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In the 2013-14 State Budget cuts, WA government announced that 457 visa holders will have to pay $4000 per child as from July 2014 to have an education in our public system. This will impact negatively on our Turkish community as we have a significant number of 457 visa holders who are here to fulfil Western Australia’s employment shortages. 457 visa holders pay more tax than Australian citizens do and are not entitled to our healthcare and welfare services. Nihal Iscel, President of the Turkish Australian Culture House (TACH), said: “This will break families. That is, children will be sent back to countries of origin while parents stay here and work. This may cause psychological problems; child’s detachment from the parents; etc. Australia is signatory to the UN’s Conventions on the Rights of a Child, rights of Migrant Workers, rights of Women and this policy will be a gross violation of those conventions.” The WA government also announced that the Substantive Equality Unit of the Equal Opportunity Commission in WA will not be funded. Ms Iscel said “This is a backward step for WA which puts ethnic communities, people with disability, gays and lesbians, Aboriginal people and people in other minority groups at a further disadvantage.” Western Australia is a culturally and linguistically diverse state. We speak more than 170 languages and come from more than 200 countries. The Aboriginal peoples of this State add a greater richness to our society with their various cultures and languages.

The substantive equality framework recognises and embraces these differences. It recognises that treating people equally does not mean that people are treated fairly. Ms Iscel said: “In fact, people in disadvantaged groups require support in order to be equal. For example, at the Department of Housing or at a public hospital, when a form is handed out to both an English speaker and a person with little or no English language skills, essentially both people are treated equally. However, the person with little or no English language skills is disadvantaged by this equality because that form is not available in the person's language or there is no interpreter at hand to translate the information.” She continued “The same form could be given to both a sighted and a blind person. The sighted person can read and complete the form immediately. However, if no one is available to assist the blind person to complete the form, or if the form is not available in an accessible format so that she may read and complete it herself, her paperwork cannot be completed immediately.” The delay in obtaining services can make people frustrated and prevent them from participating in other aspects of life such as employment and education. The basic principles of the Substantive Equality Policy Framework protect the rights of disadvantaged groups by encouraging service providers to deliver their services in a culturally appropriate and inclusive manner. The Barnett Government’s planned abolition of the Substantive Equality Unit can lead to these vulnerable groups being neglected and forgotten. This must not be permitted. For media enquiries Ms ISCEL can be contacted on 0417 099 382.

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