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 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.
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.
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