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Thursday, 5 April 1984
Page: 1287

Senator REID(1.30) —The plight of Indo-Chinese refugee students is a matter that I have referred to previously and which I wish to raise again because a solution has not yet been found to the problem. I urge the Government to make special arrangements for these students, if not sooner then at least in the Budget this year. I seek leave to incorporate a copy of a letter that I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr Hawke) on 12 July 1983.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

July 12, 1983

The Rt. Hon. R. J. Hawke, A.C., M.P.,Prime Minister,Canberra

My dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you concerning a matter which came up recently in discussion with a constituent-but it has also been raised with me on previous occasions.

It is a matter which may fall within the ambit of Social Security, Education or Immigration but it seemed important enough-in my opinion-to draw to your personal attention.

As far as young refugees are concerned, if they come to Australia on their own, they presently receive a Special Benefit for the first six weeks. They then go on to unemployment benefits, in which case they are only able to go to school for about eight hours per week.

If they wish to proceed with their schooling-and I am talking about people between the ages of 18-21 years, there are two different situations which apply:

(a) If the young person has an elder brother or sister, they can apply for a Family Allowance and a double Orphan's pension to assist in the support of the student, or

(b) if there is no elder brother or sister, there is no benefit to allow a person of this age to pursue schooling.

In any event, the point I have raised in (a) may be the case as far as the elder brother or sister is concerned, however, I consider that probably both of them should be full time at school, if they are going to receive the best possible opportunity of developing themselves and participating in our society.

In some situations, I understand that they are in fact encouraged to receive unemployment benefits and to go to school part-time which, of course, is not permitted. In actual fact, they are really being encouraged to 'work the system' from the early stage of their arrival in Australia, which is most undesirable.

I would be grateful if you could have this matter investigated.

How can we best enable young people in the age group to which I have referred, obtain the education we should make available to them?

Yours sincerely

MARGARET REIDSenator for theAustralian Capital Territory

Senator REID —I set out in that letter the problems which refugee students are faced with in getting education in this country. If they are on unemployment benefit they are able to go to school for only about eight hours per week which is nothing like adequate and there is no other benefit which specifically enables them to live and study. The special secondary student allowance of $1, 076, of course, is quite inadequate for the purpose. I had a letter from the Prime Minister acknowledging the matter and indicating that he had referred it to relevant Ministers. I received a letter from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) in which he acknowledged the problem and specifically referred to the work that his Department was doing and the report that was being prepared. I had a letter from the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs ( Senator Ryan) in which she acknowledged the problem. The Indo-China Refugee Association also wrote to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Grimes) and I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the contents of that letter, dated 24 October 1983. The letter refers to the Association's delegation meeting with Senator Ryan and also points out to him the two suggestions it made to deal with the problem.

Leave grant.

The letter read as follows-

I.C.R.A. (A.C.T.) Inc.


Griffin Centre, Bunda St P.O. Box E269 Canberra City, A.C.T. 2601 Canberra A.C.T . 2000 Telephone: (062) 47 9532

24 October 1983

Senator the Hon. D. Grimes

Minister for Social Security

Parliament House

Canberra A.C.T. 2600

Dear Minister,

In response to ICRA delegation to Senator Ryan's office on the deplorable situation of young people dropping out of school for lack of income support, we have just received a most hopeful reply from her. Senator Ryan has promised to take up with you and Mr West the urgent need to help refugee young adults.

Our delegation made two suggestions to fill the gap in present income support provisions for students wanting to study fulltime at the secondary level who are ineligible for any income support. We think the quickest and most cost-effective interim measure is for the Government, through your Department, to give them Special Benefits until other more suitable arrangements are agreed to by the bureaucrats.

Our second suggestion was to recognise all intensive English courses such as that at the Introductory English Centre at Telopea Park High School in the A.C.T . in such an official way that the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs could pay students over the compulsory school leaving age the Living Allowance available to them if they attend courses which are part of the Adult Migrant Education Programme. That would advantage only a small proportion of the students in need. It would also most certainly take a lot of time to implement, were the Department willing to do this.

Young refugees are dropping out of education every day. The strain of poverty on top of end of year exams and assessments and the personal traumas of all new settlers, is too much. If they drop out now, what chance that they'll re-enrol next year? The Participation and Equity Program courses for young people disadvantaged and 'at risk'' aren't the answer: mainstream schooling with specialist help is.

