Adequacy of settlement and social inclusion services
Australia has a strong program of settlement services that have
international repute. Participants of the inquiry generally praised the current
suite of settlement programs, however many also highlighted a number of areas
that require improvement. This chapter examines some of the issues raised
regarding the adequacy of settlement and social inclusion services in Australia,
including the government's approach to settlement, the Adult Migrant English Program
(AMEP), changes to citizenship requirements, and employment services for new
migrants and refugees.
Throughout the inquiry, the committee heard a range of views on the government's
approach to settlement services. A number of submitters and witnesses were
critical of the division of portfolio responsibilities, policy changes to
settlement service eligibility, and the lack of attention afforded to regional
settlement. These were considered indicative of the government's fragmented
approach to multiculturalism in Australia, and have had a flow-on effect for
organisations in the settlement sector.
The Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria (ECCV) argued that 'in order
to affect a cultural shift toward visibly embracing multiculturalism,
government and its funded agencies need to set the standard for inclusive
It noted that community attitudes toward multiculturalism '[start] with a
well-articulated government position that supports inclusion and welcomes
Division of responsibility
Small changes in department names, and the division of responsibility
for multicultural affairs, settlement services, citizenship, and countering
violent extremism, were interpreted as indicators that the government's
appetite for multiculturalism has somewhat shifted over time.
The committee noted that current policy responsibility for multicultural
affairs and settlement services sits with the Department of Social Services,
whilst the AMEP is administered by the Department of Education and Training.
Translating and Interpreting services that are part of the settlement program
are provided by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, as are
matters of citizenship. Jobactive services to assist migrants in securing
employment are delivered by the Department of Employment.
AMES Australia expressed concern that the fragmented nature of
settlement service administration has 'created a disconnect in those critical
on-arrival settlement services'.
The ECCV echoed these concerns, suggesting that changes to department
names sent a strong negative message about multiculturalism. They gave the
example of the name change from the 'Department of Immigration and
Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs' to the 'Department of Immigration and
Border Protection' as having a greater focus on exclusionary measures, rather than
the social inclusion of new arrivals to Australia.
Responsibility for settlement services also shifted from the Department of
Immigration and Border Protection to the Department of Social Services in 2013,
which ECCV claims 'swings the pendulum "from migration is good and
necessary" for Australia to migration is a burden'.
Witnesses and submitters expressed concern that indicative name and
policy changes around settlement services have instigated a cultural shift that
has undermined multiculturalism and social inclusion. At the ECCV Roundtable on
Strengthening Multiculturalism on 5 May 2017, this was described as '[changing]
the culture and flavour of multiculturalism'.
The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture Inc. added that the portfolio
position of settlement services and multicultural affairs may in fact jeopardise
The record suggests that these tasks will not be given the
priority that is warranted if they are located within government departments
that have a broad range of other responsibilities.
Along with many participants, the committee notes that the National
Settlement Framework released in November 2016 is an 'important step to
coordinate settlement and social inclusion services'.
However, there is concern that while the Framework provides a blue print for
the respective roles of Commonwealth, state and territory, and local
governments, there still lacks a single coordinating body to drive outcomes,
leaving many settlement service providers apprehensive.
Current eligibility requirements for access to settlement services are
dependent on an individual's circumstances and visa class.
A number of witnesses told the committee that eligibility requirements have
tightened over a period of five years, including through restricted provision
of family reunion visas and decreased access to the Adult Migrant English Program.
Participants of the inquiry argued that 'on arrival' settlement
services, including the Australian Government's Humanitarian Settlement
Services (HSS) program, and Complex Case Support (CCS) program, are almost
exclusively reserved for those arriving to Australia as refugees and
New arrivals that come to Australia with a family reunion visa, a 457 visa, or
otherwise, were therefore viewed as receiving less cohesive early settlement
...the Humanitarian Settlement Services program, generally
speaking, [does] provide a very strong orientation and grounding in terms of
settlement for refugees. But those other migrant groups do not have that. In
fact, we are doing ourselves a disservice because we are leaving that settlement
process very much to family links or spouses...They do not have English skills
and they do not have that support to be able to get out, connect and integrate.
