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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2217

Senator GRIMES (Minister for Social Security)(12.03) —I am sorry that I cannot give Senator Martin detailed answers to the questions she raised. I gather that because the matters were not raised at the Estimates Committee hearing-obviously because she was not there-the officers here do not have any details, but I will get them. I can answer on my own behalf on some of the aspects that the honourable senator brought up. I share the honourable senator's view. The inadequacy, if you like, or the lack of appropriate services in both income support and other services to deal with assisting particularly unaccompanied young people who wish to take advantage of the education system has been brought to my attention.

I have been approached by organisations, including an organisation here in Canberra, to see whether we can provide more adequate and better assistance for these groups. I am aware, for instance, that for the last five or six years one religious organisation in Sydney has made a project of caring for those young unaccompanied refugees. It has supported them through the education system, housed them, fed them and assisted them with developing living skills in this country. Yet during that whole period I think it has received something like $4, 000 in support from the Government. This is largely because of the inadequacy of the system. Because of that, I have had discussions with my colleagues the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs, Senator Ryan, and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr West-but not with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis-about what we can really do to assist these people who are highly motivated, as the honourable senator is aware, I am sure, to take advantage of the education system and therefore to enable them to be much better settlers in this country and to make a greater contribution not only for themselves but also for the country as a whole.

At the moment I have no specific programs for this purpose but, from memory, two or more organisations have made submissions to my Department for this sort of assistance. I think the basic problem is that our income support system for youth, which has about 35 separate payments in it-as can be demonstrated by the report put out by the Department for Education and Youth Affairs and the Social Welfare Policy Secretariat-not only does not cope very well with refugees but also does not cope very well with young Australians in this area. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter is being looked at, although I know that is a frequent reply. It is not an easy area, as a perusal of that report will demonstrate. I am afraid I have to seek information from the Minister on the other questions, and I will get it as soon as possible.