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Thursday, 31 May 1984
Page: 2216

Senator MARTIN(11.57) —My next question deals with numbers. The answer may well have to be provided later. How many family units or broken families-that is, partial units-or individual refugees are now available in the pool of cases for which open sponsorships could be lodged in the sponsorship program? Would it be possible to provide me with a breakdown on how many of these people are Lao, how many are Khmer and how many are Vietnamese? In regard to the last category of what we call Vietnamese refugees, I wonder whether it is possible to get a breakdown between Chinese and ethnic Vietnamese. Mr Temporary Chairman, I have a lot of questions. I see the Minister and the departmental officials are writing things down. I am not sure whether the Minister wants to interpose at any stage or whether I should just go on with the questions. I will await a signal from him if there is something on which he wants to interpose.

What progress can be reported on the settlement of up to 100 Khmer orphans in Australia, which was announced in March 1983? Are orphans aged 15 to 18 excluded under the present program? These are the sorts of questions which the Minister might be able to answer now. Does the program have priority? I ask that because it would appear to me that there is an obvious advantage if we are to settle orphans here to get them here as quickly as possible because we will be getting them as young as possible, and in regard to whatever adjustments they have to make culturally and in terms of language, this would obviously be more satisfactory. I consider that to be a very important question. Does the Minister or the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs consider the settlement of Khmer orphans to date to be successful? Have the recommendations of the departmental report on unaccompanied minors, made public more than a year ago, been approved by the Minister and implemented? I expect it would be possible to have an answer now to that question.

Have the settlement problems of unaccompanied refugee youth in our major cities been the subject of any study or objective assessment? Could the Minister say whether the appropriate essential services such as language training and so on have been improved since the release of the departmental report. This report and any other reports that have been received have made clear that a regrettable inadequacy exists in settlement support services for young non-English speakers. Have the Minister and his Department taken any action to ensure that what is now a four-year gap in income support schemes for refugee youth wanting to attend school full time has been eliminated so that refugee youth would be able to participate equally in the education system? If not, perhaps the Minister will indicate whether this is under consideration in the context of the 1984-85 Budget.

Senator Grimes —I am not clear on what the four-year gap is.

Senator MARTIN —For four years there has been a gap in income support, which is a disincentive to undertaking education, as I understand it. It has been pointed out and considered before. Is the Minister aware of some problems of co- ordination of policies and responsibilities which affect the welfare and opportunities of young refugees between the departments of Social Security, Employment and Industrial Relations, Education and Youth Affairs and Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? Has the Minister introduced any mechanisms to improve co- ordination of government policy in relation to young refugees between these and any other relevant departments?