Temporary visa holders and international students affected by COVID-19 who are ineligible for Commonwealth assistance programs, will be able to access more support through a $450,000 ACT Government support package.
Minister for Multicultural Affairs and Minister for Tertiary Education, Chris Steel, today announced a partnership between the ACT Government and the ACT Refugee, Asylum Seeker and Humanitarian (RASH) Coordination Committee, the Australian Red Cross and local tertiary institutions.
"Over the past month we have been advocating to the Federal Government for people temporary visas to be covered by JobKeeper and remain connected with work. The Australian Government has refused, and as a result many Canberrans on temporary visas have now lost work and now have literally no income, and no support like other Canberrans have through Job Seeker," Minister Steel said.
"Canberra is a Welcoming City and refugee welcome zone and ACT Government is acting to support some of the most vulnerable people affected by this pandemic with emergency relief.
"We know that there is a group of Canberrans that is unable to go home, unable to work, and unable to benefit from Australian Government Assistance. The new emergency funding will help with the basics so that people on temporary visas can survive through this."
Minister Steel said that this latest package for temporary visa holders adds to the Government's 'Jobs for Canberrans package', which prioritised immediate short-term employment to casual or semi-skilled workers on temporary visas ineligible for the Job Seeker and Job Keeper programs. The Canberra Relief Network is also providing food for temporary visa holders and ACT funding has been announced to help Canberrans facing homelessness, or experiencing domestic and family violence.
Under the new funding package, the RASH Coordination Committee – made up of groups working with asylum seekers including Companion House – will receive $140,000 to provide urgent support to asylum seekers living in Canberra. The Australian Red Cross will also see an extension to their existing emergency support program, receiving $160,000 to assist other temporary visa holders including people on temporary work visas and safe haven enterprise visas.
The Red Cross will also work with tertiary institutions to provide $150,000 in ACT Government support to international students who have been impacted by COVID-19 and fallen onto financial hardship.
Minister Steel said there were thousands of international students in Canberra, and while some of those students were well supported by their families at home, others were experiencing hardship with work drying up in areas like the hospitality industry.
"We are committed to ensuring Canberra remains a study destination of choice by supporting our international students living in Canberra who play such an important part in our cultural and economic life of our city," said Minister Steel.
"The ACT Government will work with tertiary education institutions to develop the application process so international students affected by COVID-19, without other support, can access emergency relief through their institution."
Quotes attributable to Kathy Ragless AM, Executive Director of Companion House:
"The ACT currently has approximately 200 residents who are asylum seekers and 300 residents on temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas."
"This funding will help us ensure these people get the help they need, including emergency accommodation, legal advice and access to health services."
- Statement ends -