Page 4323 - Week 10 - Thursday, 22 September 2011

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DR BOURKE: Minister, what has been the feedback from stakeholders on the access card?

MS BURCH: I thank Dr Bourke for his question. The feedback from the community on this initiative has been extremely positive. As I have outlined earlier, this is something that the service providers asked for when they were consulted on the development of the card. Such was the support for the initiative that it received national coverage. The Refugee Council of Australia, based in Sydney, praised the ACT government for introducing the access card, with the council’s chief executive, Paul Power, issuing a media statement which said:

The … Card sets a great example in how to make asylum seekers welcome. The Refugee Council of Australia encourages other States and Territories to follow the ACT Government’s lead …

The Canberra Multicultural Community Forum also welcomed the initiative, issuing a media release which said:

Anything we can do to assist their transition to a free society will be welcome. The Access Card is certainly a major step in that direction.

The Canberra Refugee Support president, Geoff McPherson, who was one of the strongest advocates, was reported in the Canberra Times as saying:

Moving in this direction is exactly what we want to see happen, because it is the most disadvantaged in our community who need a helping hand. It is quite refreshing to see the ACT Government is moving to extend that level of support to people who are very vulnerable.

I refer to these comments of asylum seeker Felix Machiridza, who was at the launch:

Giving this card, detailing all kinds of services that will make their lives easier, restores their dignity, restores their confidence, and it also gives them leeway to contribute positively to the Australian community.

DR BOURKE: A supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Minister, as well as the access card, how else has the ACT government sought to facilitate access to territory services by asylum seekers?

MS BURCH: Of course, the card itself will not work if front-line staff across the ACT government do not recognise what the cardholder is entitled to, which is why the government, through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, has developed a multi-pronged implementation strategy. The launch of the cards has coincided with the launch of a web page on the Community Services Directorate, which provides a list of all services the cardholders are entitled to as well as the links to additional resources and information. This website will be updated as other agencies develop more formal information on their websites which that can be linked to.

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