House debates

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Constituency Statements

Bean Electorate: Haidari, Mr Zaki, Bean Electorate: Legal Aid Commission

4:06 pm

Photo of David SmithDavid Smith (Bean, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Since September last year, Zaki Haidari has been running to raise money for refugees in need of legal support. To date he has run over 770 kilometres, and over $26,000 has been raised. Zaki knows from experience the value legal support can offer refugees. An ethnic Hazara man from Afghanistan, he was forced to flee after receiving threats from the Taliban and his father and his brother went missing. He arrived in Australia in 2012 at the age of 17. He has since been granted refugee status, spending almost five years on a temporary protection visa. In this time, Zaki has proved his value to the Australian community. He was awarded International Student of the Year for his studies in Sydney and was recognised by the Human Rights Commission for his refugee advocacy work. He recently worked at the Australian National University, and I've received letters from his colleagues in praise of his work and the value of his friendship.

However, his visa will run out in September this year, and he fears he will be sent back to Afghanistan. No-one on his type of visa has ever become a permanent resident. Temporary protection visas should be abolished, and eligible refugees in Australia should be transitioned onto permanent arrangements. Otherwise, people like Zaki are in an ongoing state of uncertainty and prevented from meaningful settlement, creating unnecessary hardship and denying Australia the benefit of their contribution.

While many Australians did it tough in 2020, I want to speak on the efforts of the Legal Aid Commission in the ACT and offer them my gratitude. Legal Aid's mission statement is to promote a just society in the ACT. Legal Aid remained open year-round in 2020, through the bushfires and COVID-19, to serve their community. There was no respite through the year, as demand remained on them to provide their grants of legal assistance, duty appointments and information services as well as their community outreach. Legal Aid provides a drop-in service at public colleges throughout the territory, including in the Bean electorate. Admirably, in conjunction with the efforts of the ACT government, Legal Aid kept this service going. This program involves solicitors visiting public colleges and providing confidential legal services and information to students who are grappling with legal issues and who may not have the means to otherwise access legal services. The legal issues facing these young people range from their precarious work status in the gig economy to traffic matters to, in some circumstances, sadly, family violence. I call on the federal government to ensure that vital community services like Legal Aid are funded adequately across the country and that their contribution is appropriately acknowledged.