By CASEY NEILL
Examining youth and asylum seeker unemployment in the same report won’t help either group find work, a refugee advocate fears.
At the Monday 11 July council meeting, councillor Matthew Kirwan moved a motion about how Dandenong council could address asylum seeker unemployment.
But Cr Jim Memeti successfully requested youth unemployment also be included in a report which is due back to the council in November.
“We need to broaden this more,” he said.
“We have double-digit unemployment in this municipality and youth unemployment is at 26 per cent.”
Friends of Refugees spokeswoman Sri Samy said Greater Dandenong’s youth unemployment – and general unemployment – needed to be addressed.
“But it’s an issue so huge that I think it should be addressed separately,” she said.
She said most asylum seekers received very little funded support.
“They’re pretty much on their own trying to navigate and find their first job,” she said.
Organisations are lending a hand.
“The problem is the businesses don’t want all the organisations contacting them for the same job,” Ms Samy said.
“They’re looking for one point of contact. It’s a more organised way of dealing with employment pathways.
“The notice of motion is trying to explore what’s available and then to try and make an informed decision on how to deal with the issue.”
Last week the Journal reported that Cr Peter Brown thought the motion was “inequitable” and would put “down-and-out Aussies” to the back of the employment queue and said many asylum seekers were economic refugees.
Ms Samy said his comments were “an outrageous misrepresentation”.
“I was quite surprised to see that he was talking about equal opportunities and disadvantaging other people,” she said.
“Asylum seekers living in the community are in no way equal to the services other people receive.”
Cr Kirwan said it wasn’t the council’s job to find jobs for the 2600 asylum seekers living in the municipality, but it could play a role in linking asylum seekers with agencies and employers.
“This was about creating a level playing field for asylum seekers and the general community – creating equal opportunity, not giving them an unfair advantage,” he said.
“Asylum seekers get much less support from the community at present compared to other migrants.”
Cr Kirwan also dismissed Cr Brown’s claims that asylum seekers were economic refugees as “nonsense and insulting”.
“The largest group of asylum seekers in Greater Dandenong in the last 20 years has been the Hazaras,” he said.
“In the last 20 years tens of thousands of Hazara have been massacred in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
At the council meeting, Cr Brown said: “All disadvantaged groups should have equal opportunity” and referred to the Brexit result in the UK and the resurgence of One Nation at this month’s Australian federal election.
“People do see inequities and some people aren’t’ afraid to stand up and say ‘this isn’t’ fair’,” he said.
He said the original motion was too exclusive and supported Cr Memeti’s amendment “on the basis of equal opportunity”.
Cr Sean O’Reilly said broadening the motion diluted its impact.
“They do not have exactly the same equal opportunities compared with native-born Australians,” he said.
“If you try and study everything you end up with nothing. You need to draw the line somewhere.
“Asylum seekers have particular needs this council wants to fully understand.”