Topics: Settlement service for refugees and humanitarian entrants
JOHN MCVEIGH: Well, tremendous to have David Coleman, the Immigration Minister, here in Toowoomba today, looking at our refugee support program right across the city. This is something I've been working on for quite some time with agencies here in Toowoomba, including MDA, TRAMS, and of course here at TAFE where the very important English program is conducted.
Earlier this year, I asked the Minister to focus on Toowoomba and look at what we are doing here, any potential improvements. And he's explained to me that Toowoomba is very much a model for the rest of the country. I'm excited by that, but it's tremendous to have the Minister here to look at what we can do better in the future. So David, thank you very much for being here.
DAVID COLEMAN: Thanks John, and good morning everyone. It's terrific to be here in Toowoomba today to meet with the Adult Migrant English Program providers here at the TAFE, and later in the day we'll be meeting with a number of other providers of refugee and humanitarian support services here in Toowoomba. One of the reasons I wanted to come here is because of the very strong advocacy of John, who is a great supporter of the refugee and settlement services activities here in Toowoomba, and has been in my office on a number of occasions in Canberra to talk about what's happening here and how we can continue to work together to make sure that these services are as effective as possible.
John's right in saying that Toowoomba is a model for the nation in its support for refugees and humanitarian entrants. For many years, Toowoomba has welcomed refugees from all parts of the world, and it's terrific to see that spirit here, to learn about the support of local business who are giving refugees and humanitarian entrants a go at their first job in the Australian workplace, and all of the very many groups that are involved in in support here.
I know John's advocated very strongly on behalf of CatholicCare, which provides tremendous settlement services for refugees here in Toowoomba, and he and I have discussed on a number of occasions the importance of that TRAMS service provided by CatholicCare. John's been successful in securing funding for that organisation based on the great work that it does. So, really good to be here. Toowoomba is a model for the nation in this area, and so I was really pleased to come along at John's invitation today.
JOURNALIST: Can you talk us through - there has been funding concerns, especially back in July. The mayor expressed concerns about a misdistribution of funding to certain refugee and migrant support services in Toowoomba. Can you tell us what the Federal Government has done to try and combat those issues?
DAVID COLEMAN: Sure. So funding for refugee and settlement services has continued to go up for the Toowoomba region. The way that funding is provided is based on the number of people who are involved in the different programs. So over the years, you might see different providers provide services, but the total amount of funding to Toowoomba has continued to increase.
John has advocated, as I said, on behalf of a number of local organisations to make sure that wherever possible, that local organisations have the best chance to access some of that funding. So that's a really important principle, and we will continue to see the amount of funding based on the number of people who are in the program.
We've also, at John's request, set up in recent months further consultations and reviews of activities here in Toowoomba, and just a few weeks ago in fact, officers from my department came to Toowoomba to meet with a number of the local service providers and to talk about what we can do to continue to provide great services in Toowoomba. One of the things that we want to continue to do and improve wherever we can is the coordination of all those services, because there are quite a few different service providers in Toowoomba. We want to make sure that they're all aware of the different services that are being provided, and that refugees are also aware of the various services that are available to them. So for instance, the Adult Migrant English Program here at TAFE, we want to make sure that everyone's aware that it's here, and that those refugees who are eligible to access the service do so. But funding has continued to increase.
JOURNALIST: Is there anything in particular that Toowoomba's doing well that you think you'll take to Canberra?
DAVID COLEMAN: Yeah, look, I think the tremendous buy in of the community, I think, is really notable here in Toowoomba. You see across organisations - like religious organisations, like multicultural support organisations, Rotary, so many different grassroots organisations that are really getting behind the success of refugees here in Toowoomba. That's a great thing because our settlement services have, really, two important elements. One is the provision of services, and that's by various companies that are contracted by the Federal Government to do that, and that's really important. But a second really important element as well is that community support, and that might not be people who are contracted to provide support, but people who volunteer and people who step up and help out. It's been notable here in Toowoomba, over many years, that the community has really embraced people who have arrived as refugees, and has really stepped up to assist. That's really notable and admirable, and we will be looking to Toowoomba as we continue to work on our settlement services programs for examples of that success of involving volunteer and grassroots organisations, and seek to do that more in other places around the country.
JOURNALIST: Just one last question Minister, I understand that the process of allocation of funding for migrant support services has been streamlined in recent months. Is that right?
DAVID COLEMAN: Look, there's been a number of reviews of the process of funding allocations, but the basic principle is: based on the number of people who are refugees in a particular area - that's where funding is available.
You have local organisations who are successful in obtaining funding to provide those services, and sometimes you have bigger national or state based organisations. We want to make sure that those processes are as efficient as possible, are as fair as possible, and get to the grassroots in local communities like Toowoomba as much as possible, because as I said, there's so much goodwill in communities like Toowoomba towards people who, you know, have overcome enormous difficulties in their lives and who are in many cases fleeing some of the world's most appalling situations.
We as Australians have said as a country that we want to support people who want to come to Australia, work hard, play by the rules and commit to this nation. Toowoomba has done a great job of supporting those people, and we want to learn as much as we can from Toowoomba so that we can apply those lessons around the country.
JOURNALIST: Just one more question regarding your department's meetings with Toowoomba service providers, that was only a few weeks ago. Will you be publishing - will that be released somehow? How is that going to be incorporated into the department and your ministerial strategy?
DAVID COLEMAN: My understanding is it was a really successful meeting, so quite a few attendees from all the different organisations. I think there's a broad acceptance that there's significant resources going into settlement services and supporting refugees here in Toowoomba. But as John has pointed out, we can always do a better job of coordinating those services and making sure that people are aware of what's out there, and making sure that different providers are working together and so that the community is able to access those services.
So that was, I think, one of the big learnings that have come out of that meeting, but I will be ensuring that the department continues to engage very closely here in Toowoomba, meeting with the local council and other civic leaders, and really capturing all of that feedback so we continue to make these services as effective as possible.
Thanks everyone, thank you.