People move to Australia for a range of reasons and for various lengths of time. Permanent migrants can enter Australia through either the Migration Program for skilled and family migrants or through the Humanitarian Program. Mr Gum Mamur, Program Support Officer for the Les Twentyman Foundation, commented that ‘there is nothing really teaching you to become Australian.
Under the Humanitarian Program there are two categories: Refugees and the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP). Arrivals under these two categories are broadly described as having a refugee background. This group is also described as humanitarian entrants.
Temporary migrants can enter Australia via a range of programs – a growing number of temporary migrants will also later transition to permanent residency.
All migration programs are managed by the Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Recent arrivals can access mainstream and settlement support services to help them adjust to their new life in Australia, but not all services are available to all migrants.
For the past five years the Migration Program for skilled and family migrants has been 190,000 places per annum. Around two-thirds of these places are reserved for skilled migrants with the remainder for family reunion migrants. In comparison, the number of places for the Humanitarian Program (for those with a refugee background) is determined each year by the Government reflecting global resettlement needs. Over the 2010-16 period humanitarian entrants made up on average eight per cent of all migrants coming to Australia.
Most people will migrate to urban areas in New South Wales (NSW), Victoria or Queensland. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says that 85 per cent of migrants (skilled or otherwise) settle on the east coast:
Net Overseas migration for 2015-16 recorded an annual estimate increase of 182,200 persons from the previous year…At State level the largest net gains were in NSW with 71,200, Victoria with 65,000 and Queensland with 20,000.
ABS data from 2011 also indicates that 85 per cent of people born overseas lived in urban areas, with just under half of all migrants in Australia living in Sydney or Melbourne.
In 2016-17 the minimum Humanitarian Program intake for Australia will be 16,250 places. The NSW Government informed the Committee that NSW ‘expects to receive up to 10,500 refugees’ in this same period.
The submission from DIBP provides some background on the composition of Australia’s Humanitarian Program, stating:
The [Humanitarian] Program comprises offshore humanitarian resettlement and onshore protection components:
The offshore humanitarian component offers resettlement in Australia for people overseas who are in the greatest need of resettlement. It comprises visas granted under the Refugee category and the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) category.
The onshore protection component offers protection for people who arrived lawfully in Australia and who are found to be a refugee under the Migration Act, or otherwise engage Australia’s protection obligations under certain international treaties.
In 2015-16 a total of 17,555 visas were granted under the Humanitarian Program; only 2,003 of these were for onshore applicants. The remaining 15,552 visas were granted to offshore applicants. This included 13,765 visas granted under the annual Humanitarian Program and 3,790 additional visas for Syrians and Iraqis.
During 2015-16, the majority of offshore visas were granted to persons born in the Middle East (58.9 per cent). The second largest group was persons born in Asia (29.3 per cent). Persons born in Africa comprised the smallest group granted offshore Humanitarian Program visas (11.8 per cent).
Whilst the Migration Program is expected to continue at 190,000 places per annum, the Humanitarian Program is anticipated to grow. There will be a minimum of 16,250 visas in 2016-17 increasing to 18,750 visas in 2018-19.
Although a minority of new arrivals enter Australia under the Humanitarian Program, it is this group that receives the majority of settlement services.
What is settlement?
In an international context the term settlement is also referred to as integration. The National Settlement Framework states that the first five years of permanent residence in Australia is generally considered the settlement period:
This is a time of adjustment as migrants and new arrivals seek to become orientated, established, integrated and independent in their communities.
Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA), representing over 80 agencies in the settlement sector, commented that settlement journeys are complex and unique to each migrant:
There is no one-size-fits all approach to settlement and indeed many migrants will share different opinions of what, to them, constitutes ‘good settlement’ and when that is taken to have been achieved.
What are settlement services?
Settlement Services are delivered across Commonwealth, State and local governments and involve private and not-for-profit service providers. The National Settlement Framework maps out the roles and responsibilities of these stakeholders.
At the federal level, the Department of Social Services (DSS) administers most settlement services in Australia. The Department of Education and Training (DET) oversees Australia’s migrant English programs. Australia’s settlement services can be classified as Pre-arrival, On Arrival, Post-Arrival and English Language. The majority of services (On Arrival and Post-Arrival) are only available to humanitarian entrants. However, English Language assistance is available to a wider range of migrants.
Pre-Arrival settlement services
Prior to coming to Australia, humanitarian entrants over five years of age may attend the Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) Program. The DSS contracts the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to deliver AUSCO.
AUSCO is mainly offered in Africa, South Asia, South East Asia and the Middle East. Courses are delivered over a period of up to five days to adult, youth, children, and pre-literate entrants. Additional courses are provided in other locations on a needs basis.
