Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 07 Hansard (Tuesday, 16 June 2009) . . Page.. 2346 ..
countries including Afghanistan, Bhutan, Iraq, Sudan, Uganda, Myanmar, Thailand and Pakistan.
As Minister for Multicultural Affairs, I would like to personally welcome them to our community. Every year the United Nations promotes a theme for World Refugee Day, and this year the theme is real people, real needs. This theme bodes well with the ACT’s welcoming perspective towards refugees, asylum seekers and other humanitarian entrants. Indeed, the ACT is a community in which it is understood and recognised that asylum seekers, refugees and other humanitarian entrants are, indeed, real people with real needs.
I understand that this recognition of real people with real needs is important to the people and their children that we acknowledge today. At a practical level, this recognition involved assisting these individuals to link with people and organisations that can help identify and address their real needs. The ACT’s refugee asylum seeker and humanitarian coordination committee plays an important role in this regard. This committee comprises representatives from service providers involved with the resettlement of asylum seekers, refugees and other humanitarian entrants in the Australian Capital Territory. The ACT government’s Office of Multicultural Affairs chairs and provides secretariat support to the committee. The committee then plays an important role in assisting with the identification of issues, facilitating the provision and exchange of information and contributing to the development of policy advice to both the ACT government and the federal government.
Madam Assistant Speaker, it is all about recognising real people with real needs. The ACT government is committed to policies and programs that help refugees, asylum seekers and other humanitarian entrants to resettle in our community. These policies and programs are aimed at promoting unity, respect and inclusiveness in the Canberra community for everyone, those who have lived here for many years and those who are newly arrived. Strategies to assist newly arrived Canberrans include essential services such as childcare for children of refugees attending English language classes at CIT, the refugee transitional housing program, which is run in conjunction with Centacare and Companion House, primary healthcare services, mental health counselling and referral services for victims of trauma and torture, free emergency and non-emergency medical care in the ACT’s public hospitals and concessions for ambulance, dental services and spectacles.
The ACT government is not alone in creating this welcoming environment. The ACT is such a welcoming environment for refugees, asylum seekers and other humanitarian entrants because of the strong partnerships between the ACT government and non-government organisations. Today I would like to acknowledge a number of dedicated individuals who are instrumental in this regard. I know many of these people are well known to colleagues in this house.
I acknowledge Ms Kathy Ragless, director of Companion House; Mr Bevil Purnell OAM, the community liaison officer of St John the Apostle’s refugee settlement committee; Ms Marion Le OAM of the Independent Council for Refugee Advocacy; Ms Dewani Bakkum, manager of migrant and refugee settlement services; Mr Geoff McPherson, the president of Canberra Refugees Support and a former Canberran of the Year; Ms Sue-Ann Polden, the manager of Centacare’s new arrivals