In the aftermath of the 2019 federal election, JRS Australia reconvened on how we can best achieve systemic change in the coming years. We are proud to promote the leadership of people with lived experience. Communicating their stories and also systematically gathering evidence to enable policy change are top priorities for JRS. We are also part of the growing movement of Australians who are calling on our leaders to adopt a culture of welcome and protection.
In late July 2019, JRS Australia joined key organisations from the sector to raise some of these issues with the PM’s office, government ministers, and members of the cross-bench. JRS Australia has also been meeting with federal government, opposition and independent MPs in Sydney, including Fiona Martin, Chris Bowen, Julie Owens, and Mehreen Faruqi about a range of specific issues impacting people seeking asylum.
JRS works with parishes and schools that advocate for change. Across the Catholic Archdioceses of both Sydney and Parramatta, parishes and schools are hosting actions such as community conversations and providing funds for emergency rent, food and clothing. Catholic parishes are also organising delegations to visit their MPs, including Our Lady of the Way’s proactive effort to meet Zali Steggall and Trent Zimmerman.
But what are some of the policies that need to change and their impacts on women, children and men seeking asylum?
Each month, JRS Australia is seeing 35-40 new people in poverty and at risk of homelessness come through our doors in Western Sydney. The Australian government denies them adequate support. Prospects of finding decent work are limited. But these people — women, children, men — must be afforded a safety net, the chance to secure employment, and a fair hearing of their claims. Decisions about returning people to countries of origin must be truly voluntary and carried out in ethical ways.
Since the opening of JRS’ “Finding Safety” women’s space in Parramatta in late 2018, we have directly worked with women seeking asylum who have encountered sexual and gender based violence. Many women fear that reporting this violence will result in the loss of all support or that their families’ visas could be cancelled. Reforming this system is one of JRS’ priorities.
In the last two years, JRS has worked with over 60 individuals and families transferred from Manus and Nauru. Ensuring they obtain safe, adequate treatment is crucial to closing the latest dark chapter in asylum policy in our country.
Submissions to Senate inquiries on refugee and asylum issues:
Policy has a direct impact on the people that we serve. The Australian Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee recently conducted inquiries into into three new Bills that have significant impacts on the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum. JRS’ submission to a government Bill proposing to repeal the Medevac legislation on medical transfers of people from Nauru and Manus to Australia recommended that Medevac is kept in place.
The National Visa Cancellations Working Group, which JRS Australia is a part of, also put in a submission to a government Bill proposing to introduce additional circumstances in which a person will mandatorily fail the so-called ‘Character Test.’ The Working Group made a number of strong arguments for why this Bill should be rejected in total.
Separately, the Joint Standing Committee on Migration, is conducting an Inquiry into Migration in Regional Australia. JRS put forward a submission on the Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV). “SHEVs” attempt to facilitate refugee migration into regional areas, but if reformed, could have greater success. These activities form a core part of our policy analysis and engagement work.
Join the community of welcome.
JRS is active in the community in advocating for positive change for refugees and people seeking asylum. We work with individuals, schools, parishes, community groups, and all people interested in making Australia a safe, welcoming and humane place. If you wish to become involved, we would love to hear from you. Please email Anne: email@example.com
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