Parliament Updates

Zali Steggall MP speaks on the need for Unity for National Refugee Week and the work of ASRC

24 June, 2021



This week was National Refugee Week, and the theme this year was 'unity'. The past year during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted now more than ever the importance of working together to protect our disadvantaged in the community. However, the government has continued with strict refugee and immigration laws, and they are isolating refugees in our communities and tearing families apart.

Currently, there are 233 asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG, and last month Jacinda Ardern reaffirmed New Zealand's offer to resettle them there. And yet that has still not been taken up. I reiterate the call from Craig Foster and Sonny Bill Williams: it's time to call game over and ask, 'Why won't the government get on with it and resettle?' There are 1,497 refugees being held in onshore immigration detention, and there are over 500 people in community detention, including 181 children. The average time in detention now exceeds 600 days. Over a third of these people have been in detention for over two years. Tharnicaa, aged three, the youngest daughter of the Biloela family, has until the last couple of weeks spent her entire childhood in detention on Christmas Island, and we've all seen and heard the outcry about that. Tharnicaa moved to Perth Children's Hospital in the middle of the month. I have received so many emails from around the community asking for that family to be reunified but also to be allowed to return home.

We have so many amazing organisations in our community doing fantastic work to assist refugees. The Social Outfit are an online clothing store that produces ethically sourced clothing and financially supports migrants and refugees. They've done research and found that there's a critical need to provide alternative methods of training and employment pathways for refugees, and that is how they assist. So new migrants learn new skills, and they contribute to the vivid, vibrant and colourful designs of clothing they sell.

Multiculturalism is a vital part of the fabric of Australian society, with so many different elements coming together in unity to create an inclusive and vibrant culture of what it means to be Australia. Colombo Social is an organisation that, through restaurants, is training asylum seekers, especially Sri Lankan asylum seekers, and refugees. Finally, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre is an amazing organisation doing incredible work to support and empower refugee communities in Australia. They recently raised $1.6 million through their telethon to assist refugees with legal services, their detention rights, advocacy, employment pathways, education and training. Please, in unity for Refugee Week, consider assisting some of these organisations.