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Speech ... to the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia Conference

It is an honour to be here today to address this seminar on the Federal government's White Paper on Employment and Growth, 'Working Nation'.

My colleague Nick Bolkus, Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, has asked me to extend his regrets that he is unable to be here today. As some of you would be aware Senator Bolkus and I have been working closely together to ensure that unemployed migrants, particularly those from a non English speaking background, benefit from Working Nation initiatives. We have had a number of meetings, both before and after the announcement of Working Nation, to develop appropriate responses.

As we reflect on where we as a nation have come from, it is with a sense of unity and common purpose that we can say our immigration policy has become one of our greatest assets.

It has enriched our population and cultural base and added new dimensions not only to who we are, but to how we see ourselves and the world around us.

We are indeed a multicultural society with a multicultural identity - with over twenty per cent (20%) of all australians being born in another country.

More than half of them have come to Australia from non English speaking countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America.

Combined with their australian born children migrants constitute forty per cent (40%) of our population, and together, Australians have links with more than 150 different cultures, religions and traditions.

Australia's economic development has only been possible through the contribution of ethnic communities. Migrants have brought with them their skills, entrepreneurship, resourcefulness and energy.

It is these qualities that I wish to focus on today and the role that organisations associated with the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) can play.

FECCA represents a broad range of ethnic groups nationwide. It has a strong and influential voice. The challenge is to continue to build on the successful partnership that exists between the ethnic communities and the federal government for the benefit of migrant australians.

It is beyond question that economic growth alone cannot solve unemployment, particularly long term unemployment. The experience of the 1980s - where 1.6 Million jobs were created but long term unemployment only fell by 109,000 - cannot be repeated.

In the 1990s we are making much faster inroads into long term unemployment. The targeted labour market programs that form the basis of W orking Nation are demonstrating results. With 340,000 jobs over the last 17 months we have already cut long term unemployment by 76,000. Long-term unemployment is now at its lowest level in two and a half years.

However unemployment remains unacceptably high. Something extra is needed to ensure this doesn't happen again - this is the reasoning behind Working Nation.

It is the most comprehensive strategy ever developed to deal constructively and practically with the reality of unemployment - and the reality of creating jobs. Other countries recognise this - the OECD recognises this also.

Working Nation commits $10.3 Billion over four years to measures targeted at those most disadvantaged in the labour market, in particular the long term unemployed. It will place some one million people in subsidised jobs and will improve access to training and expand its provision.

There is significant capacity for migrant groups to tap into these opportunities. We want to work with you to ensure that emerging job opportunities become real jobs for newly arrived migrants and migrants from a non english speaking background.

Evidence suggests that newly arrived migrants and migrants from non english speaking backgrounds have greater difficulty than other australians in finding employment:

. in July 1994 the unemployment rate for non english speaking background migrants was 13.5 per cent compared to 9.5 per cent for all australians. Unemployment rates were highest among immigrants from vietnam (31.7%), The Middle East and North Africa (26.9 %) And Lebanon (23.6 %);

recently arrived non english speaking background migrants experience substantially higher rates of unemployment than other people at over 40 per cent;

. around 48 per cent of unemployed non english speaking

background migrants have been unemployed for twelve

months or more; and

26 per cent of the 290,100 long term unemployed are migrants from a non english speaking background.

The government recognises these facts. I believe that Working Nation will ensure that migrants who experience barriers in finding employment can successfully compete for jobs. After all, this is about getting people into jobs that are sustainable, meaningful and lead to portable qualifications.

As a response to the significant disadvantage suffered by many migrants seeking work, Working Nation has as an integral part of its focus, a migrant service improvement strategy. This has been developed in consultation with members from the ethnic communities.

In essence - the simple aim is to ensure barriers to employment faced by many migrants from non english speaking backgrounds are addressed meaningfully, realistically and comprehensively.

The strategy aims to:

reduce the level of migrant unemployment;

improve access of the migrant community to labour market programs and job outcomes and raise the level of awareness about these programs; and

ensure that CES services are responsive to the particular needs of migrants.

These aims are being translated into reality through working nation initiatives.

Case management

Jobseekers registered for over 12 months at the CES or assessed as at high risk of long term unemployment will have one on one contact with a case manager who will tailor a program to assist them back to work.

An individualised return to work plan will be prepared and the jobseeker will gain immediate access to a suite of programs, including language and literacy programs and labour market programs.

It is worth noting that currently over half of the jobseekers who have been assessed by the CES as at "high risk" of becoming long term unemployed are from non english speaking backgrounds.

Already 116,000 unemployed people have entered case management since April.

For the first time case management is being opened to competition. The Employment Services Regulatory Authority (ESRA) is oversighting its introduction.

