FECCA Statement to the Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ Reference Committee

18 May 2017

The following is the opening statement by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) Director, Dr Emma Campbell, to the Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ References Committee Inquiry into the design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I am here to speak on behalf of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, FECCA, national peak body representing Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and their organisations as Director of FECCA. I am accompanied here today by Mr Benjamin Smith FECCA’s Senior Policy and Project Officer. We thank the Committee for inviting FECCA to represent the interests of Australia’s CALD communities with regards this Inquiry.

The following is the opening statement by the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) Director, Dr Emma Campbell, to the Standing Committee on Community Affairs’ References Committee Inquiry into the design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation associated with the Better Management of the Social Welfare System initiative.

I would like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today. I would also like to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I am here to speak on behalf of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, FECCA, national peak body representing Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities and their organisations as Director of FECCA. I am accompanied here today by Mr Benjamin Smith FECCA’s Senior Policy and Project Officer. We thank the Committee for inviting FECCA to represent the interests of Australia’s CALD communities with regards this Inquiry.

FECCA would like to acknowledge the Department of Social Services and the Department of Human Services for their work to improve access and equity for culturally and linguistically diverse Australians when engaging with Government services.

With regards to this Inquiry, we would particularly like to recognise the work of the Department of Human Services’ National Multicultural Advisory Group and their efforts to improve the experience of CALD Australians when dealing with Centrelink and other divisions of the Department of Human Services.

This work is so important because some of Australian’s most vulnerable people come from CALD backgrounds. Their vulnerability is accentuated by an intersection of challenges.

For example, the vulnerability that necessitates Centrelink support – unemployment or insecure employment, caring responsibilities, financial insecurity in older age, or disability – may be accentuated by poor English literacy and a limited understanding of the Australian Government System.

It is for these reasons that many CALD Australians have a ‘vulnerability indicator’ in their Centrelink record. FECCA understands that debt recovery letters were not sent to Centrelink clients with vulnerability indicators and this shielded many CALD Centrelink clients from the stress and anxiety caused by these debt recovery letters. This should be acknowledged.

It is inevitable, however, that some CALD Australians who were not identified by a vulnerability indicator would have received a welfare debt compliance letter.

FECCA appreciates that debt management is a necessary party of the social welfare network and that automated services are an attractive alternative to more resource intensive-processes.

But you cannot justify exposing many vulnerable people to confusion and anxiety as a result of receiving incorrect debt demands by saying “at least the most vulnerable Australians were protected.” By definition, those receiving support from Centrelink will likely have vulnerabilities, whether or not they are severe enough to be noted with a ‘vulnerability indicator’ in their record. That vulnerability is likely to be compounded if you are from a CALD background.

If the reports are correct that the data-matching process used to investigate welfare compliance simply divides yearly income reported to the ATO equally across the 12 months of the year rather than reflecting actual income receipts in each month, CALD Australians would be particularly susceptible to being sent debt compliance letters incorrectly.

This is because many CALD Australians are employed in insecure work. The complex work patterns, increased job mobility and inconsistent monthly income of many CALD people mean that they are at greater risk of being wrongly identified as having a debt.

Many migrants and refugees come from countries where challenging authority is dangerous, where if you’re asked to do something by a Government representative you simply do it, or else. Other migrants and refugees may be fearful of the consequences for their immigration status if they challenge authority. The relationship and understanding of officialdom by many migrants and refugees means that they may be less likely to challenge official letters, or may interpret these letters as a threat implying impropriety on their part even if the allegation that they owe a debt is wrong.

Migrants and refugees, older CALD Australians might not know how to challenge the letter. They may be turned away from a Centrelink office given the reports that Centrelink staff were told not to process debt disputes in person. If they are unaware of Centrelink’s multilingual phone service language might discourage them from using the general Centrelink phone services. Many CALD Australians have limited digital literacy and low levels of English language, meaning they are unable to navigate government services through online portals.

And so they just pay – whether or not they were liable for that debt.

When dealing with vulnerable people there is a duty of care to ensure that they are protected. Centrelink should only initiate contact with clients through the welfare compliance system if there is clear evidence of an overpayment or debt.

We would like to emphasise the importance of funding for Multicultural Services and other initiatives dedicated to accommodate CALD Australian when accessing government services, particularly in cases of complex interactions such as resolution of discrepancies.

And there needs to be recognition that in some cases it is only through face-to-face human interaction that CALD individuals are able to effectively communicate with government and other service providers.

Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to address this Inquiry and we look forward to continuing our productive relationship with the Department of Human Services to ensure fairness, equity and ease of access for all Australians, including those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

 

FECCA welcomes the opportunity to review the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from CALD Backgrounds

12 May 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) today made its submission to the Review of the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds (the CALD Strategy).

