In Council on Monday I successfully bought an amendment to the City’s Grants Program to have a grant to the Asylum Seekers Centre (ASC) moved from the wait list to the accepted list.
As a Council that cares about social issues I believe it is important to show support for the plight of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.
The politicised demonisation of asylum seekers is continuing as the federal election campaign enters it’s last days. However despite the Liberal and Labor parties continually talking about how “anxious” people feel about refugees signs keep appearing to show that the majority of the community don’t feel this way at all.
The latest sign came at the Council meeting where there was to be discussion of my amendment. The ASC had asked for the money to raise awareness of the plight of community based asylum seekers – refugees who arrive in Australia with some kind of temporary visa (eg a tourist visa) then apply for asylum once here.
Community based asylum seekers make up the majority of refugees in Australia, yet receive almost no media attention. While they are certainly better off than refugees who arrive by boat who end up locked in offshore detention centres, their life is still far from easy. Many of them have no work rights or access to Medicare and those who do can easily lose these rights if they fail to correctly renew their visas – a daunting process for someone with poor english language skills.
Council staff who carry out the initial assessment of grants had recommended that the ASC grant be simply placed on a waiting list – it would receive no funding now but may do so in the future if funds become available. This assessment failed to account for a $70 000 underspend in another grant area and I thought this was most unfair, so prepared to fight the decision in council.
I went to the council meeting with a speech prepared, ready to bang the table and extol the virtues of the ASC and why it should receive the funding, only to find that this wasn’t necessary. The rest of the Councillors had seen my proposed amendment and decided to support it straight off. The ASC got the funding it needed without so much as a raised voice in the council chamber.
I want to thank all my fellow councillors for supporting this and showing that the majority of the community don’t have the xenophobic fear of refugees our major party politicians would like to think we have.