The DSS website states that the programs objectives are to:
Provide accurate information on the departure processes;
Describe the settlement process and provide practical information about post-arrival settlement services and how to access them;
Present a realistic picture of life in Australia;
Encourage English language training on arrival in Australia;
Provide participants with the basic skills necessary to achieve self-sufficiency; and
Equip participants with the necessary tools to deal with initial settlement concerns and the different stages of cultural, social and economic adaptation. This includes information about Australian laws and norms.
In 2015, the University of Canberra was engaged to undertake a review of the AUSCO curriculum. In their submission, the DSS advised that they were in the process of implementing the nine recommendations from the review, noting in particular that they replaced the AUSCO Student Handbook (Adult and Youth editions) with a Student Folder:
One of the key recommendations was for the replacement of the AUSCO Student Handbook (Adult and Youth editions) with a ‘Student Folder’ containing only the necessary information participants will require in their first few weeks of settlement. The Student Folder caters for both adult and youth participants. Topics covered in AUSCO offshore will be revisited in onshore orientation to allow participants to convert information introduced offshore into knowledge which can then be applied in real life contexts.
On-Arrival settlement services
The SCOA provided an overview of on-arrival settlement services:
The Australian Government funds settlement service providers to deliver a range of settlement services to migrants from refugee backgrounds immediately on their arrival in Australia. Settlement service providers are the first point of contact in Australia for many new arrivals and the support they offer has a significant influence on future settlement outcomes. Supporting people when they first arrive to help them understand not only the practical details of living in a new country, but the underlying ethos of tolerance and respect which informs multicultural Australia is an essential step in fostering inclusion.
The Committee received evidence about two key settlement programs for migrants from a refugee background: Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) and Complex Case Support (CCS).
The DSS summarised the different programs as:
HSS: Early practical support to humanitarian clients to help them settle into the community through their initial settlement period;
CCS: Available to humanitarian entrants and other vulnerable migrants with exceptional needs during their first five years in Australia. The specialised case support delivers intensive case management, beyond the scope of other settlement services.
In September 2014, the DSS engaged Ernst & Young to evaluate the HSS and CCS programs. The report made a number of recommendations which included merging the HSS and CCS programs. On 27 July 2017, the Government announced its intention to replace the two programs with the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP).
Unlike previous programs that deliver support over five years, HSP focuses on delivering outcomes during the first six to 18 months of arrival. The DSS further explains:
Participation in the HSP is voluntary and support is provided on a needs basis, which means that not all humanitarian entrants will require all available services.
HSP service providers work with clients to identify their needs and goals and develop an individual case management plan. Service Providers support clients to achieve outcomes in:
Physical and Mental Health and Well-being;
Managing Money and Transport;
Community Participation and Networking;
Family Functioning and Social Support;
Education and Training; and
As HSP is a needs-based program, not all outcomes will apply to all clients. Once clients have completed their case-management plan they will leave the program. Clients may then be referred to other settlement services such as organisations and services funded by Settlement Grants, the Adult Migrant English Program (refer to Chapter 3) or Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma. In addition, clients may also be referred to mainstream services – available to all Australians – such as Skills for Education and Employment (SEE), Jobactive, Disability Employment Services and Translating and Interpreting Services (refer to Chapter 4).
The DSS stated that the HSP will:
Move towards an outcomes-based delivery framework;
Improve case management for individualised, needs-based support;
Improve English language, education and employment outcomes for humanitarian entrants, including introducing new methods to track outcomes over time;
Create clearer linkages to the Adult Migrant English Program and the Skills for Education and Employment Program, (administered by the Department of Education and Training) and Jobactive, (administered by the Department of Employment);
Expand orientation and information on life in Australia to provide humanitarian entrants with foundation skills required for their new start;
Encourage innovation and increased efficiency in service delivery amongst providers; and
Reduce red tape for service providers.
Referrals and services under the HSP began on 30 October 2017.
The HSP is delivered by five service providers across Australia in 11 contract regions:
Australian Red Cross Society (Canberra and surrounds and Western Australia);
Settlement Services International Limited (Sydney and regional New South Wales (Hunter);
MDA Ltd (in partnership with Access) (North Queensland and Brisbane and surrounds);
Melaleuca Refugee Centre (Northern Territory); and
AMES Australia (South Australia, Tasmania, Melbourne and regional Victoria).
Participation in the HSP is voluntary and support is provided on a needs basis to eligible visa holders:
Refugee category (subclass 200, 201, 203 and 204) visas; and
Global Special Humanitarian (subclass 202) visa.
Five additional visa subclasses are also eligible to access specialised and intensive services under the HSP, subject to DSS approval:
Protection (subclass 866) visa; and
Temporary Protection (subclass 785), Temporary Humanitarian Stay (subclass 449), Temporary Humanitarian Concern (subclass 786) and Safe Haven Enterprise (subclass 790) visas.
