On 9 September 2022, the Refugee Council of Australia wrote to the NSW Minister for Seniors and Multiculturalism ask that the NSW Government continue to provide emergency support package over the past two years for people seeking asylum living in NSW.
On 11 November 2022, in response to RCOA and our members’ advocacy, the Minister announced that NSW was extending its emergency support package until 30 June 2023.
9 September 2022
The Hon. Mark Coure, MP
Minister for Seniors and Multiculturalism
GPO Box 5341
Sydney NSW 2001
On behalf of Refugee Council of Australia and our members, I applaud the NSW Government for its emergency support package over the past two years for people seeking asylum living in NSW. Your recognition of the crisis in our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic and your emergency support response has meant that the frontline services helping people in need can provide essentials like food, medicine, rental assistance, and casework support.
The Refugee Council of Australia and our members, including frontline services in NSW, also appreciate the NSW Government’s commitment to continue raising your concerns about the lack of Federal Government support for people seeking asylum. As you know, the cuts to the Federal Government support program (the Status Resolution Support Service, or SRSS Program) began in 2018 under the then Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton. Since then, the SRSS Program has been cut by over 85%. At the same time, the backlog of protection claims has blown out so significantly that it takes an average of two years for people to get a primary decision on their protection application, and over six years at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This combination of lengthy delays and lack of support has left thousands of people in NSW with no safety net.
The important work of the NSW Government’s Emergency Relief and NGO Support Grants since July 2021 has meant that the frontline asylum support services can fill in the gap left by the Commonwealth. The charities supporting people seeking asylum report that they are providing similar amounts of financial assistance and emergency relief support to just as many people as during the height of the pandemic. The difference now is the crises are now more focussed on rental arrears, rent increases, and cost-of-living pressures, including lack of access to food and people unable to afford vital medication.
These charities have been advised that the latest round of emergency relief grants will be the last, with all funding to cease in December 2022, as it is the responsibility of the Federal Government to provide this support to people seeking asylum. Unfortunately, from our early discussions with members of the new government in Canberra, it appears that changes to the federal program will likely take time and the SRSS program will most likely continue to operate for the remainder of 2022-23 within the restricted funding allocated by the Morrison Government in its 2022 Budget. This means that ending the NSW funding availability so soon will reduce support options for people already destitute and at risk of homelessness. It will also mean that the charities will have to start turning people away in the lead up to Christmas, when many support agencies will close for the holidays.
The Refugee Council of Australia asks that the NSW Government continue its assistance for people seeking asylum through the Government’s Emergency Relief and NGO Support Grants until at least the end of this financial year in order to support the struggling families and help the frontline organisations not have to turn away those struggling to survive.
The NSW Government has shown commendable leadership over the past two years by ensuring some of the people made most vulnerable during the pandemic were supported. This group was excluded from the Federal COVID support packages and has been at significant risk as a result. The COVID-19 pandemic was a crisis that exacerbated the vulnerabilities of people who were already in crisis. While COVID-19 may be less of an issue for the broader public, little has changed with regard to people’s visa statuses and their lack of eligibility for services or a financial safety net. We implore you to consider extending the assistance for people seeking asylum and ensure that some of the most vulnerable people in NSW can survive and live with dignity. I am available to meet to discuss this further.
Chief Executive Officer
Refugee Council of Australia