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Estimates: Asking about support for the Afghan community

During Parliamentary Budget Estimates on Thursday 4 August 2022, I asked about support for the Afghan community. 

You can read the answers below or in the official Queensland Parliament Record of Proceedings (Hansard).

Mr BERKMAN: Minister, the fall of Kabul in August last year obviously had devastating consequences for the Afghan community, including those people already based in Queensland. I am curious to know what specific advocacy or services or other resources the department has expended or extended to support Queensland’s Afghan community?

Ms LINARD: My director-general is going to give me a brief. I thank you for the question. I want to acknowledge the incredible resilience of the community that we have here, which is supporting others who are coming over as part of the humanitarian efforts in this regard. Working with that community and hearing their stories, it continues to be heartbreaking as they are trying to make sure that extended family are safe and brought over here. We have been working very closely with them.

Of course, after 20 years of conflict in Afghanistan it was very distressing to see that situation unfold. I held a meeting with the Afghanistan leaders and heard their concerns about accessing support for loved ones and certainly the evacuation to Australia for those who are in danger, and I continue to hear stories of their extreme distress. On September 6 last year, I participated in a ministerial forum on multicultural affairs with federal, state and territory multicultural affairs ministers to receive a briefing from the then immigration minister on the Australian government-led settlement response to evacuees and entrants. This included discussion about further collaboration between the different levels of government to support evacuees. Meetings between officers from my department, the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Queensland Health, the Queensland Police Service, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services and other key agencies from the federal government are continuing as required, as are meetings with community members. My department has convened meetings with key government agencies and Multicultural Australia, which is contracted by the Department of Home Affairs to look after the needs of evacuees to help address any issues impacting evacuees who are settling in Queensland.

An issue of particular concern and urgency, as I am sure the member would know, is the high level of legal assistance required by evacuees from Afghanistan and local community members. In October the Attorney-General pledged $400,000 from our government to assist Queensland’s Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, RAILS, to support its Afghanistan immigration legal clinic. This will help RAILS continue its vital work and support the community.

In addition, the Attorney-General and I wrote a letter jointly to the then Commonwealth attorney-general and immigration minister requesting that they immediately provide additional funding to states and territories for their legal assistance sectors to respond. I am pleased that they listened and, late last year, the Commonwealth government announced $27.1 million for an Afghanistan settlement support package, which included funding to support specialist legal service providers, including RAILS.

In addition, the Commonwealth government—of course, appreciating that this largely falls under the Commonwealth government—has increased its commitment to settling refugees from Afghanistan so that, in total, around 31½ thousand people will be allowed to resettle in Australia over the next four years. We will continue to work with the now Albanese government to ensure that we can do all we can to support the evacuation and settlement of those people as members of our local community.

I want to call out and thank Mr Aaron Sadat, President of the Queensland Afghan Community Association. Member, you may know Aaron. He has been working nonstop to bring these sorts of concerns to our attention. Aaron and I have spoken personally. I have also spoken to Andrew Giles, the new federal minister, about this issue and the ongoing need to have one-on-one conversations. He was incredibly receptive. He is going to speak directly to Aaron, to understand the issues happening here in Queensland. I will be continuing to talk to him about the supports that they need here on the ground and my department is staying in close contact with them as well. Wayne, is there anything that I have missed in regard to the latest update?

Mr Briscoe: No, not really, Minister. I think you have covered it apart from the fact that we have a very strong Afghani community in Queensland and they are providing tremendous support to the new arrivals. From what we are hearing, settlement is going pretty well for the new arrivals.

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