Adelaide Town Hall
It is my pleasure to be here this morning.
Can I say a big thank you to Carla Wilshire for hosting this event.
Carla as you will know is a passionate advocate for migrants and refugees.
I’d also like to acknowledge Maria Dimopoulos, Chair of Harmony Alliance, Maria’s work at promoting cultural diversity is to be commended.
A warm welcome to all of you.
Australia is a society that values freedom, democracy and opportunity.
As a nation we believe that everyone deserves a ‘fair go’.
We believe all Australians have a voice - and that voice should be heard, understood and represented in government decision-making.
We also know sometimes, some people struggle to be heard.
Quite often the voices we cannot hear are the voices of women from marginalised and disadvantaged groups.
Yet these are the voices we need to hear to help them overcome the challenges they face.
To bring forward the views, voices and issues of these Australian women, the government continues to support the National Women’s Alliances.
Prior to 1 July this year, there were five alliances, representing over 180 women’s groups.
Each alliance has a distinct focus:
either on a specific issue like economic security or violence against women;
or towards a specific cohort of women like those in rural and remote Australia;
or those of Indigenous heritage.
Today we launch a sixth alliance: the Harmony Alliance.
Led by Migration Council Australia and funded by the Australian Government for the next three years, the Harmony Alliance will give migrant and refugee women in Australia a louder, stronger voice.
Challenges of migrants and refugees face
Australia has a rich history of multiculturalism.
In the 12 months to June 2016 , over 200,000 migrants arrived in Australia.
In some cases there are obstacles we must help them overcome: navigating new laws, finding new work and building new support networks, as well as coming to grips with a new culture.
This is because our success as a migrant country depends on their participation in every aspect of life – in particular - employment.
Importance of Harmony Alliance
The Harmony Alliance will play an important role in achieving this.
Central to the alliance is the right and necessity of migrant and refugee women to advocate for themselves on issues that impact their safety, wellbeing and economic empowerment.
The government already has a number of policies and programs to support women from culturally and linguistically diverse—or CALD—backgrounds.
Women’s Workforce Participation
Our recently launched Towards 2025 strategy to boost women’s workforce participation, identifies women from CALD backgrounds as a key group we need to focus on.
The workforce participation rate for women from CALD backgrounds is 47.3 per cent, compared to 69.5 per cent for CALD men and 59.2 per cent for all women.
If we can help more migrant and refugee women find work, we can help them to be independent and financially secure.
This empowers them with more choice and more control of their life, as well as an increased stake and sense of belonging in their new home.
Australia has some of the best settlement services in the world.
When migrant women settle in Australia, we have a strong focus on three E’s—English language proficiency, education and employment.
We also have National Community Hubs to provide a place for local residents, businesses and community services to help newly-arrived migrants and refugees forge connections and access support services.
And when it comes to helping women from CALD backgrounds find jobs, there are a range of government programs.
In July 2015, the Government commenced our new jobactive Program.
Since then, there have been more than 125,000 job placements for culturally and linguistically diverse job seekers nationally.
A new program we have successfully piloted and which we are now rolling out nationally, is ParentsNext, which supports parents of young children to plan and prepare for employment before their children are at school.
Our ParentsNext providers work with parents, mainly mothers, to identify their employment goals.
Then they develop a pathway—a plan—to achieve those goals; this might include study, a traineeship, work experience, or a range of other options.
Let me share with you a success story from the program.
Fatima came to Australia five years ago. She has two young children, aged three and six.
She really wanted a job. At her first ParentsNext interview, she said she was happy to do any type of work.
But, deep down, Fatima’s dream was to become a nurse, but she thought her English wasn’t good enough.
The ParentsNext provider discussed the pathways open to Fatima to achieve her dream and researched courses with more flexible English requirements.
So Fatima is now studying for a Certificate III in Health Services Assistance and once she completes that, she can progress to a Diploma in Nursing.
The provider also helped Fatima with the course enrolment and preparation; with finding a local child care service; and applying for the Child Care Rebate and Jobs, Education and Training Child Care Fee Assistance funding.
Within a short time, Fatima’s dream of being a nurse was well on its way to coming true.
From next year, the government will invest $263 million to expand the ParentsNext program; and, no doubt, help more CALD women like Fatima, to pursue their dreams.
Other Employment Government Programs
And it’s not just parents we want to help become job-ready.
In April the Youth Jobs PaTH (Prepare-Trial-Hire) program commenced. It is available to all young people, including refugees—providing them with the work experience and skills they need to find work.
And through our Launch into Work program, we are creating pre-employment partnerships that provide training, mentoring and work experience to help job seekers become work-ready.
These projects are flexible and designed to meet the specific needs of women from CALD backgrounds.
As both the Minister for Women and the Minister for Employment, I don’t just want to see more women from CALD backgrounds working, I want to see them leading and succeeding.
The government has partnered with the Australian Institute of Company Directors to provide 55 full-fee scholarships to aspiring female directors from CALD and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.
And we’ve provided funding to Inspiring Rare Birds to run a mentoring program for 100 female entrepreneurs, of which 27 are from CALD backgrounds.
Keeping Women Safe
Our Government is determined to address the appalling rate of violence against women and children in our community. All Australian women need to feel safe on the streets, safe at home and safe online.
Australian police deal with a domestic violence matter every two minutes. On these statistics, police will have already been called out four or five times since I started speaking.
The Turnbull Government has invested hundreds of millions – on programs directly supporting women and children who are victims of, or at risk of domestic violence.
This is a generational challenge for all Australians. We also know there is a specific challenge in CALD communities, where violence is under-reported.
Our policies recognise the need – and includes funding – to ensure materials, counselling and frontline services are delivered in different languages and in flexible ways, recognising our country’s diversity.
We are also expanding the trial of an intensive, recovery-focused support program that helps women from CALD backgrounds who have experienced violence to improve their life skills and employment prospects.
Our community standards and expectations of new Australians must also be made very clear.
That’s why we have revised the Citizenship Test, to now include questions on domestic and family violence, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.
Under no circumstances, are these practices acceptable in modern Australia!
What I also want for migrant and refugee women is what I want for every single woman and child in Australia: I want them to feel safe and empowered.
We want migrants and refugees to benefit from the Australian way of life, and we want Australia to benefit from the contribution of our migrants and refugees.
This is the Australia we all want to live in. This is what the Harmony Alliance will help us achieve.