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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6426

Ms VAMVAKINOU (Calwell) (17:17): I want to ask the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship some questions on a matter of government reform which is of great importance to me and to my electorate. I am referring to the expansion of the community detention program, which I will get to in a minute. I have spoken on many occasions in this place about the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre in my electorate. It is a smaller centre in the overall detention network across the country and was established some years ago under the previous government. Senator Amanda Vanstone was then the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs and, through the budget of the time, she allocated some $240 million or thereabouts to have a maximum security detention centre built in my electorate at the site of the Maygar Barracks which was purchased by the immigration department all those years ago.

It was obviously a proposal that our local community—and that is important, because my local community has driven a lot of the activities that have taken place since—in Broadmeadows were, at the time, clearly very unhappy about: the idea of a high security detention centre. People would recall barbed wire and children, and all sorts of very negative images associated with the handling of boat people.

Our community was very sensitive to that and of course they fought a very successful campaign which they called, incidentally, 'Links not Locks'. They managed to fend off the building of this massive high-security detention centre and, in its place, a smaller centre was created which was initially meant to accommodate, for very short periods of time, those people who were visa overstayers, given the proximity of MITA to Melbourne Airport.

In recent times, especially in the last couple of years, the centre has been a place that has accommodated unaccompanied minors and, again, my community maintained the idea that they wanted links not locks in whatever was going on in MITA. We embarked on a program that saw us develop a community interaction with the centre, with MITA. That community interaction involved a considerable number of people in my electorate. Some had reservations, but when they did go to MITA and met with the immigration officials there—Serco officials—and when they got to know a lot of the people that were staying there, they decided that they really wanted to be involved in improving and advancing community interaction. That saw the creation of a very successful soccer program which involved a lot of our schools not only in my area but in the surrounding areas. The immigration department in particular were highly cooperative and we were allowed access. We conducted music evenings in there, as well as IFTA dinners. The whole idea was to make people feel like there was a community out there that was interested in their welfare.

After that we moved into the community detention program, which is what I want to ask the minister about, and I have a number of questions because that program has been expanded. It actually a very successful reform and one that I am certainly very proud of as a member of this government. Minister: can you tell me how many people have been put into the community since it was announced in 18 October 2010, and how many people are currently in community detention? How many of those are children and how many are unaccompanied minors? How long does that mean that eligible minors have spent in held detention prior to moving into community arrangements? How many people are currently living in homestay arrangements and how many applications or expressions of interest have been received by the homestay network, which I understand is a more recent reform and one that appears to have been implemented very well?