Gang crime, South Sudanese community, Multiculturalism; settlement services.

Interview with Chris Kenny, 2GB

10 January 2018

SUBJECTS: Gang crime, South Sudanese community, Multiculturalism; settlement services.

E&OE

 

CHRIS KENNY: 

We’ve been talking a lot over the past couple of weeks about problems in Melbourne, with African youth crime gangs.  There’s been all sorts of denial from law enforcement officials and politicians in Victoria.  The Federal Government’s bought into it in a big way.  We’ve spoken over the past couple of days about integration, of new migrant communities not integrating properly into the Australian broader community – what we can do about that.  I thought a really interesting person to speak to about that would be Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who’s now the International Development Minister for the Turnbull Federal Government.  But in the past she’s been an Assistant Minister on Multicultural Affairs.  She joins me on the line now.  Thanks for joining us Connie.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: 

Hey Chris.  How are you?  Happy new year to you.

CHRIS KENNY: 

Happy new year to you too.  Do we have a problem with integration with the Sudanese communities in Melbourne?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: 

Look, the situation in Victoria today is a law and order issue but I think if we do step back and we do ask ourselves how and why we got to this particular point.  There are about 40,000 people of South Sudanese heritage in Australia and most of those people have come under our humanitarian program and I think we just need, wanted to share a few statistics if I could, just to put this problem into perspective.  We’ve had studies done on waves of migration to Australia.  Between 2010 and 2015 we had about 880,000 people come to Australia and about 70,000 of those were under the humanitarian stream.  Now, if you look at these 70,000 and I use this 70,000 by way of statistics and to put the matter into perspective, half of them were under 24 years of age, 86% of them were living in metropolitan areas, in most cases their English was very poor or non-existent, skill levels and education levels were very, very, low and basically their government payments was their mainstay of income.  And indeed the Budget costings when we do look at settlement services is based on the assumption that only 9% of humanitarian entrants will have a job after four years in Australia.  So, if we do look at our migration program we take about 180,000 or so migrants a year and in 2018-19 we’ll be taking about 18,000 people under the humanitarian stream.  Now, Chris, humanitarian entrants do come into Australia as permanent residents, they come in with full work rights and they also come in with full entitlements to welfare and other services.

CHRIS KENNY: 

Not enough of them are moving into jobs are they?  I’ve seen statistics that show that you’ve got a youth unemployment issue with the South Sudanese community of about 30%?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: 

Well, they come here very much with the intention, as my parents did years ago, to get a job, get on but if you don’t get a job, it becomes very disheartening and the research has shown that if you don’t get a job within six to nine months, then the likelihood of slipping into welfare dependency is a lot higher.  And so therefore we have seen children, particularly in these communities, growing up in households of welfare dependencies.  But, as I said at the beginning … (interrupted)

CHRIS KENNY: 

That’s a shocking thing to create in our society isn’t it?  We’ve got to do better than that.  What’s the point in bringing people in as migrants, be it the humanitarian intake or any other, propping them into you know, government supported accommodation, giving them welfare and then they’re stuck in that welfare trap.  They need to integrate, they need to either be educating themselves or getting into the workforce – surely?

 

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Absolutely, Chris, I agree with you.  I think that certainly in my many, many, years of experience I think that there are four important components here which I’d just like to share with you and your listeners.  Yes, it is a law and order issue but the underlying problem requires a solution that I think does need to take into account some key factors.  The first, of this is what I call the three “E’s” – English, education, and employment – vitality important to the successful migration, vitality important to a successful settlement journey.

CHIS KENNY:

Absolutely. 

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

I think we also have to look at potentially breaking down the clustering in the cities.  I also think that business has a role to play in this particularly in light of the jobs issue.  But above all Chris, the most effective thing and the most important thing is effective community engagement and most importantly, the community needs to own the problem.

CHIS KENNY:

Well let me just play you an excerpt from an interview this morning by Steve Price here on 2GB.  Steve Price filling in on the breakfast program for Allan Jones interviewed Dr Berhan Ahmed who’s with the African-Australian Multicultural Employment and Youth Services.  Here’s a little bit of what he had to say:

Most of these people haven’t got themselves the experience that needs to deal with this issue and everyone is popping up.  The question [Inaudible] and yes there is a problem and yes we condemn violence yes we condemn- any crime is crime.  But the only problem, first and important for us, is we need to deal with the criminals not with the whole continent of Africa.  When you bring humanitarian entrants into this country there is responsibility.  The responsibility is not about just dropping people at the airport and expecting them to shift into the society.

