THE City of Wanneroo will establish a multicultural advisory group to investigate advocating changes to Australia’s visitor visa policy.
It comes after Councillor Hugh Nguyen introduced a motion on notice at the July council meeting requesting Mayor Tracey Roberts write to the Immigration and Border Protection Minister to increase the continuous stay and re-entry period for parents who hold a visitor visa.
It also requested the chief executive seek support from the cities of Joondalup and Stirling for the WA Local Government Association to lobby the Minister for the changes.
Cr Nguyen said the issue had “real implications” for residents, with 40 per cent born overseas and many having parents who live abroad.
He wanted the stay length increased from four months to at least three years and for them to be able to apply to re-enter after leaving for one month, instead of six.
He said a mandatory health insurance requirement should be imposed to remove the potential financial burden on the community.
“A strong family unit builds a strong community,” he said.
“Grandparents should not be underestimated (as they) take pressure off parents.
“It’s important for many migrant communities in Australia.”
Cr Samantha Fenn agreed that it would be beneficial for migrants’ parents to visit for extended periods.
“If they bring their parents out to live with them they can return to work,” she said.
“Leaving for six months at a time will place a burden.”
Cr Dot Newton said the three years seemed “concerning” and Cr Frank Cvitan suggested it would be more appropriate for Federal or State Government.
Cr Brett Treby then moved an alternative motion to establish a multicultural advisory group to address concerns of the migrant community, which he said were “quite diverse”.
“They face challenges unfamiliar to traditional Anglo-Saxon residents,” he said.
“A multicultural advisory group could advise council of these very issues.
“(It would give us) an opportunity to engage direct to see what we can do on their behalf as leaders of our community.”
Cr Nguyen argued creating the group would delay action.
“Delaying the process would not be in the best interests of the migrant community in the City of Wanneroo,” he said.
Mrs Roberts supported the amendment, saying she had reservations about the original motion.
“It hasn’t been through a forum, it hasn’t been through a briefing session,” she said.
“If we are going to write a letter to the Federal government we have to do so with a great deal of information and assurance that we are on the right track.”
The amended motion was passed, with Crs Fenn, Nguyen, Natalie Sangalli and Sabine Winton voting against it.
A report by the City on establishing the group was presented to councillors at the September 6 briefing session but City community and place director Fiona Hodges said it was removed from the meeting agenda following councillor feedback.
“(It) was withdrawn to allow more time for officers to look at the detail and proposal to refine the approach and content,” she said.
“It will be brought back to council via a forum session before the end of the year.”