From the CEO, 8 October 2020

8 October 2020
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From the CEO

Cath Scarth, AMES Australia CEO

Federal Budget 2020-21 – migrants and refugees

Migration is once again at the heart of a nation building exercise in this country with the 2020-21 federal budget outlining a strategy to attract skilled and talented people to Australia.

Just like after World War II, migration is emerging as a key part of Australia’s long-term economic success with the government maintaining the 2020-21 Migration Program planning level at 160,000 despite the closure of international borders.  

The budget recognises migration, and particularly skilled migration, as key to our nation’s future with the expansion of ‘Global Talent’ and business migration programs outlined in the budget.

And while 2020 has been a difficult year everyone and not least for people from culturally diverse backgrounds, the budget offers some hope for the future.

Among positive things announced in budget, there were and extension of programs for migrant and refugee youth, an expansion of accessibility to the Adult Migrant English Program, and a strengthening of family violence protections in partner visa processes.

While it is disappointing to see the humanitarian intake was reduced from 18,750 places to 13,750 over the next four years, it’s not surprising given international borders are largely closed and international refugee programs have been paused.

I’m encouraged that the number of new refugees Australia accepts will be reviewed each year and also by the fact the federal government sees the value of maintaining refugee and migrant programs, albeit at a base level.

And it was also pleasing to see measures that will help to ensure women from diverse backgrounds are protected from violence or exploitation.

Clearly, the budget recognises the value migrants and refugees bring to Australia.

Preserving a significant humanitarian program underpins Australia’s commitment to supporting the most vulnerable people on the planet and is an example to world.

As I said, the budget also recognises that a strong migration policy will be critical to Australia’s speedy economic recovery from the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The collapse Australia will see in overseas migration, outlined in the budget, and a falling fertility rate, has seen a downgrade in the nation's population forecasts by about one million over the next two years, which will significantly affect economic growth.

But, after two years of negative migration, Australia will see 201,000 extra arrivals in 2023-24, according to the budget papers.

So, while successfully settling migrants and refugees is a critical part of building a cohesive society it is also essential to ensuring we can rebuild Australia’s economy.

The hiatus that the COVID-19 pandemic as thrust upon us is an opportunity to reset our settlement programs and do an even better job of supporting people to settle successfully in Australia.

As we recover from the health, economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of supporting migrants and refugees to orient to life in Australia, learn English, find work and build social and community connections will be even more important.

8 October 2020