Board and Staff of The Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District assembled to meet and hear from staff of the Federation of Ethnic Communities Council of Australia (FECCA) – who were in Shepparton for two days to hear from community leaders and members and staff of Ethnic Council on issues of concern. On Friday 7 June, the FECCA representatives met with Ethnic Council staff and Board members.
The meeting proceeded informally over lunch; Dr Janecke Wille and Lauren Stark – FECCA Project Officer, heard from staff about their work and projects. Some time was given over to discussing issues surrounding TPV and SHEV visa holders in this region, and the preponderance of TPV visas in areas of primary industry in north-east and north-west Victoria.
All staff involved in settlement work with clients contributed to discussions, and the future directions of work in the Ethic Council was also outlined. Staff heard of the initiatives by FECCA in social policy, migration and citizenship policy areas, cultural diversity and social cohesion policy.
The movement of Refugee settlement and adult migrant education into the Home Affairs portfolio under machinery of government changes following the federal government’s re-election was discussed. Migrant adult education moves from the Education portfolio to the Home Affairs portfolio; and Settlement services for refugees and humanitarian migrants moves from the Social Services portfolio to the Home Affairs portfolio. The issue of data held by Social Services department was also among the iterations raised.
This will reunite the two functions with immigration, where they had sat until 2013., as well as considerations over the transfer of responsibilities for immigration and settlement from the Department of Social Services to Dept of Home Affairs. The expansion of the Seasonal Worker Programme contributing to the economic development of nine participating Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste, by providing access to work opportunities in the Australian agriculture sector was also discussed.
The Assisted Voluntary Return Program was also canvassed as an option for those people facing significant challenges in settlement processing or family reunions. The Assisted Voluntary Return Program scopes to include those living in Australia on a bridging visa or other non-substantive visa; or those living in Australia without a visa or their visa has expired.