HSP service providers develop an individual case management plan to provide support for their clients in the areas of housing; physical and mental health and well-being; managing money and transport; community participation and networking; family functioning and social support; justice; language services; education and training; and employment.
HSP clients are assessed on their level of need:
Tier 1 Clients will generally require minimal assistance to settle into their new community, while Tier 3, Specialised and Intensive Services Clients will require a high level of support.
The DSS estimates that clients, on average, complete their goals between six to 18 months of arrival, at which point they are exited from the HSP. Similar to the HSS and CCS programs, after exiting the HSP, eligible newly arrived migrants may be able to access additional support from mainstream programs such as Settlement Grants.
Post-Arrival settlement services
As noted above, there are a number of support services available in the post-arrival period (18 months - five years after arrival) including: the Settlement Grants Program (SGP); Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants; Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP); Skills for Education and Employment (SEE); Jobactive; Disability Employment Services; Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma; and the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National).
This section provides a brief overview of the SGP, Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants; Disability Employment Services; Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma; and TIS National. Information on the AMEP and SEE programs can be found in the chapter on Education and Language (Chapter 3) and Jobactive in the chapter on employment (Chapter 4).
Settlement Grants Program
Administered by the DSS and introduced on 1 July 2006, the SGP offers support ‘for humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants in their first five years of life in Australia, with a focus on fostering social and economic participation, personal well-being, independence and community connectedness.’
The SGP funds organisations which provide services for humanitarian entrants and migrants with an aim to:
… assist eligible clients to become self-reliant and participate equitably in Australian society, while maximising the productivity of our diversity and the economic and social well-being of clients by enabling them to become fully-functioning members of society as soon as possible. These services also assist to minimise longer-term reliance on social services.
The SGP has four components:
Casework/coordination and settlement service delivery: provides settlement related information, advice, advocacy or referral services to individuals or families such as information sessions teaching life skills and/or information on employment issues, police and the law, banking practices, tenancy rights and responsibilities and the health system, homework support programs and/or other activity-based groups.
Community coordination and development: assists new arrivals with connecting to services and building self-reliance; provides a welcoming environment and supports newly arrived community leaders and organisations to develop self-supporting skills in partnership with communities, the local neighbourhood and local services.
Youth settlement services: provides programs for young refugees and migrants aged between ages of 15 and 24 years that build capabilities in employment, education, leadership, social skills; and fosters connections with refugee and migrant youth and their families, and homework support programs.
Support for ethno-specific communities: provides services that can refer new entrants to existing support groups and services, local sporting organisations, social clubs and parents and citizens groups.
The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA), in their submission, highlighted that while the eligibility for programs funded by SGP is mostly for migrants from a refugee background, some programs may be accessed by permanent residents who arrived in Australia during the last five years including: ‘humanitarian entrants; family stream migrants with low levels of English proficiency; or dependents of skilled migrants in rural or regional areas with low English proficiency.’
The SCOA noted that a small cohort of visa holders could be eligible to access support:
A small group of temporary residents (Prospective Marriage and Provisional Partner visa holders and their dependents) in rural and regional areas who have arrived in Australia during the last five years and who have low English proficiency also fall within the target group. Other provisional or temporary visa holders are not eligible for SGP services.
SGP is available to a range of organisations, including small incorporated community associations delivering refugee-specific services within their suburb or locale. SGP recipients also include larger, more established agencies that operate across a State or Territory or even nationally and offer a range of community services, not just those limited to refugees.
Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants
DSS offers Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants up to $100,000 annually for up to three years. This funding is for community organisations and not-for-profits to deliver programs that address issues of cultural, racial and religious intolerance. Two major initiatives are funded by Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants: Careers Pathways Pilot and Community Hubs Australia (CHA).
Social Cohesion Grants will be replaced by three new grant programs as part of the DSS Strong and Resilient Communities grants from 1 April 2018.
Career Pathways Pilot
In the 2016-17 budget, the Government allocated $5.2 million for a career pathways pilot for humanitarian entrants. The pilot provides:
… targeted, early intervention assistance to help newly arrived humanitarian entrants who have skills and/or qualifications and vocational English language proficiency.
Participants in the pilot program receive assistance:
… to develop and pursue a career pathway plan which will guide them in sourcing and securing meaningful employment opportunities appropriately suited to their pre-arrival work history, qualifications and/or skills. The targeted assistance will comprise wrap-around support focussed on helping them to achieve the goals identified in their career pathways plan.
The pilot is being offered in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Hobart and Toowoomba.
The pilot has the three following objectives:
Provide timely and comprehensive career advice and employment information to participants;
Assist participants to develop informed career pathway plans, including consideration of the same or a similar career; and
Assist participants to progress along pathways to satisfying employment.
