Tuesday, 12 December 2023
The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) supports the release of the much-awaited Migration Strategy yesterday, however calls for a greater focus on supporting migrants after they arrive. The Council is calling for reforms that are focused on both building a better migration system and a better future for new migrants and refugees.
The Migration Strategy focuses on five objectives across eight key actions. SCOA supports all of the actions, and particularly congratulates the government on its commitment towards permanency and reducing reliance on temporary migration.
SCOA Chair, Ms Melissa Monteiro, said “Permanency has a positive impact on social cohesion, which we have in recent times seen declining. People can focus on building their life and truly contribute to this country once they feel safe, secure, and know they belong.”
While the Strategy covered a lot of ground, not enough was said about what settlement services will be available to new migrants to ensure better outcomes.
SCOA has long called for improved support for migrants after they arrive in Australia. Currently, countries such as Canada have much more comprehensive services available to all migrants, including skilled migrants. The perceived level of support that migrants receive is one of the reasons Australia has been losing out on key talent to other migrant receiving countries such as Canada.
SCOA CEO, Ms Sandra Elhelw said “Given the global competition for skilled migrants, we need to work towards becoming an even more attractive destination. One of the ways of doing this is ensuring some form of basic settlement services are available to all new entrants.”
She added, “People who come to Australia to fill skill shortages will become our future Australians. Currently, skilled migrants and their families are by and large left to fend completely for themselves upon arrival. To better attract and retain migrants to our shores, Australia has to be seen as a destination where new arrivals will be supported early on in their settlement journey.”
Expanding settlement support is consistent with the review led by Dr Martin Parkinson, which had flagged issues caused by services having eligibility tied to visa class rather than need.
SCOA also supports the Strategy’s commitment towards tackling worker exploitation. Migrants on temporary visas are more likely to be exploited by unscrupulous employers and are less likely to blow the whistle on their employers. Providing some form of settlement support to all visa holders is a pre-requisite to ensuring workers are made aware of their rights and have support to address exploitation.
Australia sees the economic benefit of new migrants. Their contribution to the economy has been significant, as evidenced by numerous reports, including most recently the Business Council of Australia’s Migration Makes Australia Stronger report, and SSI’s Billion Dollar Benefit report.
However, SCOA cautions against viewing migrants strictly through an economic lens. Our success as a multicultural nation rests on viewing new entrants as future Australians, and supporting them to be as much a part of our society socially and economically as every other Australian.
SCOA looks forward to working closely with the government to realise our collective vision of an Australia that works for everyone.