resources available and assists in resolving issues that arise at a federal level. Among those issues is the Commonwealth government's treatment of refugees.

My government has worked hard over the past two years to fill the gaps in the services the Commonwealth provides to temporary protection visa holders and Kosovar refugees. We fill those gaps by providing free public school education, including access to the introductory English centres for adults. We have also provided free childcare for refugees attending those centres.

We provide free medical treatment at ACT hospitals and medical facilities. We support refugees by providing concessions for a range of ACT government services, such as public transport and electricity, and we provide interpreting services where needed. The Commissioner for Housing has agreed to make public housing available to refugees suffering extreme hardship, by waiving the usual criterion of permanent residency for public housing.

These are just some examples of the work I and my government do for the multicultural communities of Canberra. We also take seriously our obligations to all staff of multicultural background. Last year the government established the Multicultural Staff Network to provide support and assistance for ACT public servants from culturally diverse backgrounds. We also make available cultural awareness training to all staff.

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