Mark Coure MP, Liberal member for Oatley in the NSW Parliament, discussed a wide-range of migrant and refugee issues when he met with senior executive staff and board members of Advance Diversity Services (ADS) in the ADS offices on May 5.

Antoinette Chow, CEO of ADS thanked Mr Coure for the free RAT (rapid antigen test) kits and the emergency relief for temporary visa holders he had helped to facilitate in his role as Minister for Multiculturalism.

She said that without this COVID-related assistance:

  • Many CALD people in the region, who do not qualify for government benefits, would have struggled to access RAT tests and find support in understanding how to use them.
  • Many vulnerable temporary visa holders in the region who were facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 would have been without vital supplies, including medical support, emergency food and supplies, transport and essential housing. 

Mr Coure acknowledged the continuing importance of ADS’s Learn to Drive Program after hearing an update from Anthony Scerri, Manager of Settlement and Community Services, about this driver education program for recently arrived refugees and migrants.

Mr Scerri said that while funding received from Transport NSW had facilitated an effective rollout, top-up funds would be required to keep the program running given the rising cost of fuel and vehicle upkeep.

Mr Scerri also broached building a stronger LGBTIQ network in the St George and Sutherland region, to which Mr Coure said ADS could find helpful details to assist with this in the NSW LGBTIQ Health Strategy and to seek the support of local councils and peak bodies.

MP Mark Coure (centre) met with staff and board members of ADS on May 5.

To help build links between CALD and Aboriginal communities in the region, Ms Chow asked Mr Coure to share contacts.

‘We’re asking for educational/support contacts in the area relating to Aboriginal history,’ she said, ‘because we’re hoping that our community groups – which include established and newer migrants – can be educated more effectively about Australian Indigenous history.’

Magdaline Shenton-Kaleido Team Leader, Emerging Communities, Settlement and Community Services for ADS, spoke about the Refugee Council of Australia’s (RCoA) Platform for Change, which outlines key areas that need reform over the next Parliamentary term, as well as three matters requiring immediate attention and action in 2022.

Ms Shenton-Kaleido said ADS was eager to see Australia’s Parliamentarians acting on allurgent refugee issues raised by RCoA but was pressing Mr Coure now to agitate for the repeal of the ‘unnecessary, expensive and unfair’ temporary protection system and for the reinstatement of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

‘The temporary protection system is a legacy of a punitive system to stop the boats, but no longer makes sense,’ she said.

RCoA’s Platform for Change states that: ‘Australia has found more than 19,000 boat arrivals to be in need of refugee protection but has granted them only temporary visas (Temporary Protection Visas or TPVs, and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas or SHEVs), which bars them from ever becoming permanent residents or reuniting with their families.

‘They need to re-apply for protection after three or five years and engage in a full reassessment of their refugee needs, putting a significant and unnecessary burden on the already stretched resources of the Department of Home Affairs. The reassessment process also further harms people as they have to re-live their trauma repeatedly, hampering their ability to settle and move on.

‘When Afghanistan fell to the Taliban last year, Australia allocated 31,000 visas for Afghans over the next 4 years, but those who arrived by boat 9 years ago, fleeing the same violence / persecution, will only ever be granted temporary protection. The policy does not make sense anymore because AUS turns back boats now.’

Mr Coure agreed that the temporary protection policy no longer made sense, and would look more closely at the paperwork provided by ADS, including RCoA’s Platform for Change, to determine any action.

Chair of ADS, Ruth Fyfe, thanked Mr Coure for his visit to ADS and for offering to further explore issues raised by staff in the meeting.