Page 2708 - Week 09 - Thursday, 8 August 2013
Also, the learn to drive program was an initiative that came out of the 2011 multicultural jobs roundtable, which I hosted in November of that year. This was a roundtable that I convened after meeting with leaders in the multicultural community, particularly the South Sudanese community, which is one of the growing communities here in Canberra, with many of them arriving in Australia as refugees. I heard that for many South Sudanese youth finding employment in Canberra was proving difficult. So at the roundtable we looked at how our community and government can better support them to contribute to our community.
The key barriers to employment identified included a lack of networks and Australian workplace experience, lack of social supports and lack of English skills. It was also about opportunities for employment. It was identified that learning to drive can often be an expensive process, and especially costly for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are on low incomes.
Through the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the government allocated $15,000 to support a learner driver training program. Last year three members of the South Sudanese community trained as driving instructors, with scholarships funded through the enhanced multicultural sector program.
The government has worked in partnerships with MARSS over the past six months to bring the program to fruition by investing funds in this program which have helped MARSS to administer this. MARSS, in turn, has purchased a new car with dual controls which will be used for lessons. The Hellenic Club has come on board by providing $4,000 in support to cover petrol costs. Certainly, when we did a launch of that program, the men involved were very excited about that opportunity for them to have a skill, and so that they can now train others in their community in something that we often take for granted—learning to drive.
I will mention a few of the other programs. The work experience and support program offers training and practical support for newly arrived Canberrans to enter the workforce. I have mentioned the Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Humanitarian Coordination Committee, RASHCC. They meet regularly to discuss very complex issues. And I was very pleased to hear that MARSS and the MTA are working together to offer that support and opportunity for some.
It is very clear that whilst there is more work to do, it is important that we as a community support all who call Canberra home. As Mr Corbell outlined in his amendment, it is important that we make representations to grant work rights to asylum seekers who are living in our community and that we seek to have assurances about basic living allowance payments and other supports. These people in our community are with us, they are part of our great city and they should be afforded that support that others rightly get.
MR HANSON (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (11.49): At the outset, let me say what this motion is not about. It is not about a genuine concern for refugees in our community. As Ms Berry said in her speech—and I thank her for it—I think there is a tripartisan view that we should do everything we can for refugees in our community. I