Topics: $50 million increase to funding for the Safer Communities Program, Curtin University funding under Safer Communities Program, Department of Home Affairs processing of visa applications
HARLENE HAYNE: We have the privilege of meeting this afternoon on the traditional lands of the Wadjuk people of the Nyungar Nation, and here at Curtin we’re are highly committed to working and teaching in partnership with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander colleagues. On behalf of Curtin University, I would like to warmly welcome the Honourable Karen Andrew MP, Minister for Home Affairs, and Kristy McSweeney, the Liberal Party candidate for the Federal seat of Swan.
I’d also like to extend a welcome to all of our guests who are here with us today at the UniLodge’s Twin Dolphin Hall in Curtin’s Exchange Precinct. This precinct is home to the School of Design and Built Environment, two new student accommodation buildings, including the one that we are standing in right now, a hotel, residential apartments and in addition to industry and retail spaces as well as recreational areas.
So here at Curtin, we believe in strong connections and intersections. We believe in connections to country, connections with our students and alumni and connections with our industry and community partners. And Exchange – where we are today, which is just opened in Semester 1 this year – brings all of these connections alive at the heart of our beautiful campus here in Bentley. Minister, I believe that the last time that you visited Curtin you were here to announce the Federal Government’s $25 million support for the Curtin University-led consortia of almost 60 industry, government and research organisations behind the Future of Batteries Institute Cooperative Research Centre. It was a memorable day for Curtin and a memorable day for Western Australia. So today we are here for another memorable announcement about some very important research led by Associate Professor Rosie Rooney from the discipline of psychology in the Curtin School of Population Health. Now as an academic researcher myself in the same discipline in the same school, I fully recognise that this funding will help us to make a difference in the community by achieving real outcomes for very vulnerable young people. Here at Curtin, our goal is to make a difference in the communities in which we work here with. We make a difference through teaching, through research and impact and through service to the community. The announcement that you will make today, Minister, ticks all three boxes. We look forward to our ongoing partnership with government. It is now my great pleasure to introduce the Honourable Karen Andrews MP, Minister for Home Affairs.
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, thank you very much, Vice-Chancellor. It’s a pleasure to be back at Curtin University today following on from a previous announcement here in relation to Future Batteries CRC. It’s a pleasure to be here at Curtin University, and it’s a pleasure to be here today with Liberal candidate for Swan, Kristy McSweeney. I have two announcements to make today: the first is a $50 million increase to funding for the Safer Communities Program. This money will go towards enhancing and expanding the existing funding program – which takes the Federal Government’s contribution to around about $315 million in total for the Safer Communities Program. The Morrison Government has always been committed to ensuring that crime is reduced in the community, that we are supporting our agencies. That’s why we are funding the Australian Federal Police to $1.7 billion. One of the things that we are doing through our Safer Communities Program is working local communities and in the case of Curtin University our research organisations to support, in particular, our very vulnerable youth. The announcement in relation to Curtin University today is $1.5 million through the Safer Communities Program to design and, importantly, to be able to deliver new evidence-based strategies to reduce crime, to reduce anti-social behaviour and to reduce reoffending. So this is a very significant program for the Federal Government to be supporting, and it’s going to make a significant difference to young people. I believe that it’s about a thousand people that are going to be affected in the age group of 18 to 24 years old. So I congratulate Curtin University on the great work that it has done on the research collaboration that it has undertaken for many years now and for the work that it will be doing to support vulnerable people in our communities – to get them back on the right pathway, to make sure they’re not reoffending, and that they are taking up career paths; particularly through the education opportunities available to them. So I thank you very much for having me here today.
KRISTY MCSWEENEY: Thank you very much, Minister, for coming out to Swan today to see, as I like to say, the best, innovative technology-led, industry-first university in Australia. I’m so proud to have the opportunity to stand with you here today at Curtin and announce this funding that will tackle some really serious issues in our community and have some of the best minds in Australia putting forward new approaches so young people in Western Australia – and also around the country perhaps – can get some of the intervention and help they need from our amazing experts here at Curtin and put them on the right path to reduce crime in our community. So thank you, Minister. I greatly appreciate it.
JOURNALIST: Ending recidivism and breaking the cycle of incarceration is obviously a very complex issue. How exactly will you be using this funding to address that?
