Page 3168 - Week 10 - Thursday, 17 September 2015

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playing out in Syria and around the region and around the world today because of this conflict that has been going on for four long years.

It is undeniable that Australia must do something to assist with this crisis. As Minister Berry stated, we have done it before when refugees fled violence in Latin America and in Kosovo, and we will do it again. Australia’s obligation in this area is twofold: firstly, we must assist countries in the surrounding region who are supporting the many Syrians leaving their homes. The federal government must send more support to countries like Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan which are currently supporting millions of refugees. With the help of international organisations such as UNICEF, the UNHCR and the world food program, Syria‘s neighbours are working hard to help those displaced people to live in dignity, and Australia must provide humanitarian assistance. Secondly, and closer to home, Australia must accept and look after Syrian asylum seekers as we must with all asylum seekers.

I echo Minister Berry’s statement that the ACT government welcomes the federal government’s decision to accept an intake of 12,000 humanitarian entrants. The ACT has a long and proud history of welcoming and offering support to refugees and asylum seekers. The minister’s recent announcement declaring the ACT, in particular, a refugee welcome zone is a continuation of this tradition.

This declaration is the ACT’s commitment to welcoming refugees into our community, showing compassion towards refugees and upholding their human rights. Canberra is home to residents from just under 200 nationalities, including many refugees from countries such as Myanmar, Thailand, the Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan more recently and a number of European refugees from after World War II and a number of refugees from South East Asia throughout the 60s and 70s.

Institutions in the ACT and, more importantly, the ACT government play a significant role in welcoming, educating and supporting asylum seekers who settle in our territory. Our government is essential to ensuring asylum seekers have access to services and are able to properly settle into our city and become part of our community.

It is important to note that in 2011 the ACT government identified a need to guarantee easily accessible services to asylum seekers whose claims were still being processed. As the minister has mentioned, the access card was introduced then as a means for refugees to access services without standard documentation such as concession or Medicare cards. This practical step makes a real difference to accessing essential services.

The territory also runs the work experience and support program, a fantastic program that supports refugees with their entrance into the workforce. The program trains participants in formal office skills, provides work experience and grants a certificate II in business to graduates.

I would like to recognise the work of the Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services, MARSS, in providing a large range of support services for asylum seekers. In particular, MARSS runs many programs designed to support young children and

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