Support is provided to eligible humanitarian visa holders under the following criteria:
Arrived in Australia on a Humanitarian visa (subclasses 200, 201, 202, 203, 204);
Demonstrate above functional English language proficiency, noting that English language proficiency assessments will be conducted by AMEP service providers for eligible new arrivals;
For those participants that are not a new arrival or are not currently enrolled in an English language course, successful organisations will be required to accept participants who are likely to have vocational level English language proficiency;
Have professional or trade skills and/or qualifications that are applicable in the Australian context;
Are work ready – no stated mental or physical health issues that may impact the ability to find and/or keep a job (either full-time or part-time);
Have a desire to pursue the same or a similar career in Australia;
Have been in Australia for less than five years; and
May be unemployed or underemployed.
Community Hubs Australia
Diversity and Social Cohesion Grants are used to partly fund CHA, who receive support through ‘an established public/private and philanthropic community partnership model’.
Each hub has an operational cost of about $60,000 annually.
CHA receives funding to administer 70 community hubs throughout Australia: of which 40 are currently operating in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland and 30 will become operational during 2017.
Of the 40 hubs operating in 2016: 38 were located in schools and two in community centres across seven local government areas and three States, engaging 13,000 families from 101 different countries of origin who attended activities over 300,000 times. Over 90 per cent of participants ‘were migrant women and their young children.’
The CHA aims to have outcomes in the areas of engagement, English, early years and vocational pathways.
In their submission to the inquiry DSS explained:
Community Hubs are a proven effective way to bring together newly arrived migrants and their families in their settlement journey. They are based in schools and community centres which are safe, family friendly environments and connect migrants to their local community. Community Hubs offer services such as skills training, English classes, social clubs as well as volunteering opportunities and community events. They bring local information and services around education, health, community and settlement into a familiar and culturally safe space.
In their submission to the inquiry, CHA stated that ‘hubs bridge the gap between migrant women and the wider community, giving them the best chance of achieving positive settlement outcomes.’
A number of organisations were complimentary of the work of Community Hubs.
AMES Australia commented that they supported the Community Hubs model and highlighted some advantages:
The advantages of a centralised community hub are many and includes the provision of a space where complementary services can partner to achieve outcomes for clients which is a perfect example of cross cultural cooperation, understanding, and social cohesion. It enhances opportunities to identify service gaps, and provides a place to work on innovative solutions to address these thereby providing a more centralised, seamless journey for clients.
The SCOA was of the view that the program was a great example of bringing families into schools.
Settlement Services International believed that it was an important program that could really help a lot.
The Settlement Services Advisory Council believed that the program provided excellent support in primary schools which provided a grounding for secondary:
The reason Community Hubs is such a fantastic program is in the early years, in primary school, we're supporting children of refugee families to get the building blocks in place that will make it much more feasible for them to be able to hang in at secondary school level.
Logan City Council noted that the advised that the Community Hubs facilitated successful settlement:
Our community hubs based at six of our schools have really enabled us to put in those wrap-around services that the families and the kids need. … the more that we can make it a family-based environment and something that is non-threatening and is tailored for their needs, the better and more successful chance they have of being part of that school community.
The Tatiara District Council commented that the Community Hubs were:
… an excellent opportunity to assist new arrivals access a space where they are comfortable and feel they have a place to gather and build in confidence accessing other clubs and recreational facilities' creating a sense of belonging and participation.
The Scanlon Foundation, which provides partial funding for Community Hubs, stated that it was a good model that provided support to isolated migrant mothers and had the potential to be extended:
It has proved to be able to access isolated mothers. As with any program, there is room for growth. If we were able to extend the hours of the hub leaders, I think we would be able to have even more community engagement. There are a lot of opportunities there. Peter often says that the community hubs are an incredibly good channel and vehicle. I think there are lots of opportunities, as well, to be able to tailor services into particular local areas that are responsive to the community's needs.
The DSS commented that the Community Hubs program was working:
The evidence clearly shows it is working; the evidence shows that welcoming people and giving them a pathway and a sense of belonging is the most significant thing you can do.
The DSS highlighted two evaluations of the Community Hubs program which found that the hubs were effective, engaged migrant families, improved children’s literacy and English language skills:
An evaluation by Charles Sturt University in 2015 found that Community Hubs are effective and have reached and engaged positively with newly arrived migrant families, with a combined 256,000 adult and child visits during term one and term two of 2015. Other research found that 97% of respondents agreed that the Community Hubs improve children's literacy and transitions into school and around 90% of families agreed that their English language skills had improved. Community Hubs also made migrants feel more connected to their community and school and increased their knowledge of community services.
Based on the evidence, it is clear that many organisations believe that Community Hubs are an excellent way to engage migrant women and their families and noted many benefits and positive outcomes of the program.
