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Joint Standing Committee on Migration
Multiculturalism in Australia
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Joint Standing Committee on Migration
Singh, Sen Lisa
Gallacher, Sen Alex
Zappia, Tony, MP
Georganas, Steve, MP
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Joint Standing Committee on Migration
(Joint-Friday, 3 February 2012)
CHAIR (Ms Vamvakinou)
- CHAIR (Ms Vamvakinou)
Content WindowJoint Standing Committee on Migration - 03/02/2012 - Multiculturalism in Australia
LIDDY, Ms Nadine, National Coordinator, Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, and Senior Policy Coordinator, Centre for Multicultural Youth
CHAIR: I now welcome the representative of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network and the Centre for Multicultural Youth to give evidence. I thank you for attending to give evidence today. Although the committee does not require you to speak under oath, you should understand that these hearings are formal proceedings of the Commonwealth parliament. Giving false or misleading evidence is a serious matter and may be regarded as a contempt of parliament. I remind you that the hearing is public and is being recorded by Hansard. The hearing is also being broadcast live. I now ask you to make a short introductory statement. The committee will then proceed to questions.
Ms Liddy : I will begin with an overview of the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network. We are a national policy and advocacy body with a focus on advancing the rights and interests of young people from multicultural backgrounds across Australia. The term 'multicultural' in our name includes young people who come to Australia as migrants or refugees through the humanitarian program. It also includes young people who are second-generation migrants, as we might call them, who were born to parents who arrived as migrants. It also includes international students. We do not include young people from Indigenous backgrounds, because it is not necessarily appropriate in the various states. So as a national body we have determined not to include Indigenous young people although our partners in various states and territories would work very closely with Indigenous bodies.
As an introduction to the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network, we are a network; we are not an incorporated body. We are auspiced by the Centre for Multicultural Youth. We operate in partnership with a range of bodies or organisations around Australia. In each of Australia's states and territories there is not consistent infrastructure in terms of policy and advocacy work on multicultural youth issues. It varies considerably around the country. There is another organisation similar to the Centre for Multicultural Youth. It is in South Australia. It is Multicultural Youth South Australia. In the other states there are loose networks of committed workers who work with young people from multicultural backgrounds in health, welfare and education areas and come together and meet regularly as networks.
Another important statement that relates to this inquiry is that we have existed as an unfunded network since 2005 and as a funded body since 2009. We are funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Fundamentally, the reason we exist is we believe that the particular needs and interests of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds are often overlooked in the broader youth policy and program area and in the broader settlement policy program area. We see a key role for ourselves as a national body to build those links between the broader youth sector and the broader settlement sector. We believe that young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds have particular needs and face particular barriers to their participation in Australian society economically and socially. So we exist to advocate around their needs and interests.
CHAIR: I am interested in what your experience has been in relation to young people who are, as you refer to them, second generation, so those who were born here of migrant parents. What are the different issues that they face? What are the things they face that are different given the fact that they are young people living in Australia and are not very dissimilar to other young people perhaps from similar backgrounds but maybe a generation ahead? That is aside from the issues of identity, which are of themselves very complex.
Ms Liddy : I was going to say exactly that. A really fundamental issue for that group of young people is navigating identity and belonging but less so within the broader society. That is much more pertinent for young people who are more newly arrived. But for second-generation young people I think the more significant issues are around navigating family dynamics and issues of identity—cultural identity and ethnic identity—within their family and balancing that or juggling that with the broader Australian community. I think that group of young people—not all of them, of course, but a lot of them—have navigated the education system and the employment and training system. They have navigated the various requirements within Australian society and are engaged at university, engaged in further education or training or engaged in employment. So they are less pertinent issues for that group of young people. I think that what they face is ongoing issues around identity within their family.
CHAIR: Because I have been one of those young people at a time when we probably did not have the sorts of services that we may have and continue to have today, I ask: do you find that this generation of second-generation Australians would be very different to the generation in the sixties, when I was a second-generation Australian? Do you find that their sense of identity has become a lot more complex? I do not know how to frame the question. Is their sense of identity and grappling with it far more difficult, perhaps, than my generation's sense of identity and conflict may have been?
