20 June 2008
World Refugee Day a proud moment for new and old Australians
Australia has been celebrating Refugee Week this week, and the Australian Government is taking the opportunity to showcase its commitment to creating supportive infrastructure for Australian immigrants and refugees.
Senator Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, has made sure every state and territory has been actively celebrating Refugee Week with citizens, residents, refugees, and those on an Australia visa.
The Minister said in a press release earlier this week, the celebrations are about the incredible journeys refugees must endure to find a safe haven in Australia, and are about the people who find security on Australia's shores and "add particularly vibrant threads to the material that is building our nation".
Today, June 20, many refugees will be awarded Australian citizenship at ceremonies around Australia to mark World Refugee Day. In South Australia alone, 23 former refugees will today become proud Australian citizens. Of this group, 14 children will be instated to Australian citizenship status. The Migration Museum will be hosting the occasion, along with other events during the week.
Tasmanian residents are also taking an active role in celebrating refugees in Australia. The University of Tasmania has hosted a series of seminars this week which provide information about refugees in Tasmania and a stage for a combination of speakers from the government and community, including refugees. There has also been an arts exhibition and a concert from the refugee hip-hop group 5 Gs. A book titled 'Housing is Essential' was also released this week in Hobart, specifically aimed at Australian immigrants and refugees.
Other events taking place around the country include a candlelit vigil in Brisbane and a national conference in Adelaide, South Australia. Today, Canberra will be hosting a World Refugee Day function.
For refugees, "Refugee Week carries two meanings – a reminder of their journey to a new life in Australia and the day they embraced Australia as home by becoming citizens of this proud nation," said Senator Evans.
Over the past 60 years, Australia has resettled 700,000 refugees, alongside the hundreds of thousands of immigrants and foreigners on a visa for Australia. According to the Government's press release, Australia has consistently ranked in the top three countries for providing supportive resettlement programs. This involves housing, education, and community integration programs such as the recent sporting event held in Brisbane; the Queensland Police Service and Queensland Government sponsored and hosted a multicultural football tournament which ran over the Queen’s birthday long weekend and witnessed 32 cultures represented by migrants living in Brisbane.
The Australian Government has committed itself to integrating refugees, immigrants and people on an extended Australian visa into the Australian community. The Immigration Department has recently announced an increase of funding for integration programs, which are supported by over 250 businesses and organisations around Australia. The $34 million injection to funding thee projects will provide immigrant families with English-learning programs, help with renting properties and educational support, so that integration into Australian society can be a simpler process.
The government funding is expected to increase in line with the increase of immigrants to Australia. In August, the Federal Government will be making a decision about the Pacific guest worker scheme, which will see 5,000 Pacific Islanders taking temporary residency with an Australia visa. Australia visa holders will be working in regions of Australia affected by labour shortages. If passed by the Cabinet, the scheme will require the Government to assist in the accommodation and integration of all guest workers around the country.
The Government also recently sent officials to tour the UK to campaign for more people to apply for Australia visas. Australia needs workers to fill skills shortages, and has been looking internationally to entice foreign skilled workers to enjoy the Australian lifestyle.