Integrating Australia’s refugee settlement services
A new report outlines how Australia’s refugee settlement service could be better aligned and bolstered to help improve settlement outcome including community connect and employment for refugees new to the country.
The report, produced by a panel led by former top public servant Professor Peter Shergold, has made seven important recommendation aimed at improving refugee settlement.
IT says that for many refugees success will be judged not by the government services they receive but by the economic pathways they can walk.
“For many of them labour market participation – learning workplace English, having their skills recognised, receiving training, gaining work experience, getting their first Australian job, developing a career or building a business – is the mark of their achievement,” the report says.
It says the more that government expenditure can be framed as an investment, the better it can be directed to helping newcomers achieve their goals.
“That is what refugees want from government. And, to the extent that we are successful, that is what will benefit our nation in terms of increasing economic benefits, social cohesion and lowering future budget spending,” the report says.
Prof Shergold says the process of settlement is not just a matter of doing things for refugees.
“Successful integration depends on doing things with refugees; recognising their formidable strengths and aspirations,” he said.
“There exists a mutual obligation; in return for government support in navigating the settlement process, refugees will be empowered to take responsibility for seizing the opportunities provided for economic and social participation. That balance is the key to allowing refugees to take back control of their lives in a news land.”
The recommendations include appointing a Commonwealth Coordinator-General for Humanitarian Settlement to coordinate refugee settlement, employment and integration programs across the Commonwealth Government.
“The Coordinator-General would work closely with state, territory and local governments, industry and the community sector to ensure that complementary programs become part of a ‘joined-up’ approach,” Prof Shergold said.
Also included in the recommendations is “bringing refugee services together”.
“In order to deliver end-to-end service design that supports the economic and social participation of refugees, the Commonwealth Government should bring together Adult Migrant English Programs and employment services for refugees with humanitarian settlement services within a single social services program,” the report says.
It also recommends investing in labour market integration strategies to improve the social and economic participation of refugees and also promote opportunities for regional resettlement.
In order to support and assist regional communities to develop locally-led approaches to attract and retain refugees, the Commonwealth Government should promote the benefits of regional settlement and encourage communities to explore its potential and oversee a national strategy that supports regional settlement opportunities,” the report said.
It also recommended adding complimentary visa pathways based on a sponsored or shared cost model.
The report advocated a “place-based community sponsored visa which harnesses the collective strength of whole communities partnering with their local governments, service providers and community organisations’ and also an employer sponsored visa offering immediate employment opportunities to suitably skilled refugees as well as a university sponsored visa offering post-graduate or post-doctoral places to academically qualified refugees.
The report recommends harnessing communities in refugee settlement.
“In order to harness the goodwill of many Australians who want to offer friendship and support to refugees, the Commonwealth Government should utilise and increase existing Commonwealth grant funding to establish a small ‘Bringing the Community Together’ grants program to encourage communities to develop innovative approaches at the local level,” the report said.
The Commonwealth Government has responded to the report, supporting most of the recommendations.
CEO of refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia Cath Scarth said the panel’s recommendations amounted to a package of measures that would support refugees to utilise their strengths and skills to achieve economic participation as well as enriching Australia’s economic and social landscape.
“All Australians benefit when refugees are able to take a full place in society; when they are able to use the skills, talents and resilience they bring with them to contribute to our nation,” Ms Scarth said.
“We at AMES Australia see the value in integrating refugee services to be able to create tailored pathways to economic and social participation for individual refugees based on their particular skills, talents or barriers,” she said.
“We have been operating humanitarian settlement, language and vocational and employment services for refugees in an integrated, holistic and seamless way. The results are clear that when you line these services up to work together, you can achieve great outcomes for refugees,” Ms Scarth said.