FECCA Chair, Joe Caputo said: “FECCA recognises the work of the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP and the Government to ensure that the needs of older CALD Australians are met.”

“In particular, we acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Health to consult with the wider community and welcome the opportunity to review the CALD Strategy,” said Mr Caputo.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) today made its submission to the Review of the National Ageing and Aged Care Strategy for People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds (the CALD Strategy).

FECCA Chair, Joe Caputo said: “FECCA recognises the work of the Minister for Aged Care, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP and the Government to ensure that the needs of older CALD Australians are met.”

“In particular, we acknowledge the efforts of the Department of Health to consult with the wider community and welcome the opportunity to review the CALD Strategy,” said Mr Caputo.

The Australian Government released the CALD Strategy to respond to the needs of older people from CALD backgrounds.

FECCA is working closely with the Department to develop a broader Aged Care Diversity Framework which will include CALD Australians alongside other special needs groups. Under the Diversity Framework, a specific action plan will be developed for aged care consumers of CALD backgrounds.

Mr Caputo continued: “It is imperative that the needs of this large cohort of ageing Australians continue to be recognised and supported by Government and the aged care sector.”

“There are still many challenges ahead for providing culturally inclusive care and the review of the CALD Strategy will better inform us on the successes so far and areas for improvement as we develop the new Diversity Framework.”

“FECCA is looking forward to learning of the outcomes of the CALD Strategy review process and to continue its work with the Department of Health and other stakeholders to improve outcomes for older CALD Australians,” he said.

FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse background. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

 

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

FECCA concerned about impact of key Budget measures on migrant Australians

9 May 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said that key measures announced in tonight’s Federal Budget will have a disproportionate impact on Australia’s migrant communities. New enhanced residency requirements for the Age Pension and Disability Support Pension will require claimants to have up to 15 years of continuous Australian residence to be eligible […]

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said that key measures announced in tonight’s Federal Budget will have a disproportionate impact on Australia’s migrant communities.

New enhanced residency requirements for the Age Pension and Disability Support Pension will require claimants to have up to 15 years of continuous Australian residence to be eligible to receive these key supports.

Nearly 40 per cent of people receiving the Age Pension were not born in Australia. These provisions will disproportionately impact Australians of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

FECCA believes that migrant Australians should not be punished in their older age or because they require support for living with a disability.

Also announced in tonight’s Budget, the Skilling Australians Fund Levy, is a levy on employers who nominate workers for certain temporary and permanent visas. The levy will provide funds to support skills development in the Australian workforce.

This kind of measure implies that migrant workers are responsible for Australia’s skills gap and threatens social cohesion.

Migrant workers are some of Australia’s most vulnerable to the risk of abuse and exploitation by their employers.

This levy presents new risks to migrant workers including salary deductions and a rise in racism and discrimination.

Overseas workers fill key positions where local employees cannot be recruited: caring for Australia’s elderly and disabled, supporting our nation’s agricultural industry and growing Australia’s IT and high-tech companies.

FECCA has already expressed its concern on a number of other measures included in the Budget including changes to the citizenship test and the cost of the new temporary parent visa.

FECCA will issue further comment on the Federal Budget in coming days.

FECCA is the peak national body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

FECCA’s pre-Budget submission can be found here.

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au

FECCA calls on Government to review costs for proposed temporary visa

5 May 2017

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said today that high entry charges for parents coming to Australia under the new temporary parent visa are inequitable and fundamentally overlook the importance of immigration to Australia.

The proposed new temporary parent visa will allow overseas parents of Australians to stay in the country for up to ten years.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) said today that high entry charges for parents coming to Australia under the new temporary parent visa are inequitable and fundamentally overlook the importance of immigration to Australia.

The proposed new temporary parent visa will allow overseas parents of Australians to stay in the country for up to ten years.

“Family reunion is integral for successful settlement, promoting social wellbeing and cohesion,” said Joe Caputo, FECCA Chairperson.

“The parents coming to Australia will make important contributions including caring for grandchildren and volunteering in their local communities.”

Mr Caputo continued: “Australian families with limited means, who may benefit the most from family reunion with parents and grandparents, will find it extremely difficult to sponsor their parents to come to Australia.”

“The opportunity to bring their parents to live or visit for extended periods should be available to all Australians – not just the wealthy,” he said.

FECCA made a submission to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection on this issue. In its submission FECCA welcomed additional options for family reunion while urging the Government not to remove or reduce existing more permanent parent visa options.

FECCA also emphasised that pathways to permanent residence are crucial in the implementation of temporary visa schemes.

FECCA is the peak national body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of its constituency to government, business and the broader community.

Media contact: (0424) 910617 / emma@fecca.org.au