2016/17 federal budget – what it means
Like many things in life and politics, the 2016-17 Federal Budget brings both good news and bad news for migrants, refugees and people from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Treasurer Scott Morrison’s first budget has earmarked $10.9 million over three years for two measures to help support newly arrived migrants and refugees in ways that will promote social cohesion.
There is a focus on improving the speed and success of migrants finding jobs with $5.7 million of funding over three years to increase the number of Community Hubs – a six-year-old program that helps migrants and humanitarian entrants connect with their communities.
The Government is also investing $5.2 million over three years for a new careers pilot program targeting newly-arrived, skilled humanitarian entrants with vocational level English proficiency. The pilot will provide support to help up to 1200 humanitarian entrants find employment in jobs that match their skills.
The budget focus on employment is extended to youth with the provision of culturally appropriate and competent services for young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds – a recognition of the need to address high unemployment rates among some groups of CALD youth.
The New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS) will be expanded to allow access to self-employment training and mentoring for job seekers who are not on income support, including those who are not in employment, education or training with an additional 2,300 places each year.
Additionally, $751.7 million will be allocated to established the Youth Jobs PaTH initiative over four years from 2016-17. The program will target job seekers under-25 years to improve youth employment outcomes and will provide up to 30,000 young people each year with real work experience.
The 2016/17 Federal Budget potentially brings more hours of English tuition for new arrivals to Australia under a new business model for the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) designed to improve client participation, English language proficiency, and employment outcomes.
The new arrangements begin on July 1, 2017, and will see a capped program of up to 490 hours of additional tuition for clients who have not reached functional English after completing their legislative entitlement of 510 hours.
A funding cap applied to the AMEP sub-program, the Special Preparatory Program, allowing all eligible humanitarian entrants to access additional training will be removed and there will be increased flexibility and innovation in service delivery by allowing providers to choose a curriculum that best meets their clients’ needs, as well as providing access to an innovative projects fund.
Also, The Permanent Migration Program for 2016-17 will have up to 190,000 places, including up to 128,550 places for skilled migrants and 57,400 for family migrants.
An additional 565 places will be provided outside of the managed Migration Program under the Special Eligibility stream.
Up to 3,485 child category migrants will also be provided outside of the managed program, continuing the transition of this category to a fully demand-driven model by 2019-20.
The 2016-17 Special Humanitarian Program will have 13,750 places and will increase to 18,750 places by 2018-19.
The budget maintains support for asylum seekers and refugees, with $39.8 million in 2016-17 to fund the provision of asylum seeker assistance to support eligible maritime arrivals while their immigration status is resolved.
Another $12.1 million will be provided in 2016-17 and 2017-18 for the supervision and welfare of unaccompanied minors under the Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors program.
Infrastructure spending will also benefit many people newly arrived to Australia who typically live in outer suburbs. In Melbourne, the budget will deliver $3 billion to build Melbourne’s East West Link and $857.2 million for the Melbourne Metro Rail project.
But low income families, which include many migrant and refugees, have not fared well in the budget.
The government resisted calls to increase the dole by $50 a week and tax cuts have been extended to only those earning more than $80,000.
And the government’s childcare package delayed a year until 2018.
Programs aimed at countering violent extremism have also been included in the budget,
The government has reallocated $5 million in 2016-17 to counter violent extremism, including: $4 million for the Attorney-General’s Department to establish and trial community support and advice services in conjunction with the States and Territories; and $1 million for the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner to develop and distribute online resources promoting digital resilience.
AMES Australia Senior Journalist