The Committee notes the evaluations of the Community Hubs program undertaken by Charles Sturt University and the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute that found the hubs were effective having engaged migrant families and improved children’s literacy and English language skills.
The Committee is of the view that Community Hubs are a very good model of delivering settlement services and recommends that funding should be increased to expand the program nationally and with greater flexibility of service delivery.
The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth provide additional funding to expand the Community Hubs network nationally and to establish similar flexible settlement service programs.
Time for settlement
The SCOA commented that settlement journeys were non-linear and not limited to a five-year window:
… families progress through many different stages in their settlement journey and this occurs at different times and to different extents to each. At times this is a longer process than the defined settlement period of five-years, and the migration journey can impact future generations of migrants, long after the period of settlement service provision has expired.
The Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre commented that it took more than five years to settle in Australia.
The Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre was of the view that the five-year settlement period posed a significant barrier to delivering settlement services and did not adequately address an individual’s unique circumstances:
One of the most significant barriers in delivering settlement services is the limiting effect of the five-year rule. That is, under funding agreements, settlement services must cease their support to anyone who has been resident in Australia for more than five-years whereby it is expected that those here for more than five-years will be accessing mainstream services if in need of support. The ‘five-year’ rule has been in place for more than 10 years yet fails to acknowledge the varying capacities of individuals to settle successfully (particularly refugees, many of whom struggle to cope with severe pre-arrival trauma).
The Community of South Sudanese and Other Marginalised Areas in NSW and the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors both commented that the ‘five-year time window [was] not sufficient in equipping newly arrived migrants with the necessary foundations for resettlement.’
The Victorian Multicultural Commission was of the view that the five-year settlement period was an arbitrary figure and did not reflect the settlement requirements and the journey for all migrants.
The Settlement Services Advisory Council considered that while the five‑year settlement period was artificial, they did not think settlement was a lifelong process:
When is someone actually finally settled? I don't think it's a lifelong process, as some people describe it. But if someone has been here for seven years and they need focused and targeted attention, there's no point in suggesting, 'Oh, you should've been ready for it in the first five-years,' or cutting it off with an artificial time frame doesn't really make sense either, and it makes it difficult for service providers who want to be responsive to these issues.
The Southern Migrant and Refugee Centre, a not-for-profit community based agency that provides services to migrants and refugees, highlighted that they often had to find mainstream services for ‘the families or individuals or young people who are experiencing ongoing settlement difficulty beyond the five years.’
The Multicultural Youth Affairs Network NSW, the Liverpool Migrant Resource Centre, the Scanlon Foundation and the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia all agreed that settlement services should be ideally delivered beyond five years to those in need.
Community Hubs Australia (CHA) noted that the five-year settlement period could disadvantage migrant women in particular:
Imposing a 5-year time limit of the availability of settlement services from the date one enters Australia can therefore disadvantage women who need to spend several years providing primary care for young children before being in a position to prioritise their own needs. For example, many wait until their last child is at school before beginning to learn English.
CHA added that migrant women would often put their husband’s settlement needs ahead of their own and were ‘either missing out on receiving settlement services or the services provided do fully not address their specific needs.’ They elaborated on the difficulties in accessing mainstream services:
The needs of these women also extend well beyond the bounds of traditional settlement services. Mainstream services such as maternal child health, playgroups, kindergarten and health and wellbeing programs are vitally important for this group and yet they can be difficult for a woman with primary carer responsibilities and little or no English to access.
Navitas English believed that the current five-year funding provided enough time to provide specialist support to new arrivals but suggested reviewing the five-year period on an individual basis:
There should be an opportunity to review the five-year limit on an individual basis. There was a period where the five-year limit did not apply, and it was reintroduced in 2010-11. But I believe there are instances where, as you have described, it would be appropriate to review on an individual basis.
The Fairfield City Council called the five-year settlement period unrealistic and the funding to support settlement services inadequate.
Jesuit Social Services (JSS) commented that, in their experience, people required more than five years support:
… the migration and settling experience is an enduring experience, not something that is time limited. With some of the funded services—we have settlement services, which are SGP funded services—we have a time limit to work with people for five-years. We often have the experience that people's support is much longer than that period of time.
JSS suggested working with ‘people over a longer period of time and have more intensive support.’
Multicultural Youth Queensland posited that extending the settlement services beyond five years would improve settlement outcomes.
The Brotherhood of St Laurence did not, however, completely agree that the settlement services be provided for five years but rather suggested ‘attaching much more rigour and accountability to settlement service providers.’
The Committee understands that migrant women are particularly vulnerable and often miss out on accessing settlement services due to childcare responsibilities. Migrant women often have lower education levels then male migrants and put other family members settlement needs above their own. The Committee notes that whilst Community Hubs are an excellent model, settlement outcomes could be improved if more flexible services were on offer. This includes hubs offering outreach services that connect with migrant women in their homes.
