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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2011 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 26 October 2011) . . Page.. 5030 ..

Multicultural Affairs. Can you advise who benefited from the expansion of the WES program, please.

MS BURCH: I thank Mr Hargreaves for his ongoing interest in assisting our multicultural community here in the ACT. Any time you want to provide a comment and a compliment to me, go right ahead, Mr Hargreaves.

Over 14 years, the WES, or work experience and support, program has been successfully assisting migrants and refugees in securing meaningful employment in the ACT. I understand that the program is unique across Australian jurisdictions. The additional $40,000 has allowed the work experience and support program to double its annual intake to 40 participants across two programs.

This year I was pleased that the Office of Multicultural Affairs collaborated with the Republic of South Sudan Australian community association of the ACT to deliver the WES program particularly for members of Canberra’s South Sudanese community. I think that is the newest nation that we have on our globe so it is wonderful news that we here in the ACT offered that hand of help to them.

Through this program, 19 members of the South Sudanese community participated in this WES, which included four weeks of recognised training in government, office skills and job seeking skills. Fifteen of the group have now completed their eight-week work experience placements across the ACT public service or with a community organisation and four will soon undertake community-based placements.

I am particularly pleased to inform the Assembly that one of these 15 young Sudanese migrants and refugees has completed their placements to date, and seven are now paid employees of the ACT government, having been offered contracts of up to six months duration across three directorates, of Education and Training, Community Services and Treasury. An additional 20 migrants from Canberra’s broader multicultural community will take part in the second WES early next year.

We know that unemployment is a major concern amongst our refugee community, and programs such as WES provide the practical skills and support and employment outcomes that they need.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Hargreaves, a supplementary.

MR HARGREAVES: Minister, can you advise the Assembly about any other initiatives under consideration to support migrants in the ACT to improve their employment prospects?

MS BURCH: Yes. As I have said, employment is a key issue for our migrant and refugee communities. In addition to the WES program, the Office of Multicultural Affairs is implementing a range of other initiatives to assist unemployed or underemployed migrants in the ACT to improve their employment prospects. This includes assisting bilingual migrants to become accredited translators and interpreters, allowing them to enter paid employment whilst also benefiting members of their own community, and improving access to services and service delivery.

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