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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31780


Mr LAURIE FERGUSON (12:20 PM) —I wish to put on the record this morning my appreciation of the effort of a coalition of groups, including Anglicare Australia, the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council, St Vincent de Paul Society and Uniting Care Australia, in launching the Say No to Poverty campaign. The situation they outlined this morning is that there are 3.6 million Australians living in households with incomes under $400 a week and there are 800,000 children living in jobless households. In my electorate, for instance, 90 per cent of people do not receive any benefit from the recent budget tax cuts at the top. This coalition of concerned organisations simply wants to put this issue on the public register and to make sure that the political parties in this country understand that, despite an unemployment level of 5.5 per cent, which many would say is far lower than previous years, and despite the booming economy, the reality is that prosperity has not spread to the underclass in this country. There are growing disparities of income, and this coalition basically seeks strong public recognition of these realities. I mention the lack of employment opportunities in the black spot suburbs of south-western Sydney, Western Sydney and parts of Melbourne et cetera.

In this context I want to put on the record my appreciation for a number of local organisations that make massive efforts on these fronts. The first of these is the Granville Multicultural Centre, which grew originally out of the Catholic Church in South Granville. Mark Drury, the manager there, runs an organisation which has 20 employees. It runs family support programs for those families in crisis situations, before and after school care, a youth program with a counsellor and child care. It is funded by the community services department, and the fair trading department and education department of the New South Wales government—a government that, according to the previous speaker, has the wrong priorities. I say they are the right priorities. It also receives a grant for family assistance towards child care. That is an organisation that is on the ground doing vital work in my electorate. Recently it held the multicultural festival, with attendance improving each year.

Similarly we have the Auburn Migrant Resource Centre, which last year handled 25,000 clients in an area which has one of Australia's main concentrations of new arrivals. Recently I saw a question on notice by another member, and what the answer to that question proved was that one-fifth of all temporary protection visa entrants to this country live in my electorate—not one-fifth of Western Sydney, not one-fifth of Sydney, not one-fifth of New South Wales but one-fifth of TPV entrants to this country reside in the electorate of Reid. So the Auburn Migrant Resource Centre is a crucial local amenity. It has been funded consistently by the department and is respected by the public servants in that department. Its funding has been very well merited.

The centre essentially looks after small and emerging communities. Amongst those that have had presentations of cultural activities over the last year have been the Kurdish, Ethiopian and Eritrean communities. It is currently conducting a community garden program. It has the Hey Dad Parenting Program, a multicultural women's group which meets once a week, and a home help program. With the government's increased emphasis on the Horn of Africa and Africa in general with regard to the refugee intake over the next few years—these are countries where there has been great displacement of people and where people have no formal education—those services are going to be even more important. There is casework and case management assistance and there is a refugee youth project. The centre has also provided assistance to many people on issues such as housing. There is migration assistance, and employment and income support measures and identified settlement issues for young people are a major emphasis of this organisation. There are also a school holiday recreation program, a Sanctuary youth drama project, art classes for refugee youth and the establishment of a web site for youth. Ministers of the current government have been to the centre on a number of occasions and have joined with me in appreciating the vital work it has done in one of Sydney's new arrival communities.

I finally turn to the Turkish Welfare Association, which over the last few years has managed to build a Turkish house in North Parade, Auburn. Its social worker, Riza, has been part of the organisation's stretching out to help not only Turks but also Azerbaijanis and other communities from Central Asia who are also of Turkish extraction. That organisation also houses the Turkish Federation of New South Wales. Dursun Candemir was recently re-elected. He is a person who previously had a background in publishing with the Dunya Turkish newspaper. It is another organisation that provides vital assistance in regards to migration matters and general welfare issues.