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New strategy in support of multiculturalism in Australia.

Joint media release with Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Citizenship and MP Chris Bowen Minister for Immigration and Citizenship

A new national multicultural policy, The People of Australia, builds on the Federal Government’s strong support for multiculturalism in Australia, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said today.

Mr Bowen today released The People of Australia and said it built on a whole-of-government approach to maintaining a socially cohesive and harmonious society.

‘This new multicultural policy will further strengthen our multicultural policies and programs,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘It is a expression of support for Australia’s multiculturalism and an endorsement of the Australian Multicultural Advisory Council (AMAC) statement presented to government for consideration last year.’

Mr Bowen said as part of the strategy, the government would introduce a new independent advisory body with broader terms of reference to succeed the current Advisory Council.

‘The new body will act as a champion for multiculturalism in the community; will advise the government on multicultural affairs; and will help to ensure Australian Government services respond to the needs of migrant and refugee communities,’ he said.

‘We will also establish a National Anti-Racism Partnership to design and deliver an anti-racism strategy as we continue to work to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination.’

Mr Bowen also welcomed the Prime Minister’s decision to rename the position held by Senator Kate Lundy to better reflect the focus of her duties.

‘Recognising the breadth of her responsibilities and the need for an increased focus on the implementation of multicultural policy, Senator Lundy’s portfolio will now be titled the Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘Senator Lundy has been actively engaging with the sector and broader community on these matters since taking on her role as Parliamentary Secretary.’

Mr Bowen said The People of Australia policy embraced four principles, including celebrating and valuing diversity; maintaining social cohesion; communicating the benefits of Australia’s diversity; and responding to intolerance and discrimination.

‘The government believes in the right of all Australians, regardless of where they come from, to enjoy and contribute fully to Australian society. This new policy clearly demonstrates that commitment,’ he said.

Senator Lundy said the government was committed to supporting policy and programs that strengthen social cohesion and promote inclusion.

‘The government is committed to Australia’s brand of multiculturalism and we are proud of our record of successfully leveraging the benefits of our diversity,’ Senator Lundy said.

‘Multiculturalism in Australia is about building a shared sense of nationhood forged through mutual respect, common values and a commitment to fairness.’

The policy also responds to the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia’s Different but Equal National Multicultural Agenda of November 2010.

 

Multicultralism here in Australia – a Good read for Migrants.

  I’ve just come across a great article written by Chris Bowen MP, it was published earlier this year but is still a good read when discussing multiculturalism here in Australia.
Why Sheridan and the Immigration Minister parted company on road to multiculturalism
By Chris Bowen MP, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
The Weekend Australian, April 16, 2011

On 12 March 1868, a deranged gun man named Henry O’Farrell shot Prince Alfred on Clontarf Beach in Northern Sydney. Presuming the attempted murder to have been motivated by this lunatic’s Catholicism, 20 000 Sydneysiders gathered in an anti-Irish public meeting to denounce Catholics as being papists devoted to undoing the Empire and the Australian way of life.

As ridiculous as this seems to us now, it is a reminder that we cannot allow the actions of extremists (whether sane or not) to colour our view of the vast majority of law abiding, industrious people who come to Australia not to change our values, but because of them.

Each wave of immigrants to Australia has faced questions about whether they can fit in to the Australian way of life. Sometimes these concerns have centred around the religion of our migrants and links to extremism.

In his piece ‘How I lost faith in multiculturalism’ (Weekend Australian, 2 April 2011), Greg Sheridan calls on his experience of the Sydney suburb of Belmore to inform his thoughtful and passionate criticism of multiculturalism.

I too have called on my experiences in Fairfield – a suburb not too far from Belmore – to inform my equally passionate defence of the respect for migrant cultures, which is engendered in multiculturalism.

For me, there is nothing in my experience of growing up in and representing Fairfield, or my experience as Minister for Immigration, which has led me diverge from my support from multiculturalism. In 1996, Greg Sheridan and I both supported multiculturalism. His views have changed, mine have not.

