Rally for refugees and rights to education

Mandy Wells Multicultural Officer and Kate Wealleans Anna Stewart Program

Federation is calling on members to join a rally in Sydney on Sunday 6 November to demand the new Federal Government honour its promise to fix the refugee crisis that leaves thousands of families in limbo and prevents their children from further education.

The union’s Senior Officers have endorsed the rally and campaign demanding laws allowing permanent visas for thousands of refugees, promised by Labor at the election more than five months ago.

The rally, at Sydney Town Hall at 2pm, will demand the newly elected Albanese Government bring in promised changes to legislation for the more than 19,000 refugees on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEVs).

As the law enacted by the previous Coalition Government stands now, many children of refugees find themselves excluded from university study due to the unreasonable expectation of having to pay full international student fees up front. The continued denial of permanent visa status precludes most refugee students access to post-school education, regardless of their academic achievement and ATAR results.

At present, students on TPVs can attend school until age 17, but the majority will be excluded from further study due to the unfair financial barriers placed upon them due to their visa status.

Many of these students are also unable to access the HECS Help/deferral scheme, which means the current temporary visa arrangements are prohibiting refugee students from accessing post-school education, as they can’t possibly afford to pay TAFE or university fees in advance.

Recent federal Budget announcements provided an increase in provisions to Ukrainian refugees, including access rights to Medicare and education for another 12 months. Although this was a very welcome development, no further changes or improvements to the status of other TPV and SHEV holders was declared.

Federation has a proud history of advocacy for refugee rights. Australia is obligated by the United Nations Convention to protect those seeking asylum and despite continued national and international condemnation, the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and limitations on support afforded refugees on temporary protection visas continues.

The union holds significant policy affirming that the mandatory detention of refugees is not only an unfair, but also a cruel and unjust way to treat to those who legally seek our protection.

Temporary protection visas have proven to be a barrier to genuine settlement for families, further exacerbating their trauma. For those children attending school on temporary protection visa arrangements, they also prove to be a barrier to further education.

The failure of the Federal Government to reform these historically cruel and unjust visa policies after more than five months in office is of concern. So too is the increasing incidence of mental health issues documented in refugee and asylum seeker communities.

Temporary protection visa status not only excludes children from further study, but it also enforces the separation of families. Conflict continues to tear families apart, but our government can change the legislation that denies them reunion.

Thousands of refugees are being left behind, here in Australia and in offshore detention, with no promise of permanent visas in the foreseeable future.

Postschool and tertiary education should be available to all who meet entry standards and not denied to those living on temporary protection visas.

Australia should do better in its responsibility for, and care of, those seeking haven in this country. The denial of the rights of all children to access quality education while in Australia’s care is a denial of human rights.

It's time for change. It’s time for a more humane policy.

Federation is proud to endorse and support the campaign for justice for refugees.

You too can show your support by attending the rally at Sydney Town Hall, 2pm this Sunday, 6 November. Click here for more information on the event.

End the delaysrefugees need permanent visas now!