Clement Meru, the manager of multicultural communities at CORE Community Services in Cabramatta, hopes the Fairfield City Settlement Action Plan can be a blueprint for other councils to follow as Fairfield prepares for the realities of settling almost 7000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees in the past 18 months.
The Action Plan, launched on Thursday during Refugee Week, is the product of 12 months of planning and consultation between government and non-government agencies with the aim to enhance existing service provision for refugees through greater collaboration and partnership development amongst local service providers.
“It was also a chance to identifying service gaps for refugees, humanitarian and migrant entrants living in Fairfield,” Mr Meru said.
“We as local service providers in Fairfield, thought this was the right time to come together and explore ways to collaborate and coordinate our services to meet the needs of those settling in Fairfield.
“Hopefully other regions can adopt a similar plan because what we have seen is relationships develop between the agencies and where there are service gaps, we have worked together to share information and pool our resources to bridge those gaps.”
Mr Meru, who came to Australia from South Sudan as a refugee in 2003, said the place-based approach of the plan allowed them to target issues at a community level.
One of the main issues discussed at the planning symposium was employment. It was one of ten settlement themes identified which the group were charged to devise solutions along with the likes of physical health, domestic violence and housing.
“Employment is a key indicator to successful settlement,” Mr Meru said.
“One of the keys is being able to address the systemic issues that prevent newly refugees access the Australian job market and working out ways to solve the problem.”
Enter the Settlement Action Plan.
It outlines actions and approaches to address issues across eight key action areas.
- Safe and Responsible Communities.
- Physical and Mental Health and Wellbeing.
- People with a Disability.
- Opportunities for Meaningful Engagement, Skills Development, Education and Integration within Local Communities.
- Volunteerism in Relation to Supporting Newly Arrived Refugee, Humanitarian Entrant and Other Vulnerable Migrant Communities.
- Information and Coordination.
- Housing Accessibility.
- Evidence Based Planning and Advocacy.
In total there are 44 action items with a lead agency identified to drive the implementation of plan which is separated into three broad categories – people, opportunity and place
For example, one of the action items is to identify and promote reputable refugee friendly GPs who bulk bill.
Another item is to increase recognition awareness of the qualifications and skills that refugees and people seeking asylum bring to the community amongst the business sector.
Each action has strategies attached it to achieved the desired outcome in a set time period.
Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone said with Fairfield receiving one fifth of Australia’s total humanitarian intake it has placed additional pressure on local service organisations who are working hard to keep up with increased demands.
“The Fairfield City Settlement Action Plan has been developed to help guide the work being carried out by service organisations who are involved in the settlement of refugees,” he said.
“It will also provide a more coordinated and collaborative strategic approach to settlement services in Fairfield City.
“Fairfield City has always played its part in refugee settlements and our community has opened its doors and welcomed new arrivals.
“In turn, refugees have taken opportunities and made a great contribution to our community.”
Mr Carbone said while a significant amount of work is being done for refugee settlements, a great deal more is still needed.
“The federal government needs to ensure adequate funding and resources are allocated for the settlement of refugees in our community,” he said.
“Not only does this include more support for service organisations, but also more funding for local facilities and infrastructure projects to support an ever growing community. This includes committing extra funds for such things as housing, medical services, youth services and job creation projects.
“While Fairfield City always plays its part, the federal and state governments also need to be accountable and must make sure that the need to resettle refugees has no impact on existing residents.”
More than half of Fairfield’s population are born overseas and about 70 per cent speaking a language other than English at home
- The Fairfield City Settlement Action Plan was led by Fairfield Council and CORE Community Services in collaboration with representatives from NSW Police, Assyrian Resource Centre, Family and Community Services, Fairfield High Schoo, Legal Aid, Navitas, NSW Department of Education, NSW Refugee Health Service, Parente Cafe, Ability Links, Settlement Services International, Woodville Alliance and NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors.