Access and Equity Policy for a Multicultural Australia

From the Priority List inbox:

The Race Discrimination Commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission has welcomed the report  and recommendations of the independent  Access and Equity Inquiry Panel.

The Access and Equity policy has been an important policy  that defines Government services obligations to culturally diverse  communities.  The review of this policy  arises from the recommendations of the Australian Multicultural Advisory  Council, which recommended the formation of the Australian Multicultural  Council and ‘The People of Australia’ policy.

Dr Helen Szoke said, “The Access and Equity policy is an  important focus for government departments in all interactions with Australia’s  culturally and linguistically diverse population.  A focus on cultural responsiveness is an  investment in ensuring that all people in Australia can participate equally in  the community and receive the services and responses that they need to be part  of the broader Australian community.”

The Panel’s recommendations call for the strengthening of  this policy, through identifying clearer and more specific obligations that  departments and agencies are required to meet. There is also an expectation  that the principles of Access and Equity will influence all Government social  policy areas.

The Panel has proposed some important core minimum  obligations for Australian Government departments and agencies in relation to  the Access and Equity policy, with an emphasis on a whole-of-government  approach to better engage with the country’s increasingly diverse community.  The recommendations, if adopted, will encourage better participation of people from different backgrounds in  Australian community life.

The Australian Human Rights Commission’s research conducted  with African Australian and Arab and Muslim Australian communities has  identified that often members of these communities are reluctant to report on  negative experiences when dealing with programs and services due to a lack of  knowledge about the law and complaints processes, or the perceived difficulty  in making complaints.

Dr Szoke said, “The panel’s recommendation to review the  accessibility of complaints mechanisms, in consultation with communities, will  help to address some of these barriers and make the process of providing  feedback both easier and more effective.”

“I look forward to the Australian Government’s response to  the report and in particular, to learning what mechanisms will be identified to  enhance the governance, accountability and implementation of the policy,” Dr Szoke said.

The full report of the Access &  Equity Inquiry is available at  www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/a-multicultural-australia/government-approach/government-services/AandEreport.pdf

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