CHRIS KENNY:

Connie Fierravanti-Wells, that was Dr Berhan Ahmed.  Now the first part of what he had to say I’ll recap in case people had trouble with the accent.  He’s condemning the violence and saying they’ve just got to deal with the criminals.  We’d all agree with that.  And he’s saying the whole community shouldn’t be stigmatised with the sins of those criminals and we’d agree with that as well.  But the second part he said was that the responsibility of government shouldn’t just end when people land at the airport, they shouldn’t just be dropped at the airport and expected to fit into society as if that there isn’t sufficient services.  Now that surely is wrong, Connie Fierravanti-Wells isn’t it?  As a former Minister in this area you would know that the government provides a lot by way of resettlement services for immigrants especially under the humanitarian program.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

They do, absolutely, Chris.  Indeed, we spend over six hundred million a year on multicultural affairs and resettlement services including for your humanitarian entrants so …

CHRIS KENNY:

So, it’s no good just blaming the government; the community as you say needs to own it and work with government and with business and with other parts of the community to get the people, their people, into those three “E’s”.  I love your three “E’s” – English, education and employment – if you have those three things covered, you won’t have problems.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

And indeed, they are an integral part of certainly the experience that I have seen through many, many years.  It’s important that the three E’s be an integral part of that settlement journey.  If you can speak English it gives you the ability to improve your skill sets and your prospects of getting a job are much more improved and especially with young people.  Of course a lot of the children that do come out from countries, places like South Sudan where there are war torn places, often they do come into an education system, a state education system, where they’re just put in Year 8 because they’re eight years old, potentially rather than looking at his or her level of education.  Now it is a complex issue Chris, but as the community leaders have said to me repeatedly: if those young people had a job, they wouldn’t be roaming the streets and they wouldn’t have the inclination to join a gang.

CHRIS KENNY:

I agree with you but we don’t want to use that as an excuse either, Connie. 

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Absolutely not.

CHRIS KENNY:

We can’t just say that it’s someone else’s fault they haven’t got a job therefore let’s go light on them in courts.  You can’t go around breaking into people’s houses terrorising people.  There is a crime problem and the law needs to be enforced.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Absolutely, and when you do have communities at risk, it’s important that we do equip those young people, we equip those communities to recognise that there’s a problem and in turn, access the necessary help to break that cycle of bad behaviour.

CHRIS KENNY:

Absolutely, the best thing we could have is some South Sudanese police officers for instance, get some people educated, employed in the Police Service and try and link in very work closely with those communities.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Chris, one thing that having worked over the years with Father Chris Riley Youth off the Streets, I’ve seen this first hand and it’s vitally important, that there is effective community engagement.  You have to know what’s going on in the communities and those communities have to own the problem.  They have to recognise that they’ve got a problem but they’ve also got to reach out and be able to be in a position where they are equipped to deal with the problems at the root and access the necessary services that they do need which we do make available.  Another thing of course is when we do look at predominantly the numbers are about 86% – I talked to you some statistics before – were living in metropolitan areas.  Because of course the focus is when they do come to Australia on their existing links and settling close to where their links are.  Now, yes of course it’s important when you do come to a new country to settle where your friends or people from potentially your village have come from.

CHRIS KENNY:

Sure, but better to go where the jobs are?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Well, predominately, we’re seeing this in Sydney and Melbourne.  I think that we should be looking more at potentially better regional settlement so that we have a situation where we can not only move people out of the cities but help address work force shortage in agriculture.

CHRIS KENNY:

Indeed, well thanks very much for your call Connie, I appreciate your time. 

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:   

Thanks very much Chris.

CHRIS KENNY:

That’s Concetta Fierravanti-Wells.  She’s now the Minister for International Development looking after our aid program but she has worked as an Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs.  She’s been involved in multicultural affairs in all sorts of areas pre and post politics during her political career and before that.  I love her three E’s – English, education and employment.  If you pay attention to those three things with immigrants they will integrate and have a success life in this country.  And, why stop at immigrants.  All of us in this country if we can have good English have a reasonable education and be employed, we’re all going to be much more productive members of this society.

[ENDS]