Mr Nicholas Tebbey, Chief Executive Officer of the Settlement Council of
Australia, argued that the five-year limit on funding fails to support 'people
who fall through the cracks, who fall on hard times and need assistance'. He
Time and time again, we hear stories of families who,
potentially seven or 10 years after, or even second-generation migrants, will
still come back to that first port of call, the migrant resource centre or the
settlement service provider, seeking help...our members report to us that they
will receive clients who are not typically eligible for services but nevertheless
need the help.
With regard to refugee settlement, the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA)
told the committee that successive asylum policy changes since August 2012
have removed refugee service entitlements and are increasingly shifting
refugees to temporary visa protections. Without the security of a permanent or
humanitarian entrant visa, these individuals are denied access to imperative
settlement supports. According to RCOA, this has a significant impact on social
This is a perfect recipe for alienation and marginalisation,
even though most people who come by boat have been recognised as refugees, and
will go on to live in Australia for their foreseeable future. Instead of
protecting and seeking to integrate them, Australia continues to demonise them
as ‘illegal’ and deliberately frustrate their ability ever to find safety and
hope in Australia.
Settlement Services International suggested that the continued
restriction of Australian settlement services seemed to not only apply to particular
visa classes, but to all migrant groups. Rather than increasing funding and
services to meet the needs of the growing intake of refugees and migrants,
there seemed to be less resources available:
I have seen in the 30-odd years I have been in the sector—about
28 years now—a process whereby we have narrowed people's accessibility to
services. When I first started in settlement services there was no limit. When
I was a young social worker and people came to seek my support, it did not
matter how long they had been here for. Now we have narrowed it. It has been
narrowed and it was capped at 15 years, then it was 7½ years and now it is five
The committee heard that the inability to access settlement services can
affect individuals' ability to seek employment, pursue further education
opportunities, and integrate into their local community. RCOA described this as
the 'wasted human potential' of new arrivals, citing the comments of a young
I came here in 2012, I’m not allowed to work, there are no
funds for me to study. It’s not just me, it’s all asylum seekers...When I
arrived, I was 17. Imagine if you are 17 and you are not allowed to go to
school. Now I’m almost 20. The best years of my life are gone. When can I go to
school? When can I go to college? When can I have my education?
Another former refugee appearing before the committee provided a frank
assessment of the restricted policies around refugee settlement:
The model of funding and service delivery in the settlement
sector does not work for the more recently arrived refugees. Support is
provided on a short-term basis and eligibility is restricted to five years
after arriving in Australia. The large majority of refugee community
organisations are not funded; therefore, diminishing the participation of
refugees themselves in delivering settlement services.
Support for regional areas
The committee received evidence that the provision of settlement and
social inclusion services in regional areas is complex and requires adequate
resourcing and support from local and federal government.
The Multicultural Council of Tasmania highlighted the low levels of
migration to Tasmania and the loss of migrant communities to the mainland over
recent years, due to a lack of settlement support. They submitted that 'federal
government programs are not designed to fund small community organisations' and
have led to service gaps for migrants in regional areas:
If sufficient opportunity, support and encouragement is not
provided for people to build communities in Tasmania, then migrants will
continue to relocate to places that have more established communities.
The committee heard that the success of regional settlement is also
dependent on the community resources available, such as the availability of
accredited interpreters, or the provision of transport assistance.
The Tasmanian Government stated:
In Tasmania there is a shortage of credentialed interpreters
in new and emerging languages. This occurs because the community populations
are small in number and still mastering their own English language proficiency.
This is also a problem for much of regional Australia.
Participants noted, however, that it is important to ensure regional
areas continue to be included as designated settlement locations. Not only are
there a number of new arrivals seeking to return to the agrarian lifestyle of
their home country,
regional townships can also stand to benefit from population revival and the
provision of skilled labour that often result from being a settlement location.
One example provided by witnesses is of the Karen-Burmese community in Nhill, a
town in North Victoria:
It is a small town of about 2,000 people. There is a large
duck manufacturing processor who needed labour and could not attract any labour
and was in danger of having to close. They approached us to look for mostly
unskilled labour. We approached the Karen-Burmese community here in Werribee
because we knew that they were keen to settle and, through a process of working
with the leadership in the regional town and also the Karen leadership, settled
over a period of about five years more than 200 people. That has had
significant success. As well as the employer being able to stay open and do
well because of it, the school was able to stay open and they were able to
attract an extra nurse. They have a soccer club as well as the AFL footy club.
