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Church gets behind right-to-work campaign

Info graphic: Holly Jewell

Uniting Church justice and research staff have added their voices to the call for work rights for asylum seekers living in the community. Mardi Lumsden reports.

Uniting Church staff have joined organisations across Australia in support of the Right to Work campaign launched by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre in March. The campaign seeks to address the lack of work rights for asylum seekers, including those who arrived by boat post- 13 August 2012 and are subject to the no-advantage rule, and those who arrived prior who have not been granted work rights.

National Director of UnitingJustice, Rev Elenie Poulos, says the right to work is a fundamental human right for all – especially the most vulnerable.

"The Uniting Church is committed to a society where everyone is supported to contribute to their own wellbeing and to their community, through meaningful employment," she says.

"The withholding of work rights for asylum seekers living in the community is just another form of punishment imposed on those who arrived after the no-advantage principle was introduced."

Queensland Synod Moderator, Rev Kaye Ronalds, agrees.

"Work provides opportunities to learn language, build relationships, absorb culture, increase self-esteem and a chance to develop some normal frameworks for living after years of trauma and dislocation," she says.

"These people want to contribute to the country that has given them a new beginning; why would we want to thwart that?" Alison Gerard, Lecturer in Justice Studies at Charles Sturt University, says international evidence shows that moving asylum seekers out of detention and into the community without adequate access to rights and entitlements fosters destitution and causes deteriorated mental and physical health.

The policy also has the potential to create a supply of illegal labourers, exposing asylum seekers to exploitation and harm in workplaces, she says.

"It outsources basic government services to already overstretched and under-resourced charities, creating a tiered system of welfare."

Over 90 per cent of boat arrivals between 2011 and 2012 have been found to be refugees and granted permanent protection visas.

For more information visit: righttowork.com.au

Photo : Info graphic: Holly Jewell