Ms Liddy : I feel a bit bold answering that, because it is not my experience, but of course I am here speaking on behalf of those young people. I think—as I say, boldly—it is easier. I think it is easier—this is very specific to this inquiry—because of the policy framework of multiculturalism and valuing cultural and ethnic diversity and rights and responsibilities around that and images of cultural diversity. I have grown up with that. I think the next generation after you have perhaps navigated that a little bit more easily because there are some other expectations that we think drop directly out of multiculturalism and that make that easier. When I say they drop directly out of multiculturalism, that also includes federal and state legal and other policy frameworks and investment in programs that celebrate cultural diversity in a way that I do not think existed in the sixties. We know that as a policy framework it did not exist. I think, as I said before, that their issues are less about navigating broader social expectations and more about how they juggle their identity within family. Those young people are often very articulate about that journey and that juggle, and I think it is ongoing. Many of those second-generation young people become very skilled at doing that, which we think is a wonderful asset to Australia. They are clever at navigating. They are moving between cultures and expectations.
I think another thing to say, though—because it also exists for young people, particularly from African backgrounds—is that they do face racism and discrimination daily, so I think that is important to highlight. I have kind of skimmed over second-generation young people. I think the issue for young people from African backgrounds—we are talking skin colour and particular ethnicities—is that they stand out and they continue to stand out and to navigate racism and discrimination daily. They develop skills in doing that, I think.
CHAIR: Would you be able to just shed a bit of light and give an assessment about those young people and how programs work? I guess the whole modus operandi of the committee is to look at better ways of doing things and, obviously, to recommend to government better ways of doing things. Do you think that the approach of organisations and bureaucracy generally—if I can call them that—is adequate? Is it lacking in certain areas? Are there certain things that are being missed that could make that journey for those young people a lot better, especially the ones of African backgrounds or the obviously different?
I think we would probably have to throw faith into this one as well.
Ms Liddy : Absolutely.
CHAIR: There has been a whole series of other Australian born young people who, for the last decade, have been under the microscope because they happen to be of Muslim faith. Do you think we are better able to help these young people? Have we lost a bit of that capacity?
Ms Liddy : No, I do not think we have lost the capacity, but what we certainly see is the significance of community and school based programs. In that sense, we continually advocate for investment from government at federal, state and local levels—and, within that, the education department—in programs that celebrate diversity but also give young people opportunities to engage with diversity, so Australian born young people from Anglo backgrounds engaging with young people from diverse faiths and ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. We would certainly advocate in an ongoing way for those local and often small-scale programs that allow young people to come together and explore these issues.
Broadly, to answer your question on whether there are things that could be done better, certainly there are at a school based level. In 2007 the Foundation for Young Australians did a big research project around the experience of racism and discrimination. One of their findings was that it is an ongoing significant issue for young people and it has a whole range of ramifications in terms of mental health and a sense of belonging and identity and belonging to the broader community. They certainly advocated for community based and school based programs. Can we do it better? At a school level, which is an easy target to place, we would like to see programs that encourage diversity and tackle bullying around racism invested in and embraced by schools.
At a service delivery level—and that is something different again and which relates to access and equity, which is something that is dropping out of the multicultural policy, which we are really pleased about—we would commend the investment in generalist youth mental health programs and generalist youth employment programs. For example, there have been some that have come out of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations federal funding, Youth Connections and, around mental health, headspace. However, in access and equity, young people who we represent struggle to access and engage with those services. How do we do it better? The agencies that deliver those services—and I am being very blunt—need to get better at working in a culturally competent way and better at meeting the needs of young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, because they are just not accessing those services. The investment from government is very pleasing, but what we see is a whole proportion of young people not accessing those services, sometimes the young people who need them the most.