A further example is that of Mingoola, a small town located on the
border to New South Wales and Queensland. According to witnesses, the
settlement of twenty-six Rwandan refugees enabled the struggling town to keep its primary
school open, and provide valuable labour to local farmers. This was made
possible through the coordinated efforts of refugee agencies and the local
progress association. 
The committee noted that whilst adequate health, settlement, and support
resources are crucial to successful settlement outcomes, there needs to be
embedded community support. AMES Australia said this may be a matter of
accessing volunteers or other such supports.
Mr Asher Hirsch from RCOA suggested that it should also come from strong leadership:
The [Karen] resettlement [in Nhill, Victoria] is a great
example of the importance of political leadership. The mayor, who I met, has
spent time learning the [Karen] language, and he has spoken at events where he
spoke first in [Karen] and then in English. He dressed up in traditional [Karen]
clothing, as well. That leadership was really vital to getting the community
behind the idea that they have new migrants coming in and that this is
something we should be celebrating and welcoming.
English language learning
The committee received evidence that the current English language
program available to new arrivals, the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), is
not being utilised effectively due to a number of barriers around inflexible
delivery, insufficient length of supports, and personal or cultural obstacles. The
committee notes that learning English is an essential aspect of settlement into
Australian life. As the Queensland Government submitted, English language
...affords migrants and refugees the opportunity to not only
learn English, but to become familiar with civic laws, establish social
networks and gain confidence to participate economically.
Delivery of the Adult Migrant English
The current AMEP allows eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants to
access up to 510 hours of English language tuition to help them learn
foundational English language and settlement skills to enable them to participate
socially and economically in Australian society.
However, many witnesses said that the block allocation does not accurately
reflect the amount of time required to acquire a new language in a foreign
country. The Tasmanian Government noted that this concern is widespread:
Almost all jurisdictions, including Tasmania, have at various
times advised the Australian Government that 510 hours of English language
tuition under the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is insufficient for many
new arrivals to gain English language proficiency appropriate for gaining
employment and participating in education and training. This is the case for
humanitarian entrants and dependents of skilled migrants who are eligible under
the AMEP, alike.
Mrs Elizabeth Lual, a member of the Refugee Communities Advocacy Network
who previously completed the AMEP, stated:
I learnt through volunteer home tutoring, from volunteers at
where we come from—I am from Wollongong. From the time I arrived I said
Australia is wonderful, but the 510 hours are not enough. But I appreciate the
government giving it to us. But it is not enough. I learnt in a different way,
not from the 510 hours.
Mrs Lual's evidence alludes to another issue that was frequently raised throughout
the inquiry—the rigid structure of the AMEP. The committee heard that many
migrants and refugees found the AMEP to be inflexible and mismatched to their
needs. Participants to the inquiry said that clients come into the program at
different levels, with different needs. As such, the 'one-size-fits-all,
across-the-board' model is not suited to all new arrivals.
As an example, the Federation of Ethnic Communities' Councils of Australia
(FECCA) pointed out that many migrants, particularly migrant women with limited
literacy skills from their home countries, may encounter difficulties in
attending and learning in the structured teaching environment employed by the
AMEP. They explained:
Research has demonstrated how women may learn better through 'community-based
learning program [sic] where they feel comfortable and more engaged in their
own communities'. FECCA's own community consultations have found there is a
need for a more practical, practice oriented structure and AMEP content.
This personalised style of learning was echoed by the Multicultural
Communities Council of SA, who suggested that young parents from emerging
communities required 'a safe place to practice'.
Community Hubs Australia also referred to the need for context, stating:
...learning language is not just a classroom skill; it is a
life skill, and you need environments like hubs, schools, community centres,
libraries, churches or mosques—places where people are comfortable being and
where events happen in that language.
The committee received a number of suggestions and endorsements of
flexible learning models to fill the apparent gaps left by the AMEP. The
Victorian Government expressed support for 'a flexible, responsive model of
English language tuition that can be tailored to the needs of the individual'.
The ECCV recommended a similar tiered approach to allow needs-based support for
migrants arriving with varying levels of English education.
One submitter described the benefits of the Home English Teaching Scheme
that she participated in 40 years ago. The home setting allowed her student to
receive one-on-one tutelage at a time and in a location that suited both student
and teacher, whilst also providing her with a valuable cultural learning
I vividly recall being out of my comfort zone, as I accepted
'Fatima's' hospitality after each lesson, to eat Lebanese cakes and down a
small cup of strong Turkish coffee! I'm sure that experience informed my
teaching, in being more open to, and understanding of, diversity and
difference, which I would encounter during my teaching career.
