SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Thank you very much, welcome, it is great to be here today at this second round of consultations for the Adult Migrant English Program. They say that the government test of a good policy or a good program is on that withstands a change in government. In this case, AMEP has been around since the 1940s, so it must be a very, very good program because it has, of course, withstood the change of many, many governments in that time. Importantly, this government pertains a strong sense of commitment to AMEP and sees it as being an integral part of our settlement programs and our capacity as a government to be able to support new migrants and ensure that they are well-placed to be able to settle in Australia, engage to the fullest in life in Australia and ultimately, have the best possible prospects of securing a job in Australia in the future. 

As those in this room may well know, particularly the providers and those engaging in the program, we have recently concluded a review in terms of the benefits of AMEP which concluded that there are the significant benefits, it does help improve employment outcomes, community engagement outcomes. It also had a look at the contracting arrangements and the terms there, it has provided some recommendations [indistinct] but I and the government want to make sure that before we make any other changes, further changes to AMEP in the future, that we gave consideration to exactly how policy is structured in terms of the nature of the entitlement, the 110 hours of English language tuition that is available, the eligible visa categories and whether that interaction between those who are eligible and what it is they get [indistinct] whether we need to be doing more for individuals with lesser English language skills to start with, whether we should be expecting some individuals to be making a clearer commitment to participate in AMEP as a result of part of their initial settlement in Australia, whether we should be expecting some consideration of payment from those who can afford it to AMEP that might fund services for those who might not be able to afford it. 

A range of options to consider around how the program is structured; options that are driven very much by the fact that the government is committed to maintaining AMEP and we want to make sure that the funding we have available is being used as effectively and efficiently as possible to maximise the English language outcomes for AMEP participants and new migrants to Australia and, therefore, maximise their chance to participate in the economy and in society. So, I want to have a look at the foundation levels of the program to ensure the dollars we have are leveraged as effectively as possible in any future contracting arrangements around AMEP. I do want to stress that this is not about whether or not we should have an AMEP, the commitment is there and strong, we want to see the program operate well in to the future, what we are having a look at is whether AMEP has a direct link towards employment skills [indistinct] to get the best possible outcome for those who are recipients of the training, for the new migrants of Australia and, therefore, the country as a whole by increasing their capacity to participate.

So I want to thank you for coming along today. I thank you who are either service providers who have taken the time out of your activities to be here and to be able to provide feedback. Thanks to the students who I see in the room, for coming to give that direct feedback from those who have been through the AMEP program, adding your perspective on how AMEP helped you or could have helped you more. And ultimately to encourage you, as we break in to workshop settings and we have a chance for a discussion later on, to be as frank and forthright as possible to make sure that we do understand very clearly how you think this program can be strengthened, how you can see it changed as a student, as a provider, as a member of the migrant community, whichever capacity you are here in today to ensure that the program that has been around for 60 or 70 years is around for a further 60 or 70 years in to the future. So, thanks again and I look forward to hearing your feedback.