Adult Migrant English Program National Forum
12 November 2009
I would like to begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we are gathered today, the Dharrug people, as well as the continuing challenges faced by Australia’s Indigenous people and our national responsibility to rectify their deprivation.
I am delighted to have this opportunity today to attend and open this Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) National Forum.
I would also like to recognise the work done by the Research Centre, in collaboration with AMEP service providers.
Your publications have provided extensive support and resources for the AMEP over the years.
The delivery of English language training is a matter of great interest to me.
Historically the Australian Government has seen the provision of English language training for adult migrants as a key to their social and economic integration.
The AMEP has been going for some 60 years and is provided at more than 250 locations across Australia.
While maintaining one’s cultural heritage and language is always encouraged, the government considers English in the Australian context as one of the most important steps towards successful settlement in Australia.
Participation in the AMEP helps participants learn to appreciate the diversity of Australia’s population.
For some it is the first experience of interacting with different cultures. It is an experience that often brings practical understanding that ethnically diverse people can learn together, forge cross-cultural relationships and coexist harmoniously.
The AMEP plays a crucial role in the delivery of settlement assistance to help migrants and humanitarian entrants who generally access the program within the first few months of their arrival in Australia.
It provides settlement skills, information, links and networks while teaching English.
Every new migrant or refugee wants to get off to a quick start on the path towards full inclusion in Australian society – for the benefit of themselves, for their families, and for the nation as a whole.
They focus on building self-reliance, developing English language skills and finding employment.
In my local community, and across Australia, there are numerous community organisation doing wonderful work to provide settlement assistance.
They provide services that not only encourage community harmony and social cohesion, but also support clients on their pathway to independence.
In my recent announcement of the Strategic Settlement Framework I spoke of how we are considering wholesale improvements in the way in which we address our clients’ immediate and longer-term settlement needs.
We will be looking at building a flexible client centred approach and developing and cultivating a path to education and employment.
The review of the AMEP last year prompted the development of a new AMEP business model.
In the new model there will be an increased settlement focus and improved pathways for clients to education, training, further ESL and employment.
Consistent with my recent speech on a settlement strategy in Brisbane the Government intends the AMEP to also move in placing greater emphasis on case management.
This will ensure clients are provided with the guidance and support they need to select the best learning options for them.
We want clients to be fully informed of their rights and responsibilities as participants.
As announced by the Government in the Budget earlier this year, the new AMEP will be extended to 15 to 17 year olds who drop out of school during their first year after arriving in Australia.
The Minister and I are focused on ensuring that the needs of young migrants and refugees are properly met.
While the school system is naturally the preferable place for people in this age group, many young migrants arrive at a late stage in their schooling and sometimes with little previous history of education.
It is difficult to imagine how hard it is to fit into such a structured system – having missed so many years of learning.
The AMEP will offer a safety net for those unable to cope with the school environment – it will also provide a pathway to further learning.
English language proficiency is crucial for these young people if they are going to find their place in the employment market and in Australian society.
In the new AMEP, the performance and accountability framework will be enhanced to ensure that there are more measurable client settlement and language outcomes. This is important to demonstrating the broad value of the AMEP within the settlement process.
While the AMEP has always played an important ‘settlement’ function, this has in the past been implicit, rather than explicit.
The program needs to be able to demonstrate how clients are making real gains, not just in terms of language proficiency, but in terms of their understanding of Australian culture, services, and the rule of law.
The new business model provides us with an opportunity to make the program as efficient and forward thinking as possible while at the same time improving services to clients.
Some of the challenges refugees and humanitarian entrants face on this path as they settle into Australia result from a lack of literacy in their main language and low levels of English proficiency.
This requires us to develop more innovative communication and service delivery models.
One example is the recent Employment Pathways Program and Traineeships in English and Work Readiness Program pilots which you as AMEP service providers have implemented at the Government’s request.
These programs are helping people with low levels of literacy to learn English while becoming familiar with Australian workplace culture and practices.
Such partnerships between English language and employment service providers and employers help humanitarian entrants and migrants to attain their goal of successful settlement.
To inform or improve our service delivery models the government relies on research done by experts in the industry.
Research that follows individual client real life experiences is invaluable in being able to improve our client centred approach to settlement services.
The longitudinal project – Language Training and Settlement Success: are they related? – will provide insight into the experiences of those who have come to Australia to start a new life and settle into their new community.
This project will offer all parties more relevant information that will assist in shaping the types and structure of English language training that is most beneficial to those settling in Australia.
I recognise as service providers you face considerable challenges in delivering the AMEP to an ever changing cohort of clients with varying needs and expectations.
I hope this forum today gives you all the opportunity to discuss these challenges and the benefits the project will provide for you in your work.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Research Centre for inviting me to speak today.
I would also like to acknowledge the good work that they have done for the AMEP in undertaking research and the development of resources for the program over the past years.
See: Index of Speeches
URL: http://www.minister.immi.gov.au /parlsec/media/speeches/2009/lf091112.htmLast update: 05 March 2012 at 16:27 AEST