The Committee was impressed by the District Mothers Program they witnessed in Germany (refer to Chapter 8). This program trains and employs migrant women to assist migrant families with integration, education and employment. The aim of the program is to enable these women to reach out and act as mediators with other families within their cultural group that are not yet in a position to work with local authorities.
The Committee believes that Community Hubs are perfectly positioned to deliver a program similar to the German District Mothers Program.
The Committee recommends that the Department of Social Services provide funding for a ‘Neighbourhood Migrant Mothers’ outreach program to meet with recently arrived migrant families in order to provide training in day care and the educational system, bilingual education, children’s rights, preventative healthcare, sexual development and education, physical development, nutrition, addiction prevention, household safety, employment and relationships with the police.
State settlement services
State and territory governments are responsible for critical mainstream services such as health, education and transport. New arrivals can access these services and, in some instances, benefit from State government led initiatives that better meet the unique needs humanitarian entrants.
Some examples of State government settlement services include:
Refugee health nurses and health clinics;
Employing bi-lingual officers and Anti-racism Contact Officers at schools;
Cultural awareness training for law enforcement officers;
Translating and interpreting services for all mainstream government agencies;
Overseas skills recognition and advisory service;
Employment support programs;
Transition to and from school programs;
Social housing: rental subsidies, tenancy guarantees and bond loans;
Mental health and torture and trauma services; and
Specialised legal services.
The NSW Government, in its submission, provided details on the funding it provides to support settlement services:
Investment of $146 million from the 2016-17 NSW Budget has been directed to support positive long term outcomes in relation to education and health, employment opportunities, settling into new communities and encouraging participation. In addition, a Refugee Employment Support Program includes a $5.5 million annual commitment by the NSW Government to help refugees in Western Sydney and the Illawarra find sustainable and meaningful employment.
The Northern Territory Government highlighted a number of settlement services it provided in the areas of health services, housing delivery, education, social cohesion, and employment.
The Northern Territory Government pointed out that they also provided settlement services to other migrants on skilled and family visas:
The Northern Territory also receives other migrants from various visa streams, such as skilled migrants and family. These cohorts do not receive a high level of settlement support. The Office of Multicultural Affairs provides annual funding to the Multicultural Council of the NT (including Multicultural Youth NT) and the Multicultural Community Services of Central Australia to assist these migrants through the support programs as well as provision of advice and referrals to services.
The Victorian Government commented on the responsibilities of the Commonwealth, States and Territories more generally in the provision of settlement services:
Under the National Settlement Framework (NSF), the Commonwealth Government has responsibility for the selection and settlement of migrant and humanitarian arrivals. State and Territory Governments may provide additional targeted support programs for migrants and humanitarian arrivals as needed.
The Victorian Government added that there was a gap in the provision of settlement services between the Commonwealth and the States:
It is Victoria’s position that the mix, coordination and extent of settlement services provided by the Commonwealth Government could be improved to deliver more sustainable settlement outcomes for migrants and humanitarian entrants. The Victorian Government has developed a range of settlement support services to bridge some of the gaps in service provision that have been left by the withdrawal or inadequacy of Commonwealth services.
The ACT Government called for the Commonwealth and the States to share responsibilities:
It is imperative that both the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments provide the supports and resources necessary for successful settlement. Like Victoria, the ACT experience is that the Commonwealth has increasingly placed the responsibility for settlement services on the States and Territories, particularly in relation to the provision of free interpreting services and affordable housing. Both access to interpreters and access to and options for affordable housing must be joint responsibilities as they underpin and are fundamental to establishing the conditions necessary for successful settlement.
The South Australian Government noted that it worked collaboratively with the Commonwealth through the South Australian Settlement Planning Committee to address gaps:
For some thirty years, Commonwealth and State agencies have collaborated to bring together the key settlement stakeholders across government and the non-government sector to share information about settlement-related issues, gaps, best practice and to improve service delivery. South Australia has been a leader in this regard. Currently, [the South Australian Department for Communities and Social Inclusion] and the Commonwealth Department of Social Services co-convene the South Australian Settlement Planning Committee (SASPC). Issues raised at the SASPC are taken to the leading national settlement-related forum, the Senior Officials Settlement Outcomes Group.
Duplication of Commonwealth and State services
The Committee received some evidence suggesting that the duplication of services at the national and State level was an issue. The Committee received a couple of examples where the overlap of services across Commonwealth departments, State Governments or both may confuse clients or result in over-servicing.