In 1996, Greg wrote: ‘There is nothing in multiculturalism that could cause any worry to any normal person. Multiculturalism officially promoted an overriding loyalty to Australia, respect for other people’s rights and Australian law, recognition of people’s cultural origins, respect for diversity, the need to make maximum economic use of the skills people bring to Australia and equity in access to government services.

The point Greg made in 1996 is essentially the same point I made in my Sydney Institute speech in February, which he then used the pages of The Australian to rebut. The best way to engender commitment to the traditional Australian values of democracy, freedom and sexual equality is, in turn, to respect the cultures of our immigrants wherever they do not conflict with these values.

My essential argument is this: If you are to have a large and diverse immigration policy (which we both support), then you have a choice. Do you respect, embrace and welcome the cultures of those you have invited to make Australia home, or do you shun them?

Do you seek to invite full participation in Australian society of those who come here, or do you treat them as guest workers and hope they integrate, while all along suspecting they won’t.

Greg is correct to be concerned about the development of Islamic separatism and adversarial culture. But rejecting multiculturalism and going down the French and German road is no way of encouraging greater integration into Australian society.

The main factor that caused Greg to walk away from his long held belief in multiculturalism is his experience of Belmore, Lakemba and Punchbowl. He was rightly concerned about the adversarial nature of (presumably) Muslim youths at the railway station and the lack of academic performance at the local high school. He notes that the Catholic high school had no Muslim students, and it was an excellent school.

Could I be presumptuous enough to suggest a return to the local area and a visit to Punchbowl High School? Here, the Principal is Jihad Dib. Mr Dib is an Australian of Islamic faith. His brother, Bill is the Asia Pacific Featherweight Boxing Champion. Another brother, Nasser, is a highly decorated policeman, while their brother Yusseff is completing a journalism degree at Notre Dame University.

At Mr Dib’s Punchbowl High School, the NAPLAN results show an academic improvement between years 7 and 9, which rates highly compared to other schools throughout the state. In 2010 over 30 per cent of Punchbowl High’s students entered tertiary education, a rate that compares respectably with other high schools with similar socio-economic demographics. There are very few incidents between students and around 40 parents turn up for each P&C meeting, a record many schools would envy.

Likewise, a visit to Cabramatta High School, just outside my electorate, will show you a school heavily dominated by students with a non-English speaking background but with some of the best maths and science results in the state.

I hazard a guess that none of the Dib brothers would agree that their religion has encouraged anti-social behaviour or aggression. Aggression by boys at a railway station is unacceptable. Just as verbal or physical attacks on women who choose to wear the burkah are unacceptable. The boys who were aggressive at Belmore station do not find their actions condoned or encouraged by multiculturalism.

I’m not suggesting that relations between immigrant groups and the Anglo-Celtic population (and those between different ethnic groups) are always entirely harmonious. But I do argue that the Australian version of multiculturalism gives us the best chance of being an open, tolerant, harmonious and prosperous nation

 

What’s New with the Visa 457

Source: Australian Immigration Department.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, has announced the government will look to halve 457 visa processing times and implement a new temporary migration initiative to address the skill needs of the resources sector – while shoring up strong investment in domestic training.

Mr Bowen said the new Enterprise Migration Agreements (EMAs) would allow major resource projects to gain access to overseas labour for genuine skills vacancies that cannot be filled from the Australian labour market.

‘This new initiative will streamline negotiation arrangements for access to overseas workers and guarantee faster processing times for visa applications,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘EMAs will be a custom-designed, project-wide migration arrangement uniquely suited to the resources sector, ensuring skills shortages do not create constraints on major projects and jeopardise Australian jobs.

‘With $380 billion of investment in the pipeline for resources projects, we are approaching a critical juncture in the construction phases of a number of major projects. Access to overseas labour will ensure the peak workforce needs of these projects are met, realising the economic and employment benefits of the projects.’

Mr Bowen said overseas workers would only be a temporary solution, with the ultimate focus on local skills and training.

