Federal Budget delivers some comfort for families fleeing Gaza crisis

Settlement Services International (SSI)

New funding announced in this week’s Federal Budget will offer much needed support to families fleeing the conflict in Gaza, many of whom are currently at risk of homelessness and poverty, according to non-profit organisation, Settlement Services International (SSI), which provides human services to around 50,000 people a year.

SSI welcomed the Federal Budget announcement of a $900k injection to extend Medicare eligibility to 30 June 2025 for Bridging Visa E holders arriving from affected areas of Israel and Palestine.

SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said this would be welcome news for families who had escaped the crisis in Gaza only to arrive in Australia and find themselves largely reliant on charities like SSI, which is currently supporting close to 70 families.

“The situation in Gaza has worsened and worsened. With no hope of return, families are now navigating the process of applying for asylum in Australia, but in the meantime, their visa types mean they are mostly unable to work and ineligible for government support.

“At a time of rising costs of living, this has translated to families sleeping in cars, or living with 14 people in two-bedroom apartments,” she said.

“We welcome the extension of Medicare eligibility for this cohort, along with previously announced emergency relief funding for these families. More needs to be done so that refugees from Gaza receive the same support as people fleeing conflict in places like Ukraine.”

Ms Roumeliotis said it was encouraging to see broader measures to support people who are building new lives in Australia, such as a $120.9 million investment to strengthen the settlement sector and enhance outcomes for refugees and migrants.

“Robust on-arrival and settlement support is critical to ensuring newcomers are positioned to realise their full potential in Australia. It was welcome to see measures to this effect, including a modest increase in funding for some of the core settlement programs that support these outcomes,” she said.

“Disappointingly, the humanitarian intake will remain static at 20,000 places, despite record-breaking global numbers of people who are currently forcibly displaced from their homes by violence, conflict and persecution.

“A scale-up of our humanitarian intake is needed to meet the massive shortfall in resettlement places globally. It would also open up more opportunities for refugees already settled here to be reunited with family and, critically, allow Australia to demonstrate its credentials as a strong global citizen.”

Ms Roumeliotis said a strong theme of the budget was women’s safety, ranging from economic security to targeted violence prevention measures and more.

“It is a scary time to be a woman in Australia. An average of one Australian woman is violently killed every week, a significant portion of which occurs in intimate and family settings. There is no panacea for this, but this budget includes significant investment to make women’s lives safer and more equitable,” she said.

Ms Roumeliotis said SSI welcomed a number of other budget measures designed to improve access and equity in Australia, including:

  • $27 million over three years to extend targeted support for Youth Transition Support services, which assist refugee and migrant youth to access education, employment and government services.
  • $253.6 million over five years to reform employment services and supports for people with disability.
  • $468.7 million over five years to support people with disability and get the NDIS back on track.
  • $925.2 million over five years to improve financial support, safety assessments and referrals to support services for victim-survivors leaving a violent intimate partner relationship.

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About SSI:

Settlement Services International (SSI) delivers a range of human services that connect individuals, families, and children from diverse backgrounds with opportunities – including settlement support, disability programs, community engagement initiatives and training and employment pathways. At the heart of everything we do is a drive for equality, empathy, and celebration of every individual.

/Public Release.