Senator SINGH: I have one question in relation to your submission where you talk about unaccompanied humanitarian minors. You indicated your concerns about the quality of care or the lack of consistency nationally in the delivery of that unaccompanied refugee minor program. What do you see can be done to support unaccompanied minors and improve on that program?
Ms Liddy : There are a couple of things. Since writing that submission there has been an increasing number of unaccompanied minors arriving by boat at Christmas Island and then being moved into community detention. MYAN certainly commends community detention. Since that submission there have been some developments around a pilot program that will provide more targeted support for unaccompanied minors. That pilot is being funded by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. It is being delivered as a pilot in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia through the MYAN partners. We see that as a very welcome step in terms of delivering more targeted support in more of a settlement framework, and as a pilot it allows for some innovative responses and capturing some good practice and giving some thought to how we do this better given that it has been inconsistent around the country. That pilot is targeting young people between the ages of 15 and 17, nearly 18. What we would like to see is that being rolled out in each of the states and territories. That has been a development since our submission.
However, the other thing to say, and the pilot will certainly address some of these gaps, is the really high needs of young people exiting community detention into unaccompanied minor programs. At the moment if they exit community detention in Victoria they are being moved to Brisbane or Perth because of the complexities around guardianship and the complexities around funding arrangements with state bodies like the Department of Human Services. That is completely inappropriate and has really significant implications for young people. They will have developed some level of connection to local communities and services, for example here in Victoria. Once they exit community detention they are being moved. We would see it as further traumatising young people who are already traumatised through the refugee experience and through the whole experience of seeking asylum and being in community detention. So the pilot will address some of that because there will be better communication and more streamlining between community detention into the pilot. But we would certainly like to see that pilot rolled out as a program.
Senator SINGH: You are saying once they finish community detention they are being sent to other states rather than staying here because of guardianship laws.
Ms Liddy : That is right. It is because of guardianship laws and it is also because of the capacity of the current refugee minor program in Victoria to pick up working with those clients. That is a political issue around funding and has been going on for some time between the federal government and the state government.
Senator SINGH: So what happens when they arrive in the new state?
Ms Liddy : They are then supported through settlement services. I am glad you asked that, because it is almost ad hoc. It is the settlement sector, the Humanitarian Settlement Services Program, and agencies which are funded to deliver that end up picking up trying to support these young people. But some of these people are not necessarily eligible for those services if they have already been accessed in a particular state. So it is very messy at the moment. As I say, the pilot will address that, and that is about to be rolled out about now, mid-February. That will set up some better structures that kind of facilitate support between states and it will mean that there are more overarching structures and policies and procedures and processes to support young people once they exit community detention.
Senator SINGH: How long can that community attention last for young people?
Ms Liddy : I am not sure. I think it is anywhere between four weeks and three months. My understanding is that the department of immigration considers unaccompanied minors as a priority group in terms of trying to process their applications for protection fairly quickly because they are a particularly vulnerable group. I think the average time—I may be wrong—
CHAIR: It is variable, I imagine.
Ms Liddy : Depending on the complexity of their claims. I think on average it is three to six months. It has only been up and running since May-June last year.
Senator GALLACHER: I am really interested in whether your organisation uses social media, whether your constituents are big users of social media and whether there is balance there or it is used for good and evil, or more evil than good. There are some classic cases of disaffection spilling over in London and Cronulla, basically through the use of some smart technology. I am really interested in whether you have done any research on that or whether you have got any stats on that or whether there is balance at the moment.
Ms Liddy : We have not done any specific research, so I do not have any specific stats on it. But, in terms of ways that we engage with young people from refugee migrant backgrounds, social media is critical to doing that. Even very newly arrived young people have access to social media and would use it to maintain contact with family or friends overseas and also to maintain contact with family and friends here. So it is a really significant, important way of engaging with young people. That does not quite answer your question. In terms of some of the detrimental impact, we have not really done any research into that. But I think it is significant in terms of the globalised world that we live in and young people being able to maintain a sense of connection to family that they may have left behind, whether that is young people who come through the humanitarian program or young people who come as migrants.