Therefore I would encourage ALL teachers college courses to
contain a component which values and supports multiculturalism, in a practical
The need to tailor the delivery of English language learning to increase
accessibility and participation was promoted by the Victorian Multicultural
If we require this of them but do not facilitate the training
we are not only setting them up for failure but placing an added burden on many
who are already facing considerable adjustment and financial pressures.
Barriers to learning
Participants to the inquiry drew the committee's attention to cultural
and personal barriers to the AMEP. Witnesses revealed that many migrants who arrive
and are eligible for the program have competing priorities that can cause them
to miss their AMEP entitlement in the first five years of their arrival. Dr
Sonja Hood, Chief Executive Officer of Community Hubs Australia, noted:
...if you come here with small children or you come here and
have a baby, your priorities as a family will be: finding housing, settling the
children into the school or their new life and settling your husband into his
job. In a lot of families, that is just a fact. Your language and your needs
will come last, which is why you often see people turning up after 10 years.
The committee was also told that a number of migrants and refugees that
arrive may not be literate in their own language—they 'might have moved from
country to country, with disrupted schooling'.
These individuals struggle to benefit from the 510 hour allocation and require
a more flexible approach:
...language learning should be embedded in everyday life—for example,
via workplace English language training, or training that is delivered locally,
where communities are in situ. English classes should also be offered for a
longer period of time, enabling people to catch up.
Community Hubs Australia added that many migrants and refugees may not
recognise the need to learn English upon arrival, instead leaving it until
beyond the first five years of settlement:
... it is actually quite easy to live in your first language in
a culture which does not speak it. You can read the papers from home, you can
watch television from home and you have probably got a family group. For women,
if you are the wife in that family, particularly if you have come in—as many
Vietnamese women do—to marry men who have grown up here, you will have a family
group that speaks your language so there may be no interest from anybody else
in your learning either—the situation reinforces itself, if you like.
Beyond migrants' recognition of the need to learn English, the committee
was told that psychological trauma, caused by circumstances and experiences
prior to their arrival in Australia, could also be a barrier for some new
arrivals. Mr Lachlan Murdoch, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the NSW Service
for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma, referred to the
impact of torture and trauma on the brain:
There is clear evidence that exposure to trauma impacts the
capacity to learn. It has an effect on concentration and memory. There is a
growing body of evidence that indicates that trauma exposure can actually
affect areas of the brain that are associated with language acquisition. So it
is important to be aware of that, because many people coming from refugee
backgrounds have experienced trauma, and that can then impact their capacity to
acquire a second language.
The committee also heard that there may be confusion about social norms
when refugees and migrants arrive, such as classroom and learning expectations.
Mr Atem Dau Atem, Public Officer at the Refugee Communities Advocacy
Network, described the contrast between his learning experiences in Australia,
compared to school in Africa:
Australia has its own way of doing things...when I went to
school in Africa, you sat down and listened to your teacher. You did not say
anything. You raised your hand to speak. When I came here, I went straight to
university. I went to a tutorial. I could not understand a thing because the
tutor was chatting and saying all these things, and everybody was chatting, and
then they would go back to this thing and talk about that, and then everybody
goes on to something else. So I was confused: 'What is going on?' The way
things work here sometimes, if you do not have that experience and
understanding, it does not matter how much support you get. It is just
Community Hubs Australia stated that policy makers need to 'stop
thinking about English as something that gets delivered in a 510-hour block and
start thinking of it as a life skill'.
Chief Executive Officer, Dr Sonja Hood, was of the view that cultural
understanding is key to genuine settlement, such that new migrants are not only
able to speak English, but to apply it to context and participate in day-to-day
life. For new migrants, English skills are essential for participation and
independence, such as when purchasing items from a store, applying for a job
and taking children to school.
Throughout the inquiry, witnesses told the committee of the aspiration
to obtain citizenship status, and the psychological and social benefits of
being able to call oneself an Australian citizen. To new migrants and refugees,
Australian citizenship represents a sense of security, an identity, and a
chance to start afresh.