ROSIE ROONEY: Yes, it’s a very complex issue and we need this funding to really get a chance to look at the literature on crime prevention, look at the [indistinct], but, more importantly, talk to the communities, talk to them about what they need, what their needs are, whether these research findings are what works – what’s going to work for them and what particular things are going to work for them. And with them co-design intervention strategies, which is also [indistinct]. So it’s a really excellent example of how universities can work with industry in a really important and significant way to make another community safer.
JOURNALIST: So how specifically will Curtin Uni be using this funding?
ROSIE ROONEY: Yeah, so there’s a number of stages. So the first stage is scoping review to look at the evidence for crime prevention and different strategies that have been shown to work or not work. Obviously, it’s a big issue so a lot of things haven’t been working so well, but we need to know what those are. And then the next stage is remapping where will we talk to the various communities we’re involved with to see what works for them and what their needs are. And then the next stage is actually developing the strategies because that will take some time to [indistinct] and the feasibility and the community voice. So their voice will be very important [indistinct]. And then the next stage will be to pilot those strategies to see if they work in the real world. They might think they work, but they might not work and we might have to tweak things and amend things as we go along. And then finally we will trial those strategies in a systemic way but also being sensitive to those community needs. So randomised trials, randomised control trials in certain communities, and others will work quite well. So we’ll work out what’s culturally sensitive to the way which the trial will go and, of course, then we will report these findings and hopefully find some significant results and some important results that we’ll let Australia know about, the rest of Australia know about, and hopefully we can roll those strategies out across Australia.
JOURNALIST: And are you looking at communities in the Perth metro area or WA statewide?
ROSIE ROONEY: We do have a number of communities we’re working with and that could involve statewide, but it definitely does involve the metropolitan area.
JOURNALIST: Minister, these questions are about the visas for Afghan nationals, if I may. So a Senate report has revealed nearly 1,400 people issued emergency visas in Afghanistan never made it to Australia and has urged the government to reinstate these visas. Will the government action this recommendation and has it left these people behind?
KAREN ANDREWS: So the Australian Government worked very hard for a number of months to process as many visas as possible and to work with our allies to ensure that people were able to leave Afghanistan. There are a number of visa applications that are currently underway. The Department of Home Affairs is working to make sure that they are able to process those as soon as possible. However, I make no apology at all for the Department undertaking the proper security checks that are needed. So the Department of Home Affairs will continue to do that in conjunction with a number of our agencies to make sure that those people who are able to come to Australia are in a position where we can bring them here to Australia and bring them into our communities. Now we have undertaken an additional 16,500 places that came through in the Federal Budget. It’s over $600 million to support these people to resettle here in Australia. It will take time as we go through the process to review their applications, check their security arrangements and to bring them here. But it is our commitment to make sure that we are able to bring as many people here as we possibly can within those limits.
JOURNALIST: The report notes that the Department of Home Affairs must urgently improve its processes and communication in relation to Afghan visa applicants. Do you accept that assessment of the Department’s handling of those applications to date? And why have these Afghan nationals been forced to face these difficulties?
KAREN ANDREWS: Well, it doesn’t major where you work – there’s always opportunities for improvement. I work very closely with my own Department. I talk to them about the time that it takes to analyse and process a visa application. Now, during the course of COVID where many of the staff had to process exemptions that took away from processing visa applications, that has now reversed and there are more people processing visa applications. So there is going to be an increasing number of visas that are granted to people to come here. It won’t just be for those people currently in Afghanistan; we are processing visas, visa applications that are coming in from people in Ukraine at the moment. We’re also processing visa applications of skilled workers, for tourists, for international students to come to the country.
JOURNALIST: Excellent, and just back to today’s announcement, law and order issues are usually the purview of the state government. Why does the Federal Government feel the need to get in and try and make a difference in offending behaviour among this cohort in WA?
KAREN ANDREWS: The Coalition Government has always supported local communities. Australians want to know that they are safe and they are secure in their homes and on the streets here in Australia. The Australian Federal Police works very hard and it works very closely with state police and counterparts, whether that be state or territory. So we will continue, the Morrison Government will continue to make sure that we are supporting local communities. The research work that is being done here at Curtin University is particularly important. We want to prevent our young people from reoffending. That is actually a serious issue for us, irrespective of what crime it is that they have committed in the first instance. People are concerned about crime on their streets and yes largely that is a matter for state policing, but the Morrison Government has formed the view likely that we need to step in and provide support to our research organisations, to our community organisations to assist them to help the most vulnerable in their communities.
JOURNALIST: Thank you very much.
KAREN ANDREWS: Thank you.