‘To be approved for an EMA, projects will need to develop a comprehensive training plan, demonstrating how the project will invest in the up-skilling of Australians to meet future skills needs in the resources sector,’ he said.

‘This plan will need to set measurable targets for training that develops skills in occupations where there are known or anticipated shortages.

‘Overseas labour will only be supplementary, with resources projects required to demonstrate effective and ongoing local recruitment efforts.’

Mr Bowen said EMAs would be available to projects with capital expenditure of $2 billion or more and a peak workforce of 1500 workers.

Existing migration options will continue to be available to resource projects that do not meet these thresholds, including about two weeks’ processing for decision-ready temporary skilled subclass 457 visas.

‘While processing times for 457 visas have reduced by 30 per cent over the past five years, the government will establish a new processing centre in Brisbane and aims to reduce processing times even further,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘The goal is to deliver a 10-day median processing time for applications which are complete at the time they are lodged.

‘This additional processing site, with a significant number of extra visa processing staff, will ensure that complete applications are allocated and processed as quickly as possible.

‘The 457 visa program benefits Australian industry by providing access to the global market of workers when suitably skilled workers cannot be found locally.’

The program is uncapped, demand-driven and highly responsive to the economic cycle. It provides a flexible avenue for employers to fill immediate and short-term skills vacancies and is on track to record its strong year yet.

Mr Bowen said the Department of Immigration and Citizenship would also deliver an improved regional strategy, to ensure regional employers secure the information they need about various migration and visa programs available to help them fill skilled vacancies.

‘The robust integrity framework introduced in 2009 will continue to ensure that only genuinely skilled workers enter Australia,’ he said.

‘These protections will ensure this initiative will not be used to undercut Australian wages or exploit overseas workers.’

Today’s announcement follows the government’s acceptance in March of all the National Resources Sector Employment Taskforce’s 31 recommendations, which included the introduction of EMAs.

 

Australian Budget 2011-12: Skilled Migration Reform.

The Federal Government will implement a suite of regional migration initiatives together with a measured increase in permanent migration – to 185 000 visas – in 2011-12 to deliver on its broader economic and regional development priorities.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, made the announcement today as part of the 2011-12 Budget, and said a new model for selecting skilled migrants was proposed to be introduced, as the significant next step in the government’s migration reforms.

The government’s recent reforms have contributed to a decline in net overseas migration levels by almost half from its peak of more than 315 000 for the year ending December 2008 to about 180 000 for the year ending September 2010, slowing the rate of population growth to a more sustainable level.

‘This has provided scope for a moderate increase in the migration program in 2011-12, while maintaining more sustainable annual levels of net overseas migration – in the region of 170 000–180 000 over the next few years,’ Mr Bowen said.

About two-thirds of the increased migration program will be for skilled migrants to help fill critical skill needs, particularly in regional areas.

The skill stream intake will increase to 125 850 places, with 16 000 places allocated to the Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme. Regional visas will also be afforded the highest processing priority to recognise the needs of employers and encourage regional migration.

‘For the first time, the Federal Government will specifically allocate permanent visas for regional areas,’ Mr Bowen said.

The government will also fast-track permanent residency for temporary business (subclass 457) visa holders who have spent two years in regional Australia and where their employer will continue to sponsor them for a further two years. This will make it easier for 457 visa holders to remain in the region where they have been living and working.

Mr Bowen said regional areas would also benefit from the introduction of Regional Migration Agreements, a new initiative that will bring together employers, local and state governments and unions to cooperate in addressing local labour needs.

‘This government recognises that different regions face different opportunities and pressures. The patchwork nature of the Australian labour market means it’s important to recognise unique local circumstances and tailor migration solutions accordingly,’ he said.

‘Regional Migration Agreements will offer a coordinated, localised response to labour needs, helping local areas to implement workforce strategies that support growth while ensuring local workers remain the first choice for employers and industry.’

Fostering training initiatives for Australians will be a strong focus of the new agreements. The existing network of regional, industry and union outreach officers will also be further resourced to ensure regional employers and industry groups are well informed about such initiatives, and can better gain access to skilled labour where it is needed.

