Parliamentary speeches

Community refugee sponsorship

March 22, 2021

A world of closed borders means different things to different people. For some, it's meant safety, but, for the most vulnerable, it has meant being unable to get to safety. Amnesty International's Communities Behind Refugee Sponsorship report contains some very important reflections on this challenge for all of us. It's a report that warrants very serious consideration by this government. It's a report that harnesses the goodwill of Australians to welcome refugees into their communities and volunteer their time and skills to support them. I acknowledge the work over a period of years by Amnesty International through its near neighbour campaign, led by my dear friend Shankar Kasynathan, in leading these conversations. I want to reflect on some of the words that are contained in this report and share them with this place, like Ali Al Battaat's words when he says, 'We're creating a more diverse country and we're adding to our community because refugees have and continue to contribute to Australia and its society.' Philip Armit from Townsville said, 'Community sponsorship is a community based solution' — in Canada that's been proven to be true, 327,000 refugees welcomed; a country strengthened. This report highlights significant deficiencies in the current government's program: its prohibitive cost and the cruel arithmetic that it takes places from a government sponsored program. I urge government members, as we think about how the world reopens, to consider this report and everything we can do to make it different for the most vulnerable.