Greater Dandenong Council Advocacy and Practical Response to the changes to the Federal Status Resolution Services (SRSS) Program
The City of Greater Dandenong has taken a lead role in advocating against recent federal government changes to the eligibility criteria for the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for people seeking asylum.
In Greater Dandenong, we have almost 2,000 people seeking asylum in the community awaiting a decision. The majority will be affected by these changes to the SRSS program and these people will continue to face significant challenges in finding employment. Loss of income and case management support will be accentuated by the uncertainty of their status in Australia, language and cultural barriers, and the effects of torture and trauma.
The SRSS program currently provides financial support (89% of Newstart) and access to trauma and other support services.
What Council is doing
Council is extremely concerned about this situation and has proactively undertaken the following advocacy activities:
- Begun our advocacy by passing a resolution at the Council meeting on 23 April 2018 against the Federal Government changes to the eligibility criteria for the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) for people seeking asylum.
- Mayoral letters to the Prime Minister and Federal Minister of Home Affairs highlighting the social impacts of the change and asking for a reversal of the decision.
- Mayoral letters to local State and Federal lower house members of Parliament and Victorian Senators and State Upper House MP’s informing them of Council’s position.
- Correspondence with agencies and community groups assisting people seeking asylum in Greater Dandenong, the Refugee Council of Australia and the Australian Council of Social Service to inform them of Council’s position and its support for the alliance of community organisations.
- A media release issued outlining Greater Dandenong’s position.
- A Council delegation of eight councillors to advocate with selected Federal ministers and ministerial secretaries during the National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra.
- Council resolved on 23 July 2018, in response to the changes to SRSS, to fund a practical response to Material Aid Collaboration. This includes $138,333 to prototype a Material Aid Collective Impact Grant Program to facilitate improved coordination of material aid across a consortium of material aid agencies serving residents of Greater Dandenong; $100,000 for a 12 month contract Material Aid Facilitation Officer; and payment of a $60,000 grant to Friends of Refugees linked to the Material Aid Collective Impact Grant Program.
- Council invited mayors from every Victorian municipality to a Mayoral Roundtable at Dandenong on 31 July 2018. The aim was for Councils to consider a joint advocacy statement to the Federal Government and to jointly formulate options for further combined advocacy. This also included discussion of regional material aid coordination responses.
- The Mayoral Roundtable also led to a Local Government Mayoral Taskforce to support People Seeking Asylum, the secretariat of which is Greater Dandenong. The Executive comprising of Brimbank, Darebin, Greater Dandenong, Moreland and Yarra had its first meeting on Monday 20 August.
- Support of the Greater Dandenong Community Summit on 10 August 2018 to inform and brainstorm ideas with strategic leaders of organisations to reduce the impact of the SRSS changes.
- Mayoral letters sent to community organisations, Interfaith Network and faith groups explaining the current situation and providing an advocacy letter template and supporting case studies.
Further planned advocacy
- Continue to send Mayoral letters, information and case studies to State and Federal MP’s and to the Ministerial Advisor of the Federal Minister for Home Affairs as the impacts become more evident.
- Continue to work with local community agencies and groups on encouraging them to advocate jointly with Greater Dandenong Council.
- Continue to work with and support the regional People Seeking Asylum at Risk Taskforce comprised of Councils, agencies and other stakeholders responding to this issue in the southeast of Melbourne.
- Work with Victorian Councils belonging to the newly formed Local Government Mayoral Taskforce for People Seeking Asylum to jointly advocate as well as share ideas and resources around practical responses where appropriate.
- Present the Joint Statement from the Mayoral Roundtable to the Federal Government when formally endorsed by individual Councils.
- Work in partnership with the Refugee Council of Australia and Asylum Seeker Resource Centre on this issue.