‘This is a responsible and measured approach that recognises the role skilled migrants play in supporting regional enterprises, such as in the resources and healthcare sectors and in trades and professions currently facing significant shortages,’ Mr Bowen said.

The family intake for the 2011–12 migration program will increase to 58 600 places. The family program is socially important as it allows for the reunification of Australians with their close relatives, children and spouses.

Mr Bowen said in setting the size and composition of the migration program for 2011–12, and announcing recent reforms to skilled migration, the government has balanced the importance of maximising prosperity for all Australians, ensuring communities and regions are sustainable and maintaining job opportunities for local workers.

‘It is critical that Australia’s skilled migration program is driven by Australia’s skills needs, rather than the desires of prospective migrants,’ he said.

‘That’s why the government will introduce a new model for selecting skilled migrants to better target Australia’s future skill needs, expected to come into effect on 1 July 2012.’

The new model concludes a series of reforms to ensure the skilled migration program is more focussed and efficient, demand-driven and tailored to employers’ needs.

‘Under this model, the government will be able to select migrants like a business manages its workforce – selecting the best candidates, altering the skill composition of its workforce, and speeding up or slowing down recruitment as circumstances change,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘The new system will be fair and equitable for people wishing to migrate to Australia, and will deliver strong outcomes for local employers who demonstrate they are unable to fill their skilled positions locally.

‘To maximise its potential, input from business, industry and migration representatives is crucial, and my department will be conducting consultation throughout 2011 as it develops the details of this model.’

See: More information on the 2011-12 migration program

 

More English Language test Options.

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, has announced three additional English language test options for student visa applicants to address the current shortage of test places.

The Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) will be expanded for use by applicants from all countries, and the Pearson Test of English Academic (PTE Academic) and the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) from Cambridge ESOL will shortly be added to the existing English language tests for student visa purposes specified in the Migration Regulations 1994. The Government anticipates these new tests will be accepted for student visa applications later this year.

‘We have given careful consideration when selecting these three English language test providers to ensure that high standards of integrity are maintained and that test score results are appropriately safeguarded,’ Mr Bowen said.

‘The integrity of English language testing is important because the language test results are a key component in visa application requirements.

‘These additional English language test options will help to create competition in the English language testing market, while creating more test places for student visa applicants.

‘They will also provide candidates with greater choice and enable them to more quickly obtain test results needed for visa applications.’

Currently, the main English language test accepted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) for Australian visa purposes is the International English Language Testing System (IELTS). The Government has had a good working relationship with IELTS and we expect that to continue into the future.

The Government will closely monitor and review the implementation of the new tests to determine whether these should be introduced for other visa programs at a later date.

Further information will soon be available on DIAC’s website
See: www.immi.gov.au

 

Still Cleaning Up……Floods Down Under.

Whilst Brisbane CBD is up and working again, many nearby suburbs are still ghost towns. Further into Queensland towns are still waiting for work to begin and be completed. For more details on the rebuilding of parts of Queensland: http://www.qldreconstruction.org.au/

 

Aboriginal Languages -Fast Facts

  • Australian Aboriginal -‘indigenous’- society dates back around 60,000 years.
  • When the First British Fleet arrived in Australia in 1788, there were thought to be roughly 250 Australian languages and 700 dialects.
  • Of the original 250 or so languages, only around 20 survive today, but these are spoken regularly and taught in schools.
  • Kriol is spoken mostly in northern Australia.
  • Kriol is the most widely used Aboriginal language and the native language of many young Aboriginals.
  • Kriol contains many English words but the meanings are often different and the spelling is phonetic.

 

Does the Australian Government Back both Australian Nationals & Migrants.

The Australian migration system isn’t a very forgiving one. It doesn’t bow or bend to trends.

Even with a range of visa types and classification a visa can be difficult to gain, without specific skills or experience.

However, once here, the government is said to be defensive of  both Australian nationals and those who have moved to Australia full-time.