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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 July 2018
NEWS 8 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 JULY 2018 VMC: ‘When migrants do not take English lessons, it is because of other urgent needs’ The Victorian Multicultural Commission responds to the Minister for Citizenship’s article on English language for migrants On Saturday 30 June, ‘Neos Kosmos’ published an article by the Hon Alan Tudge MP, in which the federal Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs argued on the contribution of the English language to Australia's migrant success story. "Learning English [...] delivers enormous benefits to newly arrived migrants because it helps with settlement, integration and with finding a job," the minister wrote, outlining to the policies undertaken by the federal government to assist migrants improve their English skills. "A shared common language is the glue to a cohesive society. [...] This is important, because being part of the broader community helps newly arrived migrants to integrate well and settle into life in Australia." A conversation starter, the article came as a response to months of speculation about the introduction of an English language test in the citizenship application process, offering significant input. ‘Neos Kosmos’ reached out to the Victorian Multicultural Commission (VMC) for a reaction. The VMC sent us the following statement: Minister Tudge's opinion piece contains many positive statements about migrants; upholding their right to retain and practice their cultural heritage, and the economic benefits this generates for Australia. In DFAT's 2017 White Paper, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's introduction states that 'Australia is the most successful multicultural society in the world'. The Victorian Multicultural Commission (the Commission) is very pleased that Minister Tudge reflects this statement, and describes how people in Australia with foreign language abilities 'enrich the social, economic and cultural life of our nation'. The Commission certainly echoes these sentiments. We see multiculturalism as an invaluable national asset which contributes greatly to nation-building and is deserving of further investment. As the voice of linguistically and culturally diverse communities in our state, the Commission is mandated to provide their direct link to government. The Commission consults with multicultural communities on a regular basis, including through our state-wide regional advisory councils, whose members represent more than 50 different cultural backgrounds. Community members raise systemic issues which affect their ability to participate and connect with Victorian or Australian society. Access to sufficient English tuition is a consistent topic, and one which the Commission advocates for consistently. Victoria's diverse communities overwhelmingly report to the Commission that 510 hours of 'conversational' English is not enough. These findings are consistent with the Commonwealth's 2015 evaluation by ACIL Allen, which concluded that: "The AMEP [Adult Migrant English Program] benchmark of functional English is, by definition, insufficient for participation in vocational education and training (VET) beyond the Certificate I/II level, and higher education, and considered by some stakeholders and AMEP participants as insufficient to gain employment."(ACIL Allen Evaluation, 2015). In its knowledge of settlement, the Commission has found that when migrants do not enrol or remain enrolled in English lessons, it is because of other urgent settlement needs such as housing, employment, settling children in schools, and so on. Humanitarian entrants are particularly vulnerable, needing to rebuild their lives. For those coming from areas of conflict, the need to recuper- ate from trauma is pressing. The duress of mental ill-health also affects ability to learn. The Commonwealth must take these matters into consideration. While the Commission commends the Australian Government's ongoing investment in English language for migrants, we have gathered evidence of people falling through the cracks, and of unmet needs. The Commission suggests that current levels of investment do not necessarily equate with evidence of meeting needs or improving outcomes. Rather, an investment that looks for incentives for business and industry to support English lessons through programs either delivered at workplaces or through day-release programs, would be more effective and deliver better results. The Commission has heard of many instances where people have had to drop out of AMEP in order to take a job, and would recommend that Job Active and AMEP need to be better aligned in this regard. Multiculturalism is a national asset that contributes to building the nation, and the evidence demonstrates that migrants are quintessential change agents. This is what we should be capitalising on and investing in. The Commission is concerned that the discussion around changing the requirements to be met in order to qualify for Australian citizenship is binary, divisive, and lacks an evidential need for such change. The Commission invites members of diverse backgrounds to provide their feedback about this matter via firstname.lastname@example.org. au, and would be pleased to meet with Commonwealth officers to discuss this matter further, in the best interests of the nation and all people who have made it their home and contribute to its prosperity. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Vamvakinou: ‘If people can’t find work then there’s something wrong’ Labor MP hosts roundtable discussion focusing on migrant integration issues The link between settlement and employment was discussed last week at a roundtable hosted by federal member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou MP, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia and Citizenship, Tony Burke MP, and the Settlement Council of Australia, with the participation of several people from diverse cultural backgrounds who had each come to Australia seeking a better life for themselves and their families. During the meeting, migrants took the opportunity to speak of their own personal experiences, a lot of them giving a far from ideal image about employment services in Australia. "Many migrants want to work because they're highly qualified and experienced but also because work gives them meaning," said Samir, an Iraqi refugee who arrived 18 years ago. "Many refugees do not want to be on Centrelink – they have a proud history and want to be independent and free. They want to contribute to their new home in Australia," he added. In response, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia responded that the resolution to this issue will prove to be crucial to Australia's future: "Modern Australia is a multicultural Australia. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from the community and settlement services on this important issue. How we handle settlement determines who we are and what we want to be as a country," said Mr Burke. Ms Vamvakinou added that employment services need to see a severe improvement in the future: "Newly-arrived migrants and refugees desperately want to work in this country. If they can't find that work then there's something seriously wrong with our approach to settlement." The Labor party is expected to use feedback from this roundtable discussion to improve the effectiveness of employment services and their association with settlement providers. Over $470,000 recovered in underpayments by ‘cheap eat’ spots FECCA congratulates Fair Work Ombudsman for continuously tackling exploitation of hospitality workers The Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) has praised the Fair Work Ombudsman for recovering $472,000 as a result of a series of audits of several restaurants around the country, leading to the discovery of 616 cases of underpaid workers. The Fair Work Ombudsman audited a number of fast-food restaurants in Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney and found that around 72 per cent of the 243 businesses questioned were in violation of the laws regarding the workplace. "FECCA applauds the continuing vigilance of the Fair Work Ombudsman on this issue," said FECCA chairperson Mary Patetchos. "The reality is that a great number of workers in these busi- Several hospitality workers report being underpaid and exploited by their employers. nesses are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. In too many cases they are being exploited by operators in the food and beverage industry. We call on employ- ers to do the right thing and abide by workplace laws. And we urge workers in these businesses to learn about their legal entitlements to payment and conditions."
07 July 2018
21 July 2018