Navitas English shared with the Committee an example of potential service duplication, explaining how the Career Pathways Pilot for humanitarian entrants administered by the Commonwealth DSS was similar to the NSW Government Refugee Employment Support Program, saying:
Both stem from recognition that a case-management approach that takes into account the skills, qualifications, educational background and barriers to employment is very effective for strengthening employment outcomes for refugee job-seekers and address the gaps in the Commonwealth Jobactive service. Both pilot projects are for four year terms.
Navitas English gave the example of duplication across Commonwealth departments explaining how the case management approach of the new HSP overlaps with the AMEP and mainstream employment service Jobactive, stating:
A refugee arrival might [simultaneously] have an HSP case manager, a Jobactive case manager and in the AMEP receive pathway guidance and develop an Individual Pathway Guide. There is no mechanism to coordinate and align the case management and client outcomes across the three programs and there is a risk of increased complexity, confusion and competing outcomes.
The City of Wagga Wagga commented that there had been an increase in the duplication of settlement services ‘particularly around those that provide advocacy and referral.’
Local settlement services
Local governments provide a range of services to welcome new arrivals in their communities. The Committee heard from a number of local governments in response to the inquiry that were keen to harness the energy and potential of migrants, and also mitigate any potential issues that come with change in the community.
Constitutional responsibility for local government lies with the respective State and Territory governments. This means the functions, roles and responsibilities of local government vary in each Local Government Area (LGA). Similarly, there is no consistency in actual services delivered within each LGA (if any migrant support services are offered at all).
Some examples of the type of settlement support services and initiatives provided by local governments to recent arrivals (whether skilled/family migrants, temporary workers or humanitarian entrants) include:
Cultural awareness training for frontline LGA staff (e.g. Rates Officers, Librarians, Rangers, Waste Collectors etc.);
Drop-in informal English conversation classes;
Education sessions on applying for citizenship, road-rules, understanding the Australian legal system and Australian culture;
Community events aimed at promoting social cohesion (e.g. multicultural festivals) or celebrating particular cultures or religions within a community (e.g. Diwali);
Developing community assistance directories;
Discounted or free access to local government owned facilities (e.g. swimming pools, libraries, meeting rooms);
Establishing cultural precincts;
Award schemes and local leadership programs;
Capacity building programs for member based incorporated associations;
Facilitating collaboration between State and federal funded services and local stakeholders through local advisory groups, community consultations, forums and networks;
Producing LGA resources in different languages, offering interpreting services, employing bi-lingual staff;
Building collections in Languages Other Than English (LOTE) within local libraries;
Neighbourhood centres, youth and sports programs; and
Grants to local NGOs running projects in support of new arrivals.
Support for Migration Program arrivals (skilled/family visa holders)
The Committee received evidence that suggested some LGAs are dependent on skilled migrant workers to support local industries, yet not all LGAs are adequately resourced to provide the necessary support services to help migrants and their families integrate within the community. In rural and remote areas, where there may not be Commonwealth offices (such as Centrelink) or sufficient State services (such as major hospitals, or public transport) local governments are attempting to provide support for migrants, so that they will stay in the area. Services such as Migrant Resource Centres that have shop-fronts within local communities can provide face-to-face support for new arrivals. Local providers are critical as they are a trusted and reliable source of local knowledge and can provide information and referrals to other services within the immediate area.
For example, Tatiara District Council in rural South Australia is home to JBS Australia – an export meat-processing works located outside Bordertown. It is the area’s largest employer. JBS Australia has 440 employees, around 70 per cent of who are migrants. In their submission to the inquiry, Tatiara District Council said:
Without having access to visa holders from overseas JBS [Australia] would not be able to staff its operation at Bordertown.
In our experience, it is essential that federal and State governments work together by providing grants funds so that organisations like the Australian Migrant Resource Centre [AMRC] can work with the local community and overseas workers so that they can assimilate into the community and life in Australia … Coming from overseas to a small rural community where they do not know anyone or what is available is a big issue for them. We do not have the government officers here to assist them so they rely heavily on assistance from the AMRC.
Support for Humanitarian Program arrivals
Some LGAs have demonstrated their commitment to welcoming humanitarian entrants by becoming Refugee Welcome Zones. In their submission to the inquiry the Refugee Council of Australia explained:
The Refugee Council of Australia’s longstanding initiative of Refugee Welcome Zones allows local government to play a role in actively welcoming refugees. Councils sign a declaration committing themselves to welcoming refugees and receive bulletins about their work. There are currently 143 Refugee Welcome Zones in Australia.
There are no prescriptive requirements to be a Refugee Welcome Zone, LGAs simply declare ‘a commitment in spirit to welcoming refugees into the community, upholding the human rights of refugees, demonstrating compassion for refugees and enhancing cultural and religious diversity in the community.’ There is a wide variety of initiatives offered by LGAs in connection to their position as Refugee Welcome Zones, which may be available to groups other than humanitarian entrants.
