Media Releases

Proposed English test for migrants is unfair

14 June 2018

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) today sounded a warning against a Government proposal to use English language skills as a basis for exclusion. If the proposal succeeds, eligibility will be based on a subjective test of English—failing would deem ineligible any migrants who would otherwise be eligible to apply for permanent residency or for citizenship.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Ms Mary Patetsos said that the concept of imposing a ‘shared language’ on migrants at any cost carried significant risks for vulnerable groups.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) today sounded a warning against a Government proposal to use English language skills as a basis for exclusion. If the proposal succeeds, eligibility will be based on a subjective test of English—failing would deem ineligible any migrants who would otherwise be eligible to apply for permanent residency or for citizenship.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Ms Mary Patetsos said that the concept of imposing a ‘shared language’ on migrants at any cost carried significant risks for vulnerable groups.

“Those of us who have successfully completed the migrant journey and gained English skills should be reminded of the potential hardship this test will impose on vulnerable people such as women, older people and humanitarian entrants,” Ms Patetsos said.

“FECCA has always recognised that proficiency in English is one of many factors which drive integration and social cohesion. Australian governments of all political persuasion have for decades proclaimed the success of Australian multiculturalism and its economic and social benefits. In a global economy, our multilingualism is also a great asset.

“Over those decades, a great number of migrants, from European and many other countries, have arrived here with limited English skills but have contributed hugely to Australia as permanent residents and as citizens—and to building this nation,” Ms Patetsos said.

“People arriving in Australia should be provided with English language education which is realistic and attainable. With this investment a shared language is realistic and attainable. Our immigration policy should not be designed to punish and exclude the vulnerable such as women, older people and humanitarian entrants simply because they have not arrived with English proficiency. Measures that make it harder for them to live in Australia or become citizens are punitive.

“It is a huge shift of immigration policy to prohibit spouses, other family and humanitarian entrants from taking up permanent residence unless they can pass an English test.

“It is also remarkable that in an age when discrimination on the basis of gender or sexuality has been outlawed, it is now to become official policy to discriminate against people on the basis of languages acquired,” Ms Patetsos said.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and their organisations. FECCA provides advocacy, develops policy and promotes issues on behalf of its constituency to Government and the broader community.

Contact: 0403 044 216 / alia@fecca.org.au

Citizenship fee change unfair

8 June 2018

A Government decision to scrap concessions on the application fee for Australian citizenship should be reversed, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said today.

The call by FECCA follows a decision by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton, to amend a regulation governing the fee. As a result, migrants who hold health care cards or pensioner cards will have to pay the full citizenship application fee of $285 instead of the current concessional fee of $20 or $40.

A Government decision to scrap concessions on the application fee for Australian citizenship should be reversed, the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said today.

The call by FECCA follows a decision by the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Peter Dutton, to amend a regulation governing the fee. As a result, migrants who hold health care cards or pensioner cards will have to pay the full citizenship application fee of $285 instead of the current concessional fee of $20 or $40.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Mary Patetsos, said that the fee hike was unnecessary and unfair.

“This is a needless imposition. Pensioners and health care card holders are able to access concessional charges on a whole range of goods and services across Australia,” Ms Patetsos said.

“Migrants and their families contribute hugely to the economic and cultural growth of this country. We don’t understand why these people are being singled out and hit with extra costs simply because they aspire to become Australian citizens.”

Ms Patetsos said that the Minister should rethink the proposal.

“If not, FECCA calls on the Senate to disallow the regulation,” she said.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Our role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of our constituency to government, business and the broader community.

 

Contact: FECCA 0403 044 216 / alia@fecca.org.au

Call for Senate to reject punitive Social Services Bill

8 June 2018

An alliance of peak bodies and welfare groups has called on Labor, Green and crossbench Senators to reject a Government move to force new migrants to wait longer before they can access various social security payments.

An alliance of peak bodies and welfare groups has called on Labor, Green and crossbench Senators to reject a Government move to force new migrants to wait longer before they can access various social security payments.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has joined the Australian Council of Social Service, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council and more than 30 other organisations (listed below), declaring that the proposed legislation will impose severe hardship on tens of thousands of people.

A proposal to lift the waiting period from the current two years to three years was included in the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Encouraging Self-sufficiency for Newly Arrived Migrants) Bill 2018, introduced to Parliament earlier this year.

