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Thursday, 29 May 2003
Page: 15504


Ms ROXON (9:45 AM) —I would like to make a statement today about a very serious issue in my electorate of Gellibrand. The Inner Western Region Migrant Resource Centre that has operated for 22 years in the inner west of Melbourne has been put into voluntary administration. This is a serious issue for our electorate. People who are familiar with my electorate would know that it has a large number of people who are born overseas—37 per cent. Of those people, a large proportion are new migrants and refugees. Many are in great need, requiring settlement and support services and much more.

The migrant resource centre for 22 years has provided a fabulous service in our region. It has been fundamental for many of the new and emerging communities. The centre and its voluntary management committees have been staffed by some fantastic people who are leaders in the community, committed to making sure that new arrivals in our community were welcomed and settled and could be active participants in the community. Some of the people involved actively with the migrant resource centre would put to shame many of us who have lived here all of our lives with the activism they have shown in making our community something we can all be proud of. For many years this migrant resource centre has had a proud record and been the envy of other services across the country. My concern is that we must all work together now to ensure that our first priority is given to resurrecting these services in the region and making sure that refugees and migrants in need of assistance have these vital services available to them.

The Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs has assured the migrant resource centre and me that the overall funding for settlement services in the region will not be reduced as a result of these events. But I want to place on the record that I am incredibly concerned that we are at risk of losing the expertise, knowledge and contacts built up over 22 years—although not all of the staff have been there for that length of time. We do not want to lose that experience to the community. The services which those people with that experience can provide are not the same as the services that anyone else in the community can provide. So we must act quickly. I will be seeking discussions with the minister, the department and the administrator and will be working closely with the local community to make sure that we have these services available to refugees and migrants in our community.

I am also extremely concerned that the cause of these difficulties stems from questions that must be asked about whether the government provides sufficient funding for the types of services that are needed in these areas where there is high demand for them. So I will be asking questions about that as well. (Time expired)