Senator GALLACHER: It seems to me that social media can conquer the English-as-a-second-language barrier. If people have access to the technology they will go and source what they need. Do you have any views on greater funding for social networking or programs on social media?
Ms Liddy : You have flagged it a bit in terms of young people's access to social media. I think young people who come as refugees face particular disadvantages, particularly economic disadvantages. So their capacity to own their own computer and have regular access to current technology—it might be iPhones or very small laptops—is more limited. Funding for programs that support engagement with social media would be something that we would advocate for. Of lots of interest to us is how this particular group of young people utilise it to build a sense of belonging and connection within Australia and more globally.
I have just recalled that we are doing some research and we have run a program with young people around cybersafety in Victoria. My understanding is that that has been funded by the Victorian state government through the Office for Youth. That was a group program specifically with young people to explore cybersafety utilising social media and then to develop some resources in terms of promoting cybersafety issues within their own communities, including with adults. So it is a bit of an information-generating program.
Mr ZAPPIA: From my observation many of the issues that young people who come from overseas are confronted with, whether they be refugees or new arrivals, are not too dissimilar to issues that are confronted by other people in the community that are on lower incomes or that come from lower income families. Putting aside the matter of racism, is there anything specifically that stands out in your mind that young people that come from overseas are confronted with that perhaps mainstream Australian young people from lower socioeconomic areas are not?
Ms Liddy : Yes, simply. We would argue that culture, language and ethnicity are factors that influence young people's sense of belonging in the community and capacity to engage and access services and to engage and remain engaged in education or training. In addition, for young people who come as refugees or through the humanitarian program, the trauma of the refugee experience impacts on their ability to settle here and on the kind of supports that they need to settle. In particular, education is a really significant one. Certainly, the MYAN has done some advocacy in the context of the current review of funding for schools because we see around the country that there is inconsistency in how targeted funding for ESL and EAL support is spent in the states and territories. Under the National Education Agreement it is transferred to the states but there is no financial accountability for how that money is spent or no accountability for program outcomes for ESL or EAL in the states and territories. We do not believe that there is adequate ESL or EAL support in all of the states and territories, so we would like to see some more accountability. That is one issue.
We think education is a significant one, particularly for young people who come to Australia with very limited education or highly disrupted education prior to arrival. They need very targeted specific support in the education system to ensure that they remain engaged in the education system, and access social and economic opportunities. Those issues are different to young people who have grown up in Australia, certainly young people from socio- and economically-disadvantaged backgrounds who face similar issues about accessing and remaining engaged in education and need targeted programs that support them to do that. It would be the same for young people, particularly from refugee or humanitarian backgrounds, but they need programs that look a bit different, that acknowledge their educational background and the influence of language, culture and religion in that.
Mr ZAPPIA: Can I follow up on a slightly different question? I have been associated in my own state with a number of what I think are relatively good sporting programs targeted towards young people from new arrivals. Have you been able to ascertain, relative to the young people from mainstream Australia, the proportion of young people who are refugees or new arrivals who participate in sports in Australia? In asking that question, I suspect that even in the broader community the dropout rate for young people who participate in sports in their teens is very high and therefore relatively few participate. My interest is in trying to ascertain in comparison to the rest of society how they fare when it comes to sports participation.
Ms Liddy : I am not sure I am qualified to answer that with any substantial evidence however, engagement in sport and recreational opportunities is significant and is taken up by a whole lot of young people. It is a significant tool for engagement in your local community. It is a significant tool for building relationships with diverse young people and adults. If you ask young people, often the two key issues that they want to raise are education and the need for more targeted support to meet their needs, and more sport and recreational opportunities. More sport and recreational opportunities involves better access to local sporting opportunities because often young people cannot afford registration or equipment costs. I feel that I cannot answer your question.
Mr ZAPPIA: I now go back to the question of racism. Is it your view that racism does or does not exist by or within the administrators of sporting facilities around the country and within communities?
