‘Cruel’ cut confirmed:

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Hume Leader | By Kate Swan

28th June 2011

A STATE Government decision to stop funding a Broadmeadows based Arabic support organisation has been described as “offensive” by the service’s manager and “cruel” by the ALP.

The government confirmed last week it would not renew the $150,000 funding that Victorian Arabic Social Services (VASS) received last year. The service has 1020 clients and has helped more than 10,000 people in the past two years.The Leader has received an overwhelming response since it first reported, on June 14, that funding would end and today launches a campaign to secure continued funding for VASS.

Northern Metropolitan Liberal MP Craig Ondarchie told the Leader he recognised that VASS did great work for a specific element of the community.
“I think people who provide these services should be providing them for a broad range, and that’s certainly a view this government takes,” Mr Ondarchie said.

He said while the government supported multiculturalism, funding of the program was a federal respons While VASS receives federal fund for other programs, the families intake and referral service has been portedibility.ingfunded for its two years by the State Government. VASS manager Leila Alloush said she was frustrated that the government did not respect the importance of culturally sensitive support for migrants and refugees.

“We are meeting a huge community need and it is offensive that we are being ignored,” Ms Alloush said. She said VASS services extended beyond the Arabic community, with its best-known project, the Anti Racism Action Band, including young people from 40 ethnic groups and speaking 60 languages.

Census figures show 72,585 people living in Victoria in 2006 were born in North Africa and the Middle East. But Ms Alloush said the number of people identifying themselves as Arabic was far higher, especially given recent growth.

This includes 3305 people from the Middle East settling in Hume alone between 2006-2010. Broadmeadows state Labor MP Frank McGuire said the decision was cruel, unfair and based on ignorance. He criticised Community Services Minister Mary Wooldridge for failing to meet VASS representatives.

He has started a petition for funding to be renewed. To sign the petition, go to his electorate office, 145A Wheatsheaf Rd, Glenroy.

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