Page 5171 - Week 12 - Thursday, 27 October 2011

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MS BRESNAN: Does the ACT have sufficient facilities for settling and assisting new asylum seekers entering the onshore processing system? If not, how will this situation be improved?

MS GALLAGHER: The community detention program that Minister Burch has been managing and monitoring through her directorate has had some pressure, but all of the costs are met by the commonwealth government. The discussion that Minister Burch and I have been having is that if we are to welcome more refugees and asylum seekers under that program to the ACT there may be additional costs to the ACT government, and we are considering those.

There is not a great deal of capacity within the NGO sector, I think, to be able to assist more refugees and asylum seekers without additional funding. But the initial step the government has taken is to ask the Prime Minister—we copied it to the minister for immigration—to consider whether there are additional ways the ACT community can work with them to provide more opportunities for new Australians coming to our country.

MS HUNTER: A supplementary.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Hunter.

MS HUNTER: Chief Minister, will you ensure that organisations such as Companion House have appropriate funding and resources to provide adequate services to any increase in asylum seekers and refugees, including assistance for survivors of torture and trauma?

MS GALLAGHER: Yes, we will. Indeed, with Companion House, we have been working with them over the last couple of months through the Health Directorate with some additional costs that they have. I have not caught up on it completely, but the last thing I saw was leaning towards a positive outcome there.

The minister and I have had a number of meetings around this and acknowledge that if there are additional people coming to the ACT there will be additional costs and the current funding for those community organisations will need to be expanded. At the moment the commonwealth pays 100 per cent of the cost under the community detention program. I have put out my hand, essentially; we have put out our hand. We are not necessarily saying that we would not provide some additional funding either if it assists to get more people to come to the ACT and be welcomed to live in our country.

MS LE COUTEUR: Supplementary, Mr Speaker.

MR SPEAKER: Yes, Ms Le Couteur.

MS LE COUTEUR: Chief Minister, are you working with Mental Health ACT to ensure that the ACT can provide adequate and appropriate mental health support and services to an increased range of refugees and asylum seekers?

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