The inquiry evidence revealed that the legal protection and implications of
citizenship status allowed otherwise stateless refugees to feel that they were
valuable and could contribute to society through work, taxes, or otherwise. As Mr
Burhan Zangana from the Refugee Communities Advocacy Network described:
It is about safety and security. Being a permanent resident,
you cannot get out of Australia—or you can but that safety and security is not
there. Once you have your citizenship and you apply for your Australian
passport, you feel human again. That is what citizenship means for refugees,
especially those who become stateless or have a fear of going back or being
returned to the country that they left. They went through danger. No-one leaves
for fun. No happy person leaves their country and says, 'I'm not going to go
Compared to its overseas counterparts, Australia's citizenship model of
multiculturalism is particularly unique. Whilst in many European countries
migrants may be perceived as 'guest workers' and be expected to assimilate; Australia
is distinguished by its 'two-way' integration approach that encourages migrants
to become full members of the Australian community, whilst also being free to
express their cultural identity and heritage.
For new arrivals, obtaining citizenship is an important milestone, one that is
'counted down' from the moment of arrival.
The committee heard, however, that new arrivals who are unable to obtain
citizenship can feel alienated and unwelcome.
This is particularly the case for those arriving as a refugee or asylum seeker:
People on these visas will never be able to truly call
Australia home. The temporary protection regime means not only that a person
must reapply every few years and be found again to be a refugee but that they
may be returned to danger. That also means that they are unable to access
settlement supports that other refugees get. People who live here for decades
or even their entire lives do not have access to the same supports and
opportunities as other residents and citizens.
The Australian Psychological Society contended that the impacts of this
Not only do incoming people not feel valued and recognised
when they do not get this help but the broader community also gets the message
that incoming people do not deserve support.
RCOA reinforced this, saying that new arrivals that are denied
citizenship, or experience delays in being granted citizenship status, are not
included and therefore find it difficult to settle in Australia:
If we think about the fact that we want people to make
Australia their home, we want them to feel like they belong, we want them to
put down roots here—start businesses, send their kids to school—if you only
have a three-year visa and you think you are going to be sent home or you are
not sure what is going to happen, you cannot settle in Australia. That also
undermines social cohesion and multiculturalism.
Changes to the citizenship test
On 20 April 2017, the government announced a commitment to strengthen
the requirements to become an Australian citizen. The changes were introduced
into Parliament on 15 June 2017 through the Australian Citizenship
Legislation Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian
Citizenship and Other Measures) Bill 2017 (the bill).
A major aspect of the bill was the increase of the general resident requirement,
such that applicants must demonstrate a minimum of four years permanent
residence before applying for citizenship. The previous requirement allowed
time spent in Australia as a temporary resident to be counted towards a four
year qualifying period, and only required a minimum of 12 months as a permanent
resident, immediately prior to applying.
Individuals applying for citizenship after April 2017 are also asked to
demonstrate their integration into the Australian community through providing
documentation to show they are working, educating themselves, paying taxes, or
contributing to the community.
As part of the bill, the government has also introduced a new
citizenship test, with additional questions about applicants' attitudes toward
gender equality, domestic violence, genital mutilation and child marriage. New
applicants must complete an English language test and achieve a pass mark of 75
per cent, equivalent to Level 6 of the International English Language Testing
In 2015, the take-up of citizenship by migrants to Australia was
reported to be 82 per cent for those that had been residents for between 15 and
The Scanlon Foundation's 2015 Australians Today report also showed
that citizenship take-up increased the longer residents were in Australia, with
50 per cent of those who had been a resident for between 5 and 9 years becoming
citizens, 59 per cent of residents for between 10 and 14 years, and 82 per cent
between 15 and 24 years. 
Despite the high levels of uptake, a number of inquiry participants
expressed concern about the proposed changes to the citizenship test and the
message this sends about multiculturalism in Australia. Witnesses were
primarily concerned about the content of the new test and the level of English
language proficiency required.
While supportive of the requirement for applicants to pass an English
language proficiency test, some witnesses suggested that the mandatory level of
proficiency proposed 'may not be the best way to implement the requirement'.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry noted that the IELTS on which the
test is based was originally designed for the purpose of measuring entry into
academic institutions and professional associations.