The Committee received evidence of several examples of successful local government initiatives aimed at improving settlement outcomes that are funded under public/private partnership models - and involve the wider community. Welcome to Australia Ltd is an organisation that seeks to engage everyday Australians in cultivating a culture of welcome. In their submission to the inquiry they described their flagship program:
Welcoming Cities is an internationally renowned program, and has been brought to Australia by Welcome to Australia and the Scanlon Foundation, in partnership with Welcoming America.
This initiative was launched in March 2016 and is identifying and supporting the work of, and opportunities for, communities and Local Governments to leverage the social and economic ideas and innovation that come from being welcoming and inclusive. The important role of receiving communities in ensuring that planning, infrastructure and initiatives are in place to welcome and support the integration of new arrivals is under-represented in the conversations and approaches to migration and settlement. What we know is that welcoming - when it is planned, shared and community-wide - works.
More work needs to be done to ensure that local governments, local businesses and community organisations help receiving community members understand who their neighbours are, why they are here, and actively take on bridge building work to overcome barriers to inclusion and find common interests and shared values. When receiving communities are engaged - more robust, well-resourced and successful integration can occur.
Most migrants will settle in urban areas in NSW and Victoria. The Committee understands that this does not make it easier for new arrivals to access services. Housing affordability means many migrants – especially humanitarian entrants – live on the suburban fringe, away from transport and employment opportunities and settlement support services.
The term settlement refers to a person being fully integrated in Australian society – however the Committee notes that even persons born in Australia may not be fully integrated citizens depending on their personal circumstances. Settlement may take a lifetime to achieve – or even not take effect until the next generation of a family reaches maturity. Yet, the five-year time limit on access to most settlement services does not take into account the non-linear nature of settlement journeys. In particular, the Committee notes that the five-year limit clearly disadvantages women - as women are most likely to be primary carers for their children, and less likely to access services within the five-year window.
The majority of settlement support services are only available to less than 10 per cent of migrants – those who arrive via the Humanitarian Program. Although the Committee understands this group is most in need of these services, there are other types of migrants that would achieve better settlement outcomes if they could access the same support.
Most settlement services are funded by the Commonwealth, which then allocates money to States and States then distribute to local governments, that may then pass on to local not-for-profits. Distributing funding via so many levels erodes accountability, makes it difficult for services to be evaluated and for governments to assess if funds have been used effectively. The Committee believes that monitoring and evaluation is critical if the Commonwealth is to invest in future settlement services programs.
The Humanitarian Program intake fluctuates annually depending on global resettlement needs. Whilst State and local governments welcome humanitarian entrants into their communities, the Committee notes that receiving areas need more information about new arrivals earlier. Useful information that would help State and local governments better plan services includes:
Ages (including if under-18 years);
Whether arriving as individuals or in family units; and
Background information about their country of origin.
Local governments, particularly in rural and remote areas that are less connected to mainstream services, would benefit from more support from federal and State governments or private partnerships to help meet the needs of new arrivals in their communities.
Small not-for-profits founded by the communities they represent provide vital services for new migrants, however often these organisations struggle due to limited funding and the capacity of their members.
Public/Private partnership models can offer high quality and sophisticated services that meet the unique needs of different communities.
Although the National Settlement Framework was established to better define roles and responsibilities of Commonwealth, State and local governments – the Committee believes it still lacks clarity and further work is needed to refine roles and responsibilities. There are instances of duplication of services – which confuses clients and results in over-servicing and wasted resources. The current framework also does not go far enough in helping identify service gaps. The Committee believes it would be useful if State and local governments produced their own frameworks to better help consumers and stakeholders understand what services are available and identify funding duplication and gaps. The Committee notes that the constantly evolving nature of programs at all levels will make this a challenge.
Offshore humanitarian entrants may be able to access up to five days of AUSCO before they come to Australia. The Committee believes learning English is a priority, but it is also important new arrivals can learn about Australian systems and culture including education on Australian law and legal system.
The Committee sees language as not the only barrier to gaining employment - the lack of understanding of typical Australian practices is also holding migrants back. For example, a job applicant might not be aware that it is standard for employers to ask for referees, that employees are usually subject to a probation period, that superannuation contributions are compulsory and that wages are usually paid electronically on a weekly or fortnightly basis.
The Committee is of the view that education sessions and materials to help new arrivals understand common Australian practices will improve settlement outcomes.
The Committee notes that the cultural orientation programs witnessed by the delegation to Sweden and Germany (refer to Chapter 8) that focussed on teaching people about laws, rights and responsibilities and systems of government could be replicated within the AUSCO program.
The Committee recommends that the Australian Cultural Orientation Program provide at least 100 hours of Australian cultural training including civic and legal education to refugee and humanitarian entrants as well as other migrants who would benefit from this training.