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Advance Australia Fair? (part 3)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Language.

Language

Language is a major issue that affects how refugees and asylum seekers are able to integrate into a community. One journal article wrote that “English language proficiency has a direct and obvious impact on the ability of women to settle in Australia and on the length of time that process takes.” The authors of this article found that the majority of participants in a study attributed many of their problems as arising due to their language difficulties. The Department of Immigration and Citizenship does fund an Adult Migrant English Program, providing 510 hours of ESL tuition within the first five years of arrival. However, many have found that these programs are filled with cultural problems, such as mixed classes which make it uncomfortable for those who have come from countries where segregation was the norm.

Another difficulty is that the children often pick up English quicker than the parents. This forms more difficulties between children and parents, where the children know words in English, but are unable to explain it to their parents. This puts further strain on their parents, as they are unable to fully communicate with their children.

As indicated in the last post, the Australian Government’s new “no benefit” policy allows for asylum seekers to be placed in community detention, but they are unable to take part in employment, volunteer work, or to take part in ESL classes. As stated above, this means that those in this situation are unlikely to integrate into the community at any stage. It is a very disturbing policy, that makes the life for those in this situation very difficult.

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Advance Australia Fair? (part 2)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Today we’re looking at some of the issues that Asylum Seekers and Refugees face in the area of Employment.

Employment

Employment is one of the major issues and concerns of Asylum Seekers and Refugees, because they do not want to feel like they are a burden on the community. Those who are not permitted to work (because of Temporary Protection Visa’s or conditions placed on their community based detention) find themselves feeling demoralised or despaired at their inability to contribute to Australian Society. Those who are able to seek employment often find discrimination either in the application process, or within the job itself. One Sudanese woman said “At work, the white Australian nurses give me the heaviest and messiest duties to do. Some talk down to me and others just don’t take notice of me and ignore me.”

The Australian Human Rights Commission visited those who were living in community detention. During those visits, they found that “opportunities for self-reliance and meaningful activities are critical to rebuilding resilience amongst asylum seekers, refugees and stateless persons.” Providing meaningful employment can be a very strong way of enabling refugees and asylum seekers to feel a part of their new community.

With this in mind, the Australian Government’s new “No Benefit” policy is incredibly worrying. Basically, what the government can do is give some asylum seekers a temporary protection visa, which does not allow them to work, volunteer, or even take part in ESL classes. This effectively removes them from society, and adds shocking results for their mental health, because not only are they sitting around doing nothing, but they feel bad about having to rely on people and agencies for their survival.

 

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Advance Australia Fair? (part 1)

In the little sung second verse of the Australian National Anthem, we find the words, For those who come across the seas, we’ve boundless plains to share. However, despite this being part of our national anthem, part of the words that we claim to aspire towards, there is significant evidence that as a nation we are not willing to share the boundless plains that we have. Thankfully, there are also significant programs that are helping to share what we have with those that are new to our nation. Over the next few posts, we’ll look at some of the issues that those coming to our country faces in the areas of housing, employment, language and health. We’ll then look at what’s currently happening, particularly in regional areas, and what possible future approaches we can make to share our boundless plains.

Housing

There are a number of issues relating to housing in the resettlement of asylum seekers and refugees. The Brotherhood of St Laurence found that in Shepparton, cheap housing was initially plentiful, it since has become scarce. Housing that was available is often of poor quality, and within a system that is difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to understand. This makes exploitation by real estate agents a common occurrence. There are multiple stories of families with many children being placed in houses with only two or three bedrooms. In a Sudanese community in Colac, the Brotherhood of St Laurence again found a lack of public housing, and difficulties in getting private rentals. Initial settlement costs are another concern, with essential items such as a fridge, beds or blankets being difficult to source from a local Migrant Resource Centre. Where public housing was available, it was often shared amongst a number of families. One woman said “the way we live now, we don’t have plans because we are living together, three families in the one house.” Stress in the area of housing makes it difficult for asylum seekers to feel settled within a community.

Stay tuned for the next post, where we discuss some of the issues that asylum seekers and refugees face in the area of Employment. In the mean time, I’d love to hear any stories that you have about housing difficulties for asylum seekers and refugees, and any thoughts about how we can be more open to sharing the boundless plains of our nation.

References: Taylor, Stanovic and Brotherhood of St Laurence, Refugees and Regional Settlement: Balancing Priorities, 2005

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5 Things I don’t love about Australia

Following up on Yesterday’s post on the things I love about Australia, there are a few things I don’t like about Australia. It would be remiss of me to say the things I love without the things I don’t like.

