Coalition refugee policy and our Global Backyard

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With the Coalition changing their approach to asylum seekers hourly,the need to assist refugees integrate into Australian society has never been greater, writes Peter Wicks.

(Cartoon by John Graham / johngraham.alphalink.com.au)

A LOT CAN HAPPEN in just a couple of weeks.

Since Tony Abbott became the beneficiary of Labor losing the election on 7 September 2013, quite a bit has happened.

The axe has already fallen with some major heads of government departments sacked.

We have discovered that AusAID is to have drastic cuts put in place to ensure that the worlds neediest feel the pain of the Coalitions arrival.

The entire board of NBN co has resigned, thus paving the way for Turnbull to start erecting mirrors and firing up the smoke machines that make up his broadband policy. Never mind, the ink is probably still drying on Murdoch’s agreements to lease out his Foxtel lines to the government for broadband, giving him control of our internet as well as our news.

We have seen Abbott appoint himself as the Minister for "Woman" (see above, presumably Gina Rinehart), while ensuring that there is only one woman in his ministerial team and only one woman out of a dozen Parliamentary Secretaries. Given the lack of women in Abbott’s caucus, I would say he has failed as a minister already.

Excuses about being appointed due to merit, rather than a quota system, not only acts as an insult to female members of past caucus’, but are also hypocritical as the Coalition have a quota system in place for National Party members, as well as for MP's from individual states.

Promises about ending the "Carbon Tax" immediately have now stretched out to within three years.

Another broken promise.

So what about Abbott’s big promise to stop the boats.

Well, this policy has had more face-lifts than the entire combined Jackson 5.

Scott Morrison has continually told us that they were using the proven policies used under John Howard's regime that was responsible for the “children overboard” fiasco, however these policies seem to have changed somewhat drastically.

Since the “Stop The Boats” policy and range of bumper stickers were introduced, we have seen the policy bend to “Turn Back The Boats”, something that would be unnecessary if they had indeed been stopped. We now have also been told we won't even find out if boats are in fact being turned around.

Since then, there has been towing the boats back to Indonesia, buying the boats off the people smugglers ‒ and therefore giving them a second pay packet ‒ paying poor Indonesians for information, building transit ports in Indonesia, and not letting the public know about boat arrivals until the Minister feels it is necessary to brief the public.

Whilst I’m sure Scott Morrison sitting on asylum seeker arrivals information and waiting for a day when it’s old news, or releasing information on a busy news day so it gets lost, may do wonders for the spin doctors, it won’t stop any boats at all. The excuse about people smugglers not getting the arrival information is utter crap, they will still be able to get it when Morrison decides to finally bless us with its release.

This is the kind of censorship of information that we expect from North Korea, not Australia. One can only imagine the outcry if this had been done under Gillard or Rudd.

A rich nation paying poor and desperate people cash to dob in their mates and neighbours is a brilliant idea and sure to not bring in false information. It certainly worked a treat in Afghanistan for the United States' — how many lawsuits are they up to now?

Funny, though, I don’t remember any of these policies under John Howard. Wasn't it his policies we were going to be reverting to? Has that changed now as well?

Anyway, Indonesia seem real impressed with the carry-on from the Coalition, labelling their policies as "offensive".

Not that our two nations have policies that "conflict" or anything. That would be much too harsh a word to use for the Coalition, who have appointed a "three star general" ‒ whatever that is ‒ and describe their policy as a "military operation".

Five star screw up if you ask me...

Anyway, we hear a hell of a lot about asylum seekers before they arrive here, but what about after?

Those who are granted asylum status in Australia are not seeking asylum because they have come from a background of luxury or a comfortable existence.

Asylum Seekers arrive in Australia with a vast number of issues that they are, by and large, left to deal with by themselves.

Thankfully, there are organisations that are there to help, although most are faith based and run by a religious organisation.

Today, I wanted to share a little about one that isn’t. It's name is Global Backyard.

Global Backyard was founded in 2010 by Ruby Madan, who set up and ran the NSW government-funded Refugee Mentoring Programme, until funding dried up after NSW changed to a Coalition government in 2011.

Today, Global Backyard helps guide refugees through their struggles and assists them become settled in Australia.

Some of the issues that asylum seekers arrive with are things like post traumatic stress, as many are coming from war zones or have lived under an oppressive regime. Many arrive with children who are behind in their education. Others have qualifications that are not recognised in our country, skill shortages, or pharmaceutical requirements.

All of them arrive with an urgent need to find a job, accommodation, and friends.

Many are forced to attempt to navigate these issues with language difficulties as well.

This is where Global Backyard becomes involved.

Global Backyard is a not for profit charity and has helped countless numbers of refugees with more issues than you can probably imagine.

Global Backyard is composed of a team of volunteers who give refugees the one-on-one support that they need to do all manner of tasks, big and small, however mundane.

A member of the Global Backyard community.[/caption]

For instance, Global Backyard volunteer Patricia describes how she helps Tibetan refugee Namlo:
"On a practical level, I help Namlo fill out official forms, look for work and apply for grants for the organisation he has set up to help Tibetan people. I generally try and explain how things work in the Australian system. My friend is an intelligent, educated, resourceful man who deserves the dignity of doing things for himself with the help of a little bit of local knowledge, insight and support from a native resident along the way."

Global Backyard has helped refugees from countries such as:

  • Afghanistan

  • Bhutan

  • Burundi

  • Iraq

  • Sierra Leone

  • Sri Lanka

  • Syria

  • Tibet

  • Uganda

  • Vietnam

  • They have helped many refugees adjust to life in a new country when starting with absolutely nothing.

    [caption id="attachment_47927" align="alignnone" width="495"] (Image from the Global Backyard 2012 calendar)

The work being done is so important that in 2011 Global Backyards services won them the NSW Building Inclusive Communities Award, which is sponsored by Macquarie University and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW.

With the Coalition now in power at state and federal level, there is likely to be even less government funding for services and, as such, an even greater reliance on the not for profit charity groups.

With this in mind, Global Backyard needs our help to provide their vital services.

Tax deductible donations can be made via the below bank account details:

Global Backyard Refugee Network Inc.
BSB: 062 220
Account #: 1018 6500

Or for those who have the skills and time as well as the heart to make a difference, there are a number of areas where volunteers are needed.

Areas such as

  • TSOL Teachers

  • Migration Law Experts

  • Fundraisers

  • IT and Web design and management specialists

  • Social enterprise facilitators

  • Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore

    As City Of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore explains it:
    'The Global Backyard Refugee Network’s efforts to help refugees and promote acceptance play an important role in changing the way most people see our newest Australians. Global Backyard supports refugees by creating educational, social and workplace opportunities. It helps vulnerable people connect with others and rebuild their lives, and helps educate the community about the refugee experience.'

    If that sounds like something you would like to be a part of, then you can contact them via info@globalbackyard.com.au, though note: they are understaffed and busy, so don’t be put off if you don’t receive a response in a hurry.

    Whatever you can do to help will be greatly appreciated as these people tend to arrive in need of a helping hand rather than a hand out.

    Now that Tony Abbott is in the lodge, this will be needed more than ever.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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