Australia: Social Justice for Newly Arrived Migrants

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Encouraging Self-sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants) Bill 2018 will extend waiting times and cause hardship to newly arrived migrants in many circumstances. The Harmony Alliance – which provides advocacy on the multiplicity of issues impacting on experiences and outcomes of migrant and refugee women in Australia is sending an open letter to Female MPs and Senators, calling on them to oppose these measures, on the basis that they will disproportionately target safety nets accessed by migrant women.


 

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Encouraging Self-sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants) Bill 2018 includes plans to increase existing newly arrived resident’s waiting periods from 2 years to 3 years for various social security payments and concession cards and introduce a 3-year newly arrived resident’s waiting periods for carer allowance, bereavement allowance, widow allowance, parenting payment, parental leave payments, family tax benefit (FTB) and dad and partner pay will impact vulnerable migrants including:

  • Single parents and their children;
  • Women experiencing domestic violence and their children;
  • Children in households where the main income earner unexpectedly loses employment.

All religions extend hospitality to the stranger. All religions promote righteousness, and right conduct. Social justice requires a preferential option for the poor. The the proposed Bill penalises skilled migrants who have been invited to permanently live in Australia.

The introduction of a waiting period of 156 weeks for parental leave payments and dad and partner pay is going adversely impact migrant families entering Australia on skilled visas. As the statistics above indicate, it is already more difficult for women on permanent visas to enter the workforce and an increase in waiting period for social services will make it more difficult for those who cannot afford childcare. For parents employed in full-time work, current benefits provided much needed financial support to settle into Australia. Harmony Alliance is concerned that children will be among those most adversely impacted by the proposed Bill. We offer an example of hardship, below:

A skilled migrant with a wife and two young children arrived in Australia last year to take up a well-paid position. After one year of employment and settling happily in Sydney, the husband unexpectedly fell seriously ill. The spouse does not yet have reasonable English and so has not been able to find employment. They are not eligible for income support benefits under the two year wait period, and the spouse is also not eligible for English language training or employment services. They can and do receive medical services and the children attend a public school. With no income they have become destitute and homeless, relying on the good will of their church community and local charities for accommodation and money for food. They are applying to have an exemption to receive some income support due to unforeseen changed circumstances, but this is taking some time to process and to provide evidence of their current circumstances.

The deadline to sign onto the letter is 9am Monday 21 May. If you would like to add your name or organisation to the letter, please get in touch with the Harmony Alliance direct: secretariat@harmonyalliance.org.au

 

 

 

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