Ms Liddy : I think it exists, absolutely. But some of the programs in Victoria that the Centre for Multicultural Youth has been involved in and also our partners around the country, particularly in South Australia, have been involved in have been targeted work with sporting bodies. In Victoria, the Centre for Multicultural Youth has been funded through Sport and Rec Victoria, through the state government, to specifically do training and other what we call sector development work—so specifically to work with sporting bodies at a state level or regional level and then a very locally specific level—to build their cultural competency around working with this group of young people. That is in acknowledgement that racism discrimination certainly does exist. Those programs have been very successful. Often sporting bodies are very keen to work with and be responsive to this group of young people. Often they are not quite aware of the small things in terms of how they run their organisations that might be barriers to young people accessing and remaining engaged.
So, yes, it exists, and I think it is really important that the kind of work that is being done in Victoria and South Australia is replicated around the country in terms of supporting sporting bodies to best engage refugee migrant young people. Sporting bodies know that, too. It is a fantastic engagement tool. There is a whole range of benefits from it, and there has been some good research done about that. In terms of embodying multiculturalism, sport is a great common denominator.
Mr GEORGANAS: Being from South Australia, I know some of those programs. There was a great program through soccer clubs that was funded by the federal government. They worked and in hand with the South Australian Multicultural Youth FSA to administer this program. Each club was given a portion of money. Each and every club I visited in the western suburbs in my electorate has two or three refugees that are playing soccer on their team. The administrators or the club committee find themselves not just running a soccer club but also running around and looking for housing, employment and trying to get boots for the players. There is a lot of social work that goes on as well, and where you can identify this there was some funding that would come in to assist them.
Going back to what Tony was saying, I found that a lot of the migrant children or teenagers that were playing for a lot of these soccer clubs felt very comfortable in their surroundings, with the team and the camaraderie that takes place in this sport. I have not seen this reflected in other sports, which brings me to my question. Within the sporting sector, do you think there are different levels of acceptance and nonacceptance? I think historically round-ball football in Australia has always been a migrant game and therefore they have more of an understanding of what it is like and what is going on—footy to an extent as well and Aussie Rules football as well. With other sports it is a little bit different. Do you find a difference in getting migrants to participate in other types of sport and maybe not participating because there is a barrier there?
Ms Liddy : As you have said, soccer is perceived as more of a migrant sport. It is also a game that most young people want to play as they have some skills in it. I should also mention that often it is young men who engage in soccer. We also really advocate for targeted programs for young women, and basketball is often something that has been a winner with young women. Often young women within all of this get overlooked. Often it is the young men who play up and sport is a great response to supporting them through particular issues, and often young women miss out a little bit.
Over the last five to 10 years the AFL has been much more on board with this, and that has been very overt. We have seen it very overtly during the footy season and outside of that in terms of racial tolerance and some expectations around that at a policy level. I think we see that being delivered on in the game—and I am thinking here about South Australia again because they have got a relationship with Port Adelaide football club. In terms of AFL, in some of the states there have been partnerships developed with particular football clubs. In Victoria the Western Bulldogs are very supportive of programs that engage with young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and Port Adelaide have been very supportive in South Australia. So I think that increasingly AFL is more appealing to young people and there are more opportunities to engage at the local level.
In terms of the programs that we have delivered working with sporting bodies, that has been across a whole range of sports: netball, basketball, Australian Rules football and soccer. You have kind of flagged this: often part of the job of workers—some of whom are involved in those local clubs but also youth settlement workers—will be liaising with local clubs to build their capacity to work with and support this group of young people. So often a key part of the job of a youth settlement worker or a youth worker who is supporting this group of young people will be supporting them to access opportunities at a local level. I think that is across the board, so basketball is certainly one that we have focused on as well.
CHAIR: Thank you very much for your presentation today. It has been very useful, especially given that it has involved young people and that whole area of very significant public policy. If the committee requires any further information or there is anything that we may wish to follow up with you, we will certainly be in touch, and of course we welcome anything else that you may think would be relevant to what has been discussed here today and what has been in the submission.
Ms Liddy : Great. Thanks very much.
Proceedings suspended from 12:41 to 13:26