Our purpose in writing to you direct is to urge you to act now, so some young people can see the year out and continue in 1984. Our Association has lobbied on this issue for more than three years. Your predecessor was sidetracked into looking at more longterm equitable solutions, and finished up doing nothing. The rounds of interdepartmental discussions did not come up with a Governmet solution to a very real problem. We don't think these young Australians of the future are expendable. Please direct your staff to help them this week.

Yours Sincerely,

Marion Le

President ICRA (A.C.T.)

Senator REID —The Association received a response from Senator Grimes, the Minister for Social Security. I acknowledge his awareness and interest in this matter in that I had a meeting with him myself with some members of the St Vincent de Paul Society who were concerned about these students. He acknowledged my remarks in this chamber on another occasion. His letter deals specifically with the question of education. It refers more to the problems that a number of full time students have in continuing as full time secondary students and supporting themselves. Nobody is denying that there are students who have that problem. Why I specifically refer to the Indo-Chinese refugee students is that we hold ourselves out as a nation that accepts refugees and we bring young people here frequently without their parents, maybe with only relatives of a more distant nature, perhaps sometimes with another brother or sister. We are not giving them any opportunity whatever to become integrated into our community if we do not give them the opportunity to study, learn English and acquire the sorts of skills that will give them some prospects of making a life for themselves here.

I repeat that I am not denying that there are other full time students who have difficulties but I urge the Government to recognise the refugee young people as a special category of people that we have brought here, holding out to them that this country has something to offer them. It is at the very beginning of their stay here, when that they need the education that we can provide, that they ought to be supported in a way which will enable them to pursue their education. I had a letter from the Indo-China Refugee Association at the beginning of this academic year. It says that its members and its committee of management have reached the end of their tether. I seek leave also to incorporate this letter which sets out the despair, of those in our community who are working towards assisting the young people, who are right there with them and who are most aware of the problem. As I said, if it cannot be solved sooner the Government should at least introduce some special benefit in the 1984 Budget to provide relief in this area.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

I.C.R.A. (A.C.T.) Inc.


Griffin Centre Bunda St P.O. Box E269., Canberra City, A.C.T. 2601 Queen Vic. Terr. Telephone: (062) 47 9532 A.C.T. 2600.

24 February, 1984 Senator Margaret Reid,

City Mutual Building,

Hobart Place,

Canberra. 2601

Dear Senator Reid,

Members of I.C.R.A. and its Committee of Management have reached the end of their tether. We have reported a crisis situation to all relevant Ministers and Departments, over some years, without success and are very disheartened that at the beginning of the 1984 school year young adults in the ACT have their participation in full-time education jeopardised by a lack of adequate and appropriate income support.

Sponsors and friends of young Indo-Chinese students and the young people themselves are in a moral quandary. Do we encourage or turn a blind eye to the illegal practice of receiving Unemployment Benefits and studying full time? Do we counsel young people with no family support to stay honest and starve? Do we undermine their independence by offering them charity? Do we advise them to drop out and qualify for U.B.? or to take an inappropriate TAFE or PEP course? Do we tolerate the illegal recipients of Unemployment Benefits sneering at those who stay honest?

If the CES rigorously applied its regulations, between 50-100 Indo-Chinese and an unknown number of students of other backgrounds including the Australian born will be forced out of our school system and increase the level of youth unemployment in the A.C.T.

An interim solution to the immediate problem is the payment of Special Benefits by the Department of Social Security. It is already paid to homeless youth under 16 years of age, we would be grateful for your urgent public and political lobbying for this interium solution and your public support for those young people who struggle to stay honest.

Yours Sincerely, MARION LE, President

Senator REID —I wish to refer to another matter that has been raised with me by residents of Hall, which is a small village just outside Canberra. The specific letter that I mention firstly came to me from Robyn Murray. In part she says:

I personally came to Hall 4 years ago, looking for a peaceful, quiet place to live after originally moving to Canberra from a small country town. Until recently I found it a very pleasant place. I used to take my small baby for a walk at the public recreation area each evening until being nearly attacked by a German Shepherd dog. Luckily, a passing motorist saw what was happening and stopped his car to chase the dog away.

