The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement last week about plans to expand access to the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP).
RCOA chief executive officer Paul Power said Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge was correct in his observation in his National Press Club address that the AMEP’s effectiveness was being limited by the cap on class hours and the policy of limiting the program to people who resided in Australia for less than five years.
“For more than a decade, RCOA has been calling for greater flexibility of the program to respond to the diverse needs of refugees and humanitarian entrants,” Mr Power said.
“In our annual consultations with member organisations and refugee communities, we have continuously heard that the rigidity of the program, inadequacy of the eligibility period, and impediments to participation caused by the requirements of employment services prevented many refugees from receiving the full benefits of English language classes. These concerns were strongly and clearly expressed in our annual submissions to the Federal Government on the Refugee and Humanitarian Program as far back as 2008.
“People seeking asylum have continued to share their disappointment with us that they are ineligible to access this program. We continued to bring these issues to the attention of the Government via various forums, submissions and reports.
“While we will be scrutinising the full details of the program when it is announced, we welcome the announcement today that the cap on the class hours and the five year eligibility period will be removed. We believe these measures provide greater flexibility for the students and can assist the providers to deliver more tailored programs, depending on the needs and individual circumstances of the students.”
Mr Power said RCOA would also carefully scrutinise the Government’s planned changes to the citizenship test to see whether they encourage or discourage people to take the step of becoming citizens.
“Australian citizenship is particularly valued by people who have been refugees – people who have lost or have never enjoyed the protection of their country of birth and understand better than anyone the value of Australia’s freedom,” Mr Power said.
“Our collective goal as a nation should be to encourage the people who are living amongst us to feel that they have a stake in Australia’s future.”
Photo: Maxine McKew
Story source: Refugee Council of Australia