Witnesses to the inquiry felt that the citizenship test changes were
indicative of a broader government shift away from principles of social
inclusion, and would negatively impact on settlement outcomes:
The message from the proposed changes to citizenship
application to many is that Australia is going to make it difficult to
non-English speaking people to obtain Australian Citizenship... The new rules act
as antidote to the principles of inclusion. It fails to take into consideration
the complex issues that prevent a large cohort of refugees from attaining that
level of English.
The Settlement Council of Australia claimed that the changes 'have the
potential to alienate certain members of Australia's multicultural community,
for whom citizenship may become unattainable'.
Rather than uniting Australians, the new citizenship requirements were viewed
as a threat to Australia's multicultural fabric.
Ms Olyvia Nikou QC from the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria stated:
Knowing about Donald Bradman or lamingtons is not going to
assist us moving forward as a rich society that draws from many perspectives.
Recognising migrant contributions
and integration into Australian life
Rather than making changes to the test, many witnesses called for a
broader recognition of allegiance and integration into Australian life. They suggested
that this approach would provide a more accurate reflection of Australia as a
multicultural nation, subscribing to democratic values of equity, justice, and
The Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne and Victoria suggested that
citizenship should be demonstrated by levels of engagement. They provided the
committee with evidence of migrants' contribution to Australian society through
volunteering and community work.
The Refugee Community Advocacy Network noted in its submission:
Australian citizenship is an allegiance to the country and is
not determined by the level of English but rather, one's faithfulness to
Australia and hard work to contribute to the country.
Volunteering SA&NT submitted that 'multicultural communities
contribute extensively to the social fabric of the wider Australian community,
through voluntary participation'.
The volunteering experience can also facilitate positive settlement outcomes
through encouraging community participation. For new migrants and refugees,
volunteering offers a social network, work opportunities, and connections with
the broader community.
Other suggestions to recognise and improve allegiance to Australian
values centred on education. RCOA suggested that educational goals for young
Australians should reiterate what it means to be an Australian citizen, and to
'commit to national values of democracy, equity and justice, and participate in
Australia's civic life'.
The Executive Council of Australian Jewry suggested that the values
underpinning Australia's democratic tradition should extend beyond the non‑core
subjects of civics and citizenship, but instead be integrated into broader school
education, in subjects such as English, history, the sciences and geography.
The Australian Multicultural Council noted that this is not a new idea,
saying that several Government reports and reviews have previously 'identified
the importance of a stronger civics program in schools to encourage
participation with, and pride in, both community and political life in
The committee heard that many refugees and migrants experienced
difficulty securing employment through both the government's jobactive services,
and the Skills for Education and Employment program.
The ability to find work, and receive a regular income can have a significant
impact on an individual's settlement. According to AMES Australia, '[b]eing
settled is about how you feel about yourself—self-worth and self-esteem—and
being employed gives you a sense of being valued and of contributing'.
RCOA also said that employment can have a therapeutic effect on refugees that
have come from torture or trauma situations and are seeking fulfilment in a new
Issues raised with existing employment services for new migrants and
refugees included ineffective employment pathways, a lack of recognition of
overseas professional qualifications, and inadequate cultural understanding of
Australian recruitment processes.
Witnesses told the committee that employment assistance provided through
'jobactive' did not recognise the unique barriers that refugees and
migrants face in entering the Australian labour market.
According to the Victorian Government:
The Commonwealth’s Jobactive employment model lacks targeted
and comprehensive support for migrants and humanitarian entrants, leading to
poor rates of success both in terms of short and long term employment.
Jobactive figures indicate the retention rate for humanitarian entrants in full
time employment beyond 26 weeks is less than 25%.
Mr Asher Hirsch from RCOA noted that the job seeker classification
system used by jobactive was ineffective in identifying gaps in skills
and experience. This was exacerbated by a lack of training for jobactive
staff in providing services for individuals from diverse backgrounds:
The [job seeker classification] system does not recognise the
additional needs that people have. It might not put a high-enough emphasis on
the lack of Australian experience or a high-enough emphasis on the fact that a
person speaks three or four different languages but English might be their
third language. So the job seeker classification instrument does not recognise
their skills and then they do not get enough support when they go to the
jobactive provider, because the jobactive provider is not necessarily skilled
to support people who are new to Australia who are from diverse backgrounds.
Ms Catherine Scarth from AMES Australia pointed out that the jobactive
Star Ratings and Performance framework causes providers to be unequally
focused on putting migrants into work, rather than recognising education needs
that could provide long-term assistance to migrants' job prospects.