  1. Racist. As much as I hate to admit it, Australia is a little bit racist. This has come across more in the last few years, with fears about Refugees and Middle Eastern immigrants. It’s such a shame, as Australia has such a rich multi-cultural heritage, stretching back to the Chinese in the Gold Rush. I think this issue is mostly pushed by my second point.
  2. Sensationalist Media. From our “Current Affairs” shows such as Today Tonight and A Current Affair, to our tabloid-esque newspapers, Australia’s media has a love of the blow-out story. From stories about Australia introducing sharia law (which the Federal Attorney General stated clearly that there was no place for in Australia), to scare campaigns about the number of “boat people” it is Australia’s media which effectively scares the population into submission.
  3. “Un-Australian” and Australian Values. One of the arguments that is used to shoot down anything that the population (read: Media) doesn’t like is the idea that it is un-Australian. A Carbon Tax? Un-Australian. Having Daylight Savings? Un-Australian. Not having Daylight Savings? Un-Australian. Participating in the Cronulla Riots? Un-Australian. Not participating in the Cronulla… I think you get the point. The thing is that this idea that something is Un-Australian is just used when people think the whole nation should get behind the idea, but have no real reason why.
  4. “She’ll be right” mentality. This is something that I suffer from as well, and I think it’s a good thing as well as a bad thing. The good thing about this is that we’re not worried about what happens, and whatever happens we’ll make a way through. That’s great. However, it sometimes means that we fail to plan for the inevitable. For example, Australia is currently living in the midst of a resources boom, where mining companies are reaping rich profits, and the Australian Government is reaping rich taxes from these companies. However, there doesn’t appear to be the planning for what happens once we’ve mined all the minerals out of the ground. Yes, we’re in a good position now, but what next?
  5. Homelessness and Poverty. I’ve currently started reading “In Darkest England” by William Booth, where he highlights the poverty and homelessness situation in England in the late 1800’s. It absolutely broke my heart reading the stories of these people, and knowing that nothing has changed, over 100 years later and in a different continent. Australia is a rich country, yet we still have excessive homelessness and poverty.

So that’s what I don’t like about Australia. Areas for Improvement I guess you could call them. I hope that some of these things will change over time.

What don’t you like about your culture?

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Five things I love about Australia

Flag of Australia
Image via Wikipedia

This prompt, List five things you love about your culture, is provided by Plinky.

I love Australia, and there is no-where else on earth that I would rather live. Sure, there are places I would love to visit, but as the song says:

no matter how far or how wide I roam, I still call Australia home

So here are five things about Australian culture that I think makes Australia great.

  1. Sporting. Australia loves their sport, and for a long time we have been successful in that sport. Around the turn of the century, Australia was experiencing a golden age in sport, being successful in Cricket, Rugby Union, Netball, swimming and more. While we are in a bit of a dip in cricket and rugby at the moment, we are still strong in Netball, and have added cycling (thanks to Cadel Evans), Soccer (well, the most successful that we’ve ever been) and golf (thanks to guys like Adam Scott and Jason Day). What I love particularly is that Australians are generally good sports, and while we will give the loser a bit of a ribbing, we have never seen scenes like is sometimes seen in English or European football, or like the Vancouver riots after they lost the Stanley Cup.
  2. Relaxed. Personally, I could never see anything like what is happening in England happening in Australia, because we’re so relaxed. I’m not going to say that it will never happen, particularly because it has happened in the past (I’m thinking the Cronulla Race Riots), however, for the most part Australians are relaxed and would rather click “Like” on Facebook or write a letter than actually step out the door to go and Protest.
  3. Peaceful. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that can say we have never had a civil war. And apart from a few attacks on northern cities (Broome and Darwin) during World War 2, we have never experienced War on our land. While that does make us incredibly lucky, it is something that is reflected in our nation and our culture.
  4. Prosperous. Sometimes it may not seem like it, but Australia is relatively rich. Sure, it’s not up there with the likes of the US, or with the “old money” of Europe, but Australians by and large are better off than many other people. While that does come with trappings, as more people are earning more money, it does mean there is more money around to help those less fortunate, and the “luxuries” are often cheaper as well.
  5. Forward Thinking. Australia is an inventive nation, and generally forward thinking in many area. For example, great Australian inventions include WiFi – such a vital part of laptops, Tablets, and now even phones – and the Refrigerator. In 1838 an Australian came up with the first Pre-Paid postal system. In 1902 an Australian invented the notepad, and in 1906 saw Australia produce the world’s first Feature Film, Ned Kelly. Staying on the film idea, it was also an Australian who invented the “Clapperboard” in 1930. Australian’s also invented the Black Box flight recorder, the Ultrasound, Race Cam (for motor sports broadcasting), Bionic Ear, and more. Because we’ve had this history of innovation, it means that as a nation we are constantly looking forward (with a respect for our history) to find better ways to do things.

So there you go, five things I love about Australia. What are do you love about your culture? Stay tuned for tomorrow when I write about the things I don’t like about Australia.

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Malaysia deal amounts to “arbitary and unlawful detention”

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ...
Image via Wikipedia

The ABC is reporting that the United Nation High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has warned the Australian Government that the Malaysian refugee swap deal may result to “arbitrary and unlawful detention under international law.”

Australia is saying they will go ahead with the deal anyway, and are currently looking for a third country to take refugees. I’m very disappointed with this news, as we are very clearly saying “we don’t care about international law.” Considering that its international law that governs human rights, and how we treat asylum seekers I’m worried that we may set a precedent for us to do worse things to asylum seekers. Continue reading Malaysia deal amounts to “arbitary and unlawful detention”

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Money and Happiness

This prompt, Do you think money can buy happiness?, is provided by Plinky.