However, the Government announced in last month’s Federal Budget that the waiting period would be extended further, to four years. A Parliamentary Committee is now examining the Bill.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Mary Patetsos said that any extended waiting period would affect social security payments as well as carer allowances, family tax benefit and widow allowances.

“These changes will hit the most vulnerable of migrants,” Ms Patetsos said.

“Permanent migrants should enjoy the same benefits as all other Australian residents, especially at the time when they need a little help to settle into their new home.

“Regardless of the Committee’s report, we call on the Senate to oppose any increase to waiting periods, whether to three years or four years.”

People most at risk in the proposed changes to waiting periods include:

  • Single parents and children;
  • Women at risk of family violence;
  • Children whose parent unexpectedly loses their job;
  • Young migrants and newly-graduated students; and
  • People who unexpectedly become carers.

The Chief Executive Officer of St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Dr John Falzon said:

“These changes are unjust, unnecessary and divisive.

“They undermine the needs-based focus of our social safety net and will create an underclass of residents cut off from the basic rights and supports afforded to other members of the community.

“Without access to a safety net, the most vulnerable new residents will be forced to rely on charities and risk being trapped in a cycle of poverty and hardship.

“The current two-year waiting period already causes significant and unnecessary hardship, and it is unconscionable that the Government is seeking to increase the hardship of people in need of support,” Dr Falzon said.

The Chief Executive Officer of ACOSS, Dr Cassandra Goldie, said: “Migrants must already wait two years to access essential social security payments. We cannot see the justification for extending this waiting period other than to make life harder for people setting up their lives in Australia.

“Very concerning is the fact that women and children will be hardest hit by this cut, with at least 110,000 children, including children born in Australia, to lose access to Family Tax Benefit.

“People who are migrants make such a huge contribution to Australia. They should be treated fairly, including being supported if they are in financial need,” said Dr Goldie.

 

Contacts:

FECCA 0403 044 216 / alia@fecca.org.au

St VINCENT de PAUL SOCIETY NATIONAL COUNCIL Len Baglow, 0400 845492 / media@svdp.org.au

AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF SOCIAL SERVICE 0419 626 155 / media@acoss.org.au

 SIGNATORIES TO THIS RELEASE:

  • Anglicare Australia
  • Carers Australia
  • Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change
  • Uniting Care Australia
  • St Francis Social Services
  • Albury-Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council
  • Australia Multicultural & Settlement Services
  • Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria
  • Melbourne Catholic Migrant & Refugee Office
  • Multicultural Council of Tasmania
  • Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast
  • Refugee Communities Advocacy Network
  • Refugee and Immigration Legal Services
  • Tasmanian Asylum Seeker Support
  • Welcome to Australia
  • Tasmanian Council of Social Service
  • LGBTIQ Support and Protection Services
  • Women with Disabilities Australia
  • ACT Council of Social Service
  • People with Disability Australia
  • National Council of Single Mothers & their Children
  • Council of Single Mothers and their Children
  • Queensland Council of Social Service
  • First Peoples Disability Network Australia
  • Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
  • Community Mental Health Australia
  • Financial Counselling Australia
  • Children and Young People with Disability Australia
  • Good Shepherd Australia New Zealand
  • Jobs Australia
  • Settlement Council of Australia
  • Refugee Council of Australia

 

FECCA supports SBS with submission to inquiry

4 June 2018

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has made a submission to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the ‘competitive neutrality’ of Australia’s public broadcasters, urging that SBS be retained in its current form.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Mary Patetsos said that SBS television, radio and online broadcasting continue to embody a modern Multicultural Australia.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) has made a submission to the Federal Government’s inquiry into the ‘competitive neutrality’ of Australia’s public broadcasters, urging that SBS be retained in its current form.

The Chairperson of FECCA, Mary Patetsos said that SBS television, radio and online broadcasting continue to embody a modern Multicultural Australia.

“These SBS services reflect a diverse and enriched Australia and FECCA believes that our political leaders should ensure the continuation of SBS,” Ms Patetsos said.

FECCA’s submission to the inquiry can be found here.

To make a submission, visit this website.

“We urge organisations and individuals who are committed to the future of a vibrant and vigorous SBS to make a submission to the inquiry,” Ms Patetsos.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. Our role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of our constituency to government, business and the broader community.

Contact: 0403 044 216 / emma@fecca.org.au