A voice for refugees at Jobs and Skills Summit? 

The Summit brought together unions, employers, civil society and governments but where was the voice for refugees so they are part of the solution? 

Apprenticeships including adult apprenticeships and traineeships can address the very real skills shortage we are experiencing nationally.  

We need a focus on English as a second language to encourage communication and inclusivity.

Keeping unemployment low, and boosting productivity and incomes should include a long-term view of how we address a perceived “problem” so refugees are brought into the community and offered focused education that leads to long term employment. This may require specialist educators so stable employment is achieved through sound understanding, education and communication from all Australians.  

Understanding the individual refugee’s background, skills and knowledge may inform and underpin the solution to much-needed human resources in the primary industries. However, it may not be limited to primary industries and must be capable of delivering secure, well-paid jobs and strong, sustainable wages growth throughout Australia.

It must be evidence-based and use the most up to date research from academics and those currently working in the field.  We must expand employment opportunities for all Australians, including our recently arrived refugees who are some of the most disadvantaged. 

Training, engaging and employing refugees offer the potential to address skills shortages and get the skills mix right over the long term. A national solution that focuses on mutual obligation has the potential to work for both old and new Australians.

The discourse regarding migration and refugee settings to support higher productivity and wages can only occur through a solution-focused lens. Maximising refugee jobs and opportunities in renewable energy, climate change-focused industries, the digital economy, the care economy and the ALP’s A Future Made in Australia initiative can all underpin far greater value to our shared future.

It is essential migrant and refugee women have the same opportunities as all others in society, particularly equal pay, access to education and protection from exploitation. According to the ABS, in November 2019 1.9 million people were recent refugees or migrants and:

  • 90% of employed male recent migrants were employed full-time compared with 63% of females
  • 52% of employed male temporary residents were employed full-time compared with 40% of females

We are a mature, fair and just nation with the Australian Democrats leading the discourse for the last 45 years as the voice of reason. We will come back to the table, with a renewed vigour, for the long-term benefit of all Australians.

Chris Simpson is Democrats spokesperson for Migration and Refugees

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