Page 1151 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 28 March 2017

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that health information services, for example, are tailored to the needs of women and girls from diverse backgrounds is one of the focus areas of the first action plan of the ACT women’s plan 2016-2026, which the Deputy Chief Minister recently released. This is just one example of how we are working to ensure that services provided by the ACT government are appropriate and accessible.

We recognise that these barriers are often more pronounced for people who are newly arrived in Australia, including refugees and asylum seekers. This is part of the reason why the ACT government declared Canberra to be a refugee welcome zone in 2015, and why we are working hard to give effect to that commitment.

MS ORR: Minister, how is the government giving effect to the ACT’s commitment to be a refugee welcome zone?

MS STEPHEN-SMITH: I thank Ms Orr for her supplementary question. The ACT government recognises that refugees have particular needs in our city and we stand firm in our commitment as a refugee welcome zone. Part of that was a negotiation with the commonwealth government to also become a safe haven enterprise visa zone recently, ensuring that asylum seekers in our community are not required to leave existing community networks, friendships and supports in order to participate elsewhere in Australia.

Another part of our commitment to refugees and asylum seekers has been to help address barriers to economic participation by facilitating pathways into training and the security of a job. The ACT government is working to engage more employers in supporting the employment of candidates from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, specifically refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.

In November 2016, the ACT government collaborated with Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services to present the Employment Pathways Forum and Expo, which I was very pleased to help open. This expo was designed to support migrants and refugees to access and secure meaningful employment by raising awareness both among them and among employers.

Earlier in March, I announced that the government has expanded the eligibility criteria for the Australian apprenticeships and skilled capital programs to automatically include refugees and asylum seekers on temporary and bridging visas, giving them greater employment opportunities in our skill shortage areas. Additionally, the ACT government has committed $1.2 million as an election commitment to the refugee and asylum seeker job pathway program, which includes language education.

These are just a few of the ways that the ACT government is supporting refugees and asylum seekers to settle and fully participate in our community. The ACT government has a proven record of supporting and standing up for refugees and asylum seekers and a proven record of fighting for the supports and protections that enable these individuals and individuals from other culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and their families to settle in and contribute to our great city.

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