SRSS campaign hits the road

Roz Blades and Matthew Kirwan took the SRSS campaign to Albury.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

The Greater Dandenong-led campaign against absolute welfare cuts for asylum seekers in the community has spread interstate.

Crs Roz Blades and Matthew Kirwan were part of a council road-trip that met supportive Victorian and NSW councils at a gathering in Albury on 21 October.

“We want a national approach,” Cr Blades said at a Greater Dandenong meeting the next day.

“We’ve got a Victorian approach, and certainly got a Greater Dandenong approach.

“We want to put pressure on MPs to reverse these cruel and inhumane cuts.”

There was “a lot of synergy” among NSW councils, including Deputy Lord Mayor Linda Scott from City of Sydney, Cr Blades said.

She proposed Greater Dandenong formally invite NSW councils to join the campaign, ahead of a media launch on 3 December.

The launch would feature films of asylum seekers building successful lives in Australia, Cr Blades said.

Greater Dandenong and 17 other Victorian councils have endorsed a joint statement against the unfolding federal Status Resolution Support Services cuts.

Some of the approximately 2000 asylum seekers living in Greater Dandenong have lost their meagre $35-a-day income under the cuts.

Many more are expected to be impacted, and face possible destitution, by early 2019.

The council has also won backing from the Victorian Greens, which unveiled a policy of $13 million in emergency funding to cover the SRSS cuts.

This has not been matched by the State Government and Liberal-Nationals Coalition.

Dandenong Labor MP Gabrielle Williams said State Budgets didn’t have the capacity to plug the “many gaps” left by “nasty (Federal Liberal) cuts”.

“The Federal Liberal Government has made a nasty habit of slashing funding to our most vulnerable – cutting emergency relief, gutting Victoria’s health funding, and now this.

“In saying this, compared to other jurisdictions, Victoria has the largest amount of dedicated funding to assist humanitarian entrants to settle in our state.”

The State Government had funded Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre with $1.8 million over four years to provide legal advice to asylum seekers, including for lodging claims for protection.

Through the Jobs Victoria Employment Network, more than 600 asylum seekers and refugees had been supported into work, she said.

The Government had also funded settlement support for new and emerging communities, Ms Williams said.