My wife and I have been listening to a Casting Crowns album recently while we’ve been driving in the car. One song that’s got me thinking just recently is this song, American Dream.

It could just as well be titled “Australian Dream” as the things that are mentioned in here are more and more becoming things that Australians long for. A large house with a big back yard, the biggest TV, all the latest gadgets, the boat, the holidays.

My church is located in a fairly affluent area. We often are challenged on how we respond to the call to look after “the lost, the last and the least” in our community, when it seemingly looks like on the outside of all these massive houses with gates protecting expensive cars that none of the people in our community have any issues.

However, we are reminded that so many people in order to get to that “ideal” situation have worked multiple jobs, or worked late into the night and lost time with their family. There are stories in yesterdays newspaper of how families on a $90,000+ income will struggle with a $400/year increase thanks to Australia’s new Carbon Tax. These families live so close to the edge that anything unexpected – such as Reserve Bank interest rises that mean increased mortgage payments, or a new tax such as the carbon tax – puts them from surviving to struggling.

We often tell ourselves that we need the largest and the newest of everything. However, when you can learn to live on what you have, and not outspend your income, you are less stressed, and can fully enjoy what you do have.

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The view from my (boring and cold) window

Today I feel cold and alone

This topic suggestion, Find the nearest window…, is from The Daily Post as part of the Post-a-day writing challenge.

I must say, I probably have quite a boring window to be doing this from. My computer is in the spare room, which has a window that over looks our washing line, and beyond that is our neighbours house. However, there is something interesting about looking out this morning.

You see, today in Perth, it was very cold. Well, cold for Perth. We don’t get temperatures this cold very often, so we don’t know what to do when it gets this cold. The official minimum temperature was 1.4° Celcius. At Perth Airport, it got to 0.2° Celcius, and at Jandakot Airport (about a half hour south of Perth city) it was a freezing -0.4° Celcius. So when I look out my window, I see all the effects of a very cold morning on the grass. The dew on the grass makes it glisten and seem almost white. It is very clear, and seems like I could almost see for an eternity (if I didn’t have such a restricted view from my window.)

What can you see from your window? Do you have a better view than mine?

Postaday2011 links

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My platform as prime minister

Still image from the documentary film "Wa...
Refugees in Detention is one of the big issues I would be working on if I was Prime Minister. (Image via Wikipedia)

This topic suggestion, Do you think you’d make a good president?, is from The Daily Post as part of the Post-a-day writing challenge.

If I was elected Prime Minister, there would be a few big issues that I would be working towards.

NBN

A government is responsible for infrastructure. Not only the building of new infrastructure, but the maintenance and regular upgrading of old infrastructure to suit the needs of the population. A national broadband network, such as the one the government is currently building, is essential to cater for the needs of the population now and into the future. A fiber network has already been proven to be significantly upgradeable with minimal change to the existing infrastructure once the fiber is in place. This is why if I was prime minister, I would continue this process.

Refugees

Refugees is a hot topic at the moment. It is one that requires clear thought, and compassion on both sides of the debate. Personally, I believe that off-shore detention centres are a violation of human rights, as we are detaining these people when they have not committed any breeches of the law.

However, I can also see the need for there to be some kind of fact checking process to ensure that those we let into society are indeed refugees. This process needs to be completed as quickly as possible.

If we are to detain asylum seekers, we need to have a deadline by which time a decision must be made. The main thing that has caused so much mental health issues within detained asylum seekers is often not the detention itself, but the uncertainty in how long they will be detained for a crime that doesn’t exist. We need to ensure that all claims are processed quickly – say, within six months – and if that is not possible, then we recruit more staff to ensure that it is possible.

Also, I would promote as Prime Minister a scheme where once an initial assessment is made, every asylum seeker is sent into community detention. Community detention is not only far better for the asylum seeker, as it also helps them settle into the community, but it is also far cheaper for the Australian government than off-shore detention.

Investing in renewable energy

Renewable energy sources such as wind, water, solar and others are not at the stage where they could replace coal completely. However, we would be foolish to assume that coal and gas will remain a viable source of power into the future. Eventually, we will mine all of the coal, oil and gas, and need to find another source.

It is therefore a smart idea to develop existing and potential renewable energy technologies to not only prolong the amount of time we have until coal runs out, but also to eventually replace coal when it does run out.

Is there a lot of work to do to get it to this stage? Absolutely. However it would be foolish not to act on this now.

So that’s three things I would focus on if I was Prime Minister. What would your three things be?

Postaday2011 links

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Not good, but not bad

Shane Warne. At the WACA gound on 15/10/2006 P...
Least trusted person in Australia? (Image via Wikipedia)

I want to write today about a story that has been in the News the last couple of days. Reader’s Digest published their list of the 100 most trusted people in Australia, and the person who came in position 100, Shane Warne, has been labelled the Least trusted celebrity in Australia.

Now, I’m sure Warnie doesn’t need me to go in to bat for him, but I’m not a fan of this misreporting that has been occurring. While Warne is the least trusted celebrity in this list, there are plenty of well-known celebrities who did not make the list. Just because he came last in the list, doesn’t make him the least. Continue reading Not good, but not bad