Government reveals $400k refugee support funding boost
THE Federal Government has finally rectified a major funding cut to Toowoomba's refugee support services, announcing a boost to one of the region's major organisations.
CatholicCare's Toowoomba Refugee and Migrant Support (TRAMS) were one of several organisations to suffer a significant drop in federal funds this year because of funding structure changes.
If left uncorrected, CatholicCare director Kate Venables said it meant just two support workers could've been looking after 600 clients.
But Families and Social Services Minister Paul Fletcher yesterday announced an extra $400,000 over three years to fund more case workers and interpretive services for TRAMS.
Mr Fletcher admitted the funding would not have occurred without the work of Groom MP John McVeigh, who worked with Ms Venables and Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio to advocate for the extra funds.
"John McVeigh was able to stand up and make the case that there should be additional funds provided," he said.
"When we are allocating funding in a national program, there are always choices and trade-offs that need to be made."
The Toowoomba region has long been a settlement area for refugees and migrants from Africa and the Middle East, and recently saw a massive influx of Yazidi families escaping war and genocide from Syria and Iraq.
However, TRAMS funding dropped from $390,000 to $240,000 and lost interpreter's funding worth $80,000.
Dr McVeigh said the funding was not an election promise.
"There was a change in funding late last year. Some of the agencies got some more money, and with that change of programs, TRAMS didn't get any more money," he said.
"TRAMS as a local refugee and migrant support service is Toowoomba-grown and focussed, and it's been operating here for 15 years.
"I'm glad we could secure this after many months of working.
"We've been able to sign the agreement and get it under way.
"It's not an election pledge - it's a done deal and we've been working on this for five months."
Ms Venables said she was thrilled to receive the funding, adding that TRAMS could now help double the amount of clients and offer interpretive services in six languages.
"More clients and families are going to be able to be supported because of this," she said.
"It means we can continue to grow our volunteer base, and we just know it will make a difference to all of Toowoomba.
"We're looking initially at six languages - we want people trained through NATI, and then we'll do some more work to get them out there.
"We're certainly expecting we'll be doubling the number of our clients."