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Australia-wide FECCA body disappointed at 2014 Federal budget over multicultural issues

The 2014-15 Federal Budget has delivered mixed outcomes for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians, with the announcement of continuing support for many critical services and major cuts to other core areas.

FECCA welcomes the Federal Government’s commitment to deliver the National Disability Insurance Scheme as planned, and reiterates the importance of ensuring that the scheme is accessible and adequately services all Australians in need, including those from CALD backgrounds.

FECCA also welcomes the Government’s continued commitment to provide better aged care for older CALD Australians, including through facilitating more efficient access to aged care services, both in the home and in residential aged care. In this regard, FECCA is pleased to see the allocation of funding for the provision of culturally appropriate residential aged care services in Western Sydney.

FECCA also welcomes the initiative to fund dementia research. FECCA Chair, Mr Joe Caputo said, “FECCA’s own research shows that older CALD Australians are often excluded from dementia research due to language barriers. With this boost in funding, FECCA hopes that this major gap in research can be narrowed”.

FECCA is extremely disappointed, however, over the decision to reduce the number of Human Rights Commissioners. Mr Caputo said, “Australian Human Rights Commission plays an integral role in the promotion of human rights and multiculturalism in Australia. The importance of dedicated portfolios for each of the present Commissioners is vital to ensure adequate attention is paid to issues that impact on all Australians, including those from CALD backgrounds”.

FECCA is also extremely disappointed over the Government’s decision to cease funding to support the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. Mr Caputo said, “National Congress is essential for ensuring genuine participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People in decision-making processes. FECCA was proud to be the first organisation in Australia to sign a Supporter Accord with the Congress in 2012, and we will continue to advocate for the Government’s recognition of the Congress as an Indigenous representative institution”.

FECCA is also disappointed over the announced cuts of $8 million over 4 years to SBS. “Information is key to enabling a truly multicultural Australia, and this reduction in funding for SBS undermines the Government’s commitment to multiculturalism and social cohesion”, said Mr Caputo.

The announced enhancement of services to facilitate online safety for children is welcomed, however, specifically through the provision of $10 million over four years to improve the protection of children online through safety programs for schools, research and information campaigns, as well as through the creation of the Office of the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner. Mr Caputo said, “this initiative is consistent with previous recommendations forwarded by FECCA about issues concerning cyber-racism and the need to protect the online safety of children from CALD backgrounds”.

FECCA also welcomes Government funding for developing curriculums for foreign languages to revive the teaching of languages in Australian schools. Mr Caputo said, “encouraging awareness and the learning of different languages promotes cultural understanding and facilitates positive communication between cultures”.

FECCA is concerned, however, that the Government does not see the value in maintaining the Commonwealth Human Rights Education Programme and has announced its discontinuation. Mr Caputo said, “the Programme has played an integral role in promoting community awareness and understanding of human rights and the responsibilities of individuals as members of a tolerant, inclusive society”.

FECCA is also concerned by the announcement to cease funding for the Connection Interviews and Job Seeker Workshops offered by Job Services Australia (JSA), citing this as an important program through which to enable access and equity, and facilitate job-readiness for CALD Australians. Further cuts to JSA, including the restricting of participation for volunteers and cessation of the Experience+ Career Advice program are also likely to have a detrimental impact on CALD employment prospects.

FECCA does, however, welcome the Government’s announcement to provide $27.8 million in 2014-15 to fund the Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme and the Community Assistance Support Programme, and commends the initiative to provide eligible asylum seekers with support while their immigration status is being resolved. FECCA is also pleased to see the provision of support services to asylum seekers, including access to Torture and Trauma Support and Complex Case Support, as well as a full range of employment services and support through JSA to assist them in gaining employment.