The link between settlement and employment was discussed last week at the roundtable hosted by Federal member for Calwell, Maria Vamvakinou MP, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia and Citizenship, Tony Burke MP, and the Settlement Council of Australia, with the participation of several people from diverse cultural backgrounds who had each come to Australia seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

During the meeting, migrants took the opportunity to speak of their own personal experiences, a lot of them giving off a far from ideal image about employment services in Australia.

“Many migrants want to work because they’re highly qualified and experienced but also because work gives them meaning,” said Samir, an Iraqi refugee who arrived 18 years ago. “Many refugees do not want to be on Centrelink – they have a proud history and want to be independent and free. They want to contribute to their new home in Australia”, he added.

In response to this, the Shadow Minister for Multicultural Australia responded that the resolution to this issue will prove to be crucial in regards to Australia’s future: “Modern Australia is a multicultural Australia. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear from the community and settlement services on this important issue. How we handle settlement determines who we are and what we want to be as a country,” said Tony Burke.

Maria Vamvakinou added that employment services need to see a severe improvement in the future: “Newly-arrived migrants and refugees desperately want to work in this country. If they can’t find that work then there’s something seriously wrong with our approach to settlement.”

The Labor party is expected to use the feedback from this roundtable discussion in order to improve the effectiveness of employment services and their association with settlement providers.