She refers to similar problems that other residents of Hall have had and the dog control vans which control in the area from time to time. Since raising this matter the residents have apparently been told that there will be more patrols in the area. It raises the question as to whether the dog control ordinance is adequate to protect people from the events which are described in a letter, dated 20 November 1984, to the Minister for Territories and Local Government (Mr Uren). Rather than read out the whole of that letter I seek to have it incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The letter read as follows-

Feb. 20, 1984 The Right Honourable T. Uren,

Minister for Territories and Local Government,

Parliament House

Dear Sir,

We, the undersigned residents of Hall, are writing to express our developing concern over the increasing number of German Shepherd dogs being housed in what used to be our small (approximately 70 household), quiet village, and the effect this is having on the other residents of Hall.

We believe that one household has from 10 to 15 dogs housed in the back yard. Another has approximately five dogs, and recently a new homeowner in Hall has brought three more fully grown German Shepherds to the village. There are other households with one or two German Shepherds. Some owners are using their residential leases for breeding purposes.

Our objections are on two main grounds. One: That the twice-daily exercising of the dogs in public areas of the village is limiting use of these facilities for other residents, since the dogs are uncertain in temperament, often not adequately controlled. Two: That there has been a quite significant increase in the level of noise in the village due to these dogs, to the extent that several of the immediate neighbours have seriously considered selling their properties. One resident who did try to sell her expensively renovated home was unable to do so because interested buyers were horrified at the dogs, noise and kennels over the fence.

The use of public grounds by the German Shepherd dogs for exercise is causing growing discontent. There have been various incidents which indicate that the dogs are not kept under proper control. Without detailing each of these, it could be said that such incidents generally occur when the dogs are being exercised in public places. They have bailed people up, run aggressively at people and horses while their owners have attempted to call the dogs to order, and one dog has actually bitten a child, causing serious injury.

Apparently children playing in the recreation areas have been told by the dog owners to leave while the dogs are being exercised. Parents of some children no longer allow children to play in recreation areas because the dogs may be there. Morning joggers and afternoon strollers alike prefer to stay at home rather than risk a possible confrontation with the dogs. Details of these incidents can be provided on request.

The noise created by so many big dogs housed in a small residential area is considerable. It often goes on intermittently all day and night and can be heard blocks away. This is extremely aggravating, especially since the owners of the dogs are often away at the time and therefore don't have to endure the noise themselves. One household arises at 6 a.m. to be begin taking their dogs to the public park, much to the annoyance of neighbours who are woken each morning at this time by the loud barking of the dogs as they are loaded into their vehicle.

Even casually walking past the blocks where these dogs are housed usually causes a session of loud barking and one wonders what might happen if any of the dogs were to escape.

Many residents over the previous year have made numerous complaints to the Dog Control section of the Department, but we have had little or no effective response. It appears that there is very poor legislation in this area, there being no limit, as far as we understand, to the number of dogs which may be kept on one residential lease.

*The Hall Progress Association has also written to the relevant D.C.T. department on this subject, without reply.

Because of the large number of residents concerned about the effect these dogs are having on their pleasant lifestyle in Hall, especially with regard to children's safety, we request that you begin immediate action to limit the number of dogs that may be kept on a residential block in Hall to two, to discourage any further migration of 'dog packs' to our village.

We would like to point out that we are not objecting to the particular breed of dog concerned.

Many people in the village have pet dogs but they are not kept in large numbers and consequently are less of a health hazard, nor have they demonstrated aggressive behaviour . . .

* Following the writing of this letter, a reply has been received from the Deputy Dog Controller stating that the Dog Control Van is prepared to patrol the Village after hours on an ad hoc basis.

Senator REID —It is signed by 100 people who live in Hall. It sets out details of what has occurred. It alleges that there is one household that has from 10 to 15 dogs housed in the back yard and another with five dogs. Apparently these dogs are allowed out into the oval recreation area and they make it impossible for people to enjoy that area when they are there. Of course honourable senators will appreciate as well, I am sure, the fact that these dogs also foul the area and make it a place unsafe for babies and young children to play. That is a matter of concern to the residents. Perhaps the legislation needs to be reviewed to see whether some tightening is necessary in relation to the number of dogs that can be kept in any one suburban sized house block and whether the rules for allowing dogs out in public are adequate. I have no doubt that most of them appear to be under control if the dog patrol happens to pass by but I think the Minister ought to note the complaints of the residents in this area and give his attention to the steps that might be taken to make it the place that most people want Hall to be, that is a pleasant village to live in.

Sitting suspended from 1.38 to 2 p.m.