Malcolm Fraser’s compassionate approach to the settlement of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia is reflected in the enduring popularity of things like Cultural Diversity Week with a cultural dress day.
LAST week throughout Victoria we celebrated Cultural Diversity Week. We also saw the death of Malcolm Fraser, a strong and compassionate voice for a humanitarian approach to the settlement of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia.
His interview on our local Pulse FM a few weeks ago was consistent with his message over many years, taking to task current and previous governments on their asylum seeker policies.
This consistency and unwavering commitment to diversity and multiculturalism won Mr Fraser respect from across the political divide and throughout the nation.
The Geelong Ethnic Communities Council was established under the Fraser Government and, like many similar groups, we have a deep appreciation for the work and vision he inspired. He made real changes, such as the establishment of SBS, which has proven to be such a pivotal voice for a diverse Australia.
In recognition of his legacy, I think it’s opportune to review the positive economic impact that our humanitarian programs provide.
Last week I was discussing this with a colleague who directed me to an important piece of research done in 2011 by Graeme Hugo and a team of researchers at the University of Adelaide. The research, The Economic, social and civic contributions of first and second-generation humanitarian entrants, found the following:
The Humanitarian Program yields a demographic dividend because of a low rate of settler loss, relatively high fertility rate and a high proportion of children who are likely to work the majority of their lives in Australia.
It finds evidence of increasing settlement in non-metropolitan areas, which creates social and economic benefits for local communities.
Humanitarian entrants help meet labour shortages, including in low-skill and low-paid occupations. They display strong entrepreneurial qualities compared with other migrant groups, with a higher-than-average proportion engaging in small and medium business enterprises.
In addition, they make significant contributions through volunteering in both the wider community and within their own community groups.
In Geelong, we have thousands of residents and their descendants who left Europe after World War II and have made huge contributions to our community. Today this continues with the more recently arrived.
Just in the past month I know of two separate cases where Diversitat humanitarian clients have bought their first homes in the northern suburbs. These individuals arrived as asylum seekers, are now permanent residents — one has citizenship — and have worked solidly since arriving.
All the research and history would tell us that their children will do as well as, if not outperform, their locally born contemporaries in school and further career advancement.
According to the Mildura Development Corporation in a study released in October last year, the impact of 500 new residents to the city in total output — including all direct, industrial and consumption effects — is estimated to increase by up to $19.3 million. The increases in direct and indirect output would typically correspond to the creation of an additional 84 jobs in the economy.
Corresponding to this change in employment would be an increase in wages and salaries paid to employees. A proportion of these are typically spent on consumption and a proportion of this expenditure is captured in the local economy.
If we apply these figures to Geelong, we see the major economic impact of the humanitarian program alone in Geelong, which at times can number up to 500 a year. You can multiply this over many years and see the reality of hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits to our region over time.
We carry the Malcolm Fraser legacy with us in terms of his unwavering commitment to humanitarian arrivals. It has proven not only to be the right thing to do for our hearts, but also for our community in terms of jobs and growth.
Michael Martinez is the chief executive officer of Diversitat.