Following discussions with the chair of ESRA, Joan Kirner, we are establishing specialist case management pilots dedicated to migrant services.

Discussions have been held with the Cabramatta Migrant Resource Centre in New South Wales - and over the next few weeks ESRA will be consulting with other organisations about providing specialist case management services to people from non-english speaking backgrounds.

Special Intervention Program - Language and Literacy

Evidence suggests unambiguously that the success of migrants in the labour force depends to a large extent on english language proficiency, length of residence in Australia, possession of recognised skills and age.

In 1993-94 $93 million was spent on 11,000 placements in english as a second language under the special intervention program. The commonwealth government has increased this commitment for 1994-95 with a minimum expenditure target of $128 million and 22,000 places.

All unemployed people assessed as at "high risk" of becoming long-term unemployed are immediately eligible for the special intervention program. Furthermore, jobseekers whose literacy and/or english language ability adversely acts their employment prospects will automatically be regarded as at "high risk".

Working Nation extends the amount of assistance available under the special intervention program. Jobseekers with particular language and literacy needs will be able to exceed the 52 week limit to assistance in a two year period where that further assistance is crucial to obtaining employment.

The government will also spend $1.4 Million in 1994-95 on interpreter and translation services at the CES to assist in the communication to migrants of their entitlements.

Migrant Liaison Officers

To ensure the best people are employed in the role of Migrant Liaison Officers we are recruiting from both inside and, importantly, from outside the public service. Fifty one (51) migrant liaison officers will be employed nationwide and will be in place by November this year.

The CES restructure has created the capacity for regions to ensure that services delivered are responsive to the needs of the local labour market. Migrant Liaison Officers will have a valuable role to play in this context as well as advising on policy.

Migrant Liaison Officers will be based in the CES to work closely and directly with unemployed migrants and ethnic communities. Their focus will be to improve service delivery - to identify better those people at "high risk" of long term unemployment - and to work towards better job outcomes for migrants.

Migrant liaison officers will also provide stronger links between labour market programs and services and the activities in the area of overseas skills recognition - which include the provision of bridging courses for overseas trained professionals. $4 million has been allocated in 1994-95 for this purpose.

Migrant Advisory Committees

Migrant Advisory Committees have been recently established

in each state to provide feedback and policy advice on service

delivery issues facing migrants and to provide information to

ethnic communities about CES services and programs. They are

an important forum for disseminating information about Working Nation and obtaining feedback about access issues.

In addition, to ensure that my department's services and programs are regionally responsive, we are establishing 60 area consultative committees. They will provide advice to the CES on the skill and training needs of jobseekers in the region and the tailoring of services to those needs.

Where people from ethnic communities comprise a significant proportion of the local community, area consultative committees must have membership which reflects this fact. These committees will establish links with migrant advisory committees, allowing for interaction at regional and state levels. This is a genuine commitment by the federal government to involving ethnic communities in making decisions which affect them.

Migrant Resource Centres

One of the key areas identified in Working Nation was the encouragement of Migrant Resource Centres and ethno- specific organisations to become managing agents for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) and to identify mentors to help NEIS participants.

NEIS provides a package of assistance including training and income support to help unemployed people move into self employment.

Migrants have been, and remain, an important and creative source of enterprise and new jobs. From July 1993 to June 1994, over 700 people from ethnic communities started their own business with NEIS assistance. That is, over 15% of all NEIS graduates were those from a non-English speaking background.

I am pleased to announce that five Migrant Resource Centres have successfully tendered to become managing agents for this scheme. Senator Bolkus and I both wish to congratulate the following centres:

. South Central Region, Melbourne;

. North Eastern Region, Melbourne;

. Newcastle and The Hunter Region, New South Wales;

. Liverpool, Sydney; and

. Fremantle, Perth.

I am sure that as a result of these plots many migrants will establish small businesses that will grow and prosper.

I am also pleased to announce that the Migrant Resource Centre in Blacktown, New South Wales, will offer a Job Club dedicated to providing intensive job search assistance to migrants from non English speaking backgrounds, in the areas of Auburn, Burwood and Marylands.

Conclusion

In conclusion may I repeat the point - there is no doubting the enormous contribution that migrant communities have made to Australia's social and economic development. There is also no doubting that many migrants have faced difficult circumstances during the recession.

Working Nation is all about ensuring that no one is left behind as the economy recovers. Migrants are no exception to this.

The federal government is committed absolutely to working with FECCA - with its associated groups - with Migrant Resource Centres - with other ethno specific groups - to get unemployed migrants into work.

My message today is simple. There are substantial resources and opportunities in Working Nation. You can be part of the solution to unemployment if you choose to be involved.

The federal government makes this promise - we will work in partnership with you. We are committed - we are genuine - we will succeed together.

Thank you.