Inner West Independent

Inner West Council to provide free education to children of asylum seekers

The councillors at Inner West Council (pictured) uanimously supported a move to provide free early education to children whose parents are awaiting asylum seeker determination. Photo: Inner West Council.


On Tuesday night, Inner West councillors unanimously supported a move to provide free early education to children whose parents are awaiting asylum seeker determination.

The motion, moved by Labor councillor Mat Howard, recognises that while their cases are being assessed, asylum seekers are unable to access early childhood government subsidies that many families depend on for access to education.

“Any Australian family would tell you that without those subsidies, early childhood education is simply unaffordable,” Cr Howard said.

Mat Howard. Photo: Inner West Labor.

In passing the motion, Inner West Council joins an early education campaign spearheaded by the neighbouring Canterbury-Bankstown Council in partnership with the Asylum Seekers Centre, Sydney Alliance, and Uniting.

The Asylum Seeker Family Partnership Program was first launched in 2019 and seeks to place children in preschools and childcare centres using vacant places at children’s services facilities.

Inner West Council to install same free education model as in Canterbury-Bankstown

According to the Sydney Alliance, there are approximately 400 children of asylum seekers in NSW in need of childcare.

“Until their parent’s case is assessed, these kids are missing out on the quality preschool experience that better prepares them for school,” Cr Howard said.

“Missing out leaves children developmentally vulnerable.”

Council resolved to provide free education under the same model used in Canterbury-Bankstown.

“[The] Inner West community and faith leaders in the Alliance called on Council to act and they have. Together we can create a little justice in our neighbourhood,” said Sydney Alliance Lead Organiser David Barrow.

Recent data from the Refugee Council of Australia showed that NSW has the largest number of people (17,442) nationwide living on type E bridging visas, with 1,837 being under the age of 18.

As of September 2021, most people on bridging visas in NSW were from Iran, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, stateless, Afghanistan or Iraq.

“Initiatives like this one from the Inner West Council break down those barriers and send a message of welcome and acceptance to people seeking asylum,” said Asylum Seekers Centre CEO Frances Rush.

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