Ms Scarth explained:
...providers may be disposed to put people into work—any
work—as quickly as possible, because that links to how their business is
reallocated and allocated through the star system. There is quite a complex
analytical framework around the stars, but you are disadvantaged by having
people in education programs for a period of time. The length of time taken to
find people work goes against you, so, often, providers are looking to get
people into work as quickly as possible. It kind of does not favour a refugee
and migrant group who would really benefit from further education and language
Recognition of overseas
Skills accreditation also concerned new arrivals. AMES Australia highlighted
its research showing skilled migrant women were highly unlikely to secure jobs
in their chosen profession, describing it as a 'waste in terms of the benefit
of the migration program'.
This issue is clearly highlighted in the Australian Bureau of Statistics'
Characteristics of Recent Migrants Survey. The Survey showed that in
November 2016, only one third of recent migrants who had obtained a
non-school qualification before arrival had their overseas qualifications
recognised in Australia. This is despite high levels of education amongst
recent migrants, with 65 per cent holding a non-school qualification
before arriving in Australia, and 76 per cent of these being a
Bachelor degree or higher. 
As witnesses noted, greater recognition of overseas skills and
qualifications is not only of benefit to the individual that is settling in
Australia, but there are also 'tangible and important outcomes...for both
Australian businesses and culturally and linguistically diverse communities' as
The committee notes that the Productivity Commission's 2016 report on migrant
intake into Australia made a similar argument, suggesting that enhanced skills
recognition would assist migrants in contributing to the economy faster.
Alternative employment supports
Due to a perceived lack of support in securing permanent employment, several
witnesses revealed that migrants and refugees are seeking alternative pathways
to get a job. Volunteering was put forward as a common pathway:
I job hunted for 4 months in aged care after doing my
training with nothing and then got a job after 2 weeks of volunteering in aged
Witnesses also referred to a number of state and territory investments
that have been made to fill the gaps left by the Commonwealth jobactive
model. This includes the Tasmanian Government's investment of $1.2 million over
four years for a 'Safe Haven Hub' to help with employment pathways and
and the Victorian Government's $6 million investment in employment programs for
culturally diverse communities, including the delivery of 'Recruit Smarter'—an initiative
to address unconscious bias in recruitment in both private and public sectors.
A number of participants suggested that employment assistance should
ensure that new migrants and refugees are prepared for work in the Australian
context.  The
Queensland Government suggested that this should include preparation for
interviews and assistance in navigating the jobs market.
AMES Australia similarly suggested that simple role-play interviews and resume
writing would be beneficial.
Engagement with local organisations
Throughout the inquiry, many submitters and witnesses raised the need to
improve communications between governments and the multicultural affairs and
settlement sector. One witness expressed particular concern that ethnic
communities councils were not consulted with regarding the changes to the
We were disappointed to pick up the paper and find that
decisions had been made on citizenship without consultation.
Participants noted that governments need to consult with the right
people, by asking who they are, who they represent, and whether or not they are
truly passionate and engaged, rather than 'just power hungry people at the top
of some organisation'.
Many witnesses suggested that there should also be engagement between
communities at the grassroots,
to ensure knowledge and experience is shared:
Consultation cannot just be plucking a few people who are
seen to be leaders in the community; you really have to get into it at the
grassroots level, because sometimes the best spokespeople for these communities
are not those who are the heads of particular organisations. Really meaningful
consultation, not just a tick-a-box exercise, is really important.
Speaking from a community organisation perspective, Ms Huong Truong from
the Victoria Chapter of the Vietnamese Community in Australia, supported this, suggesting:
...what we appreciate as communities is that you come to speak
to us and listen to us and be part of our meetings and our gatherings in a way
that builds the cultural literacy between communities as well as of the
Witnesses were adamant that the grassroots community organisations, and
the work they do, should continue to be supported by government.
They felt that policy makers often fail to recognise and draw on the wealth of
knowledge retained in the sector. The Ethnic Communities' Council of Victoria
Multicultural service providers have generational
organisational knowledge through lived experience of migration and settlement
which enables them to impart experience with newer communities and shorten
their learning curve through mentoring and coaching opportunities. These
service providers also stated that they collect a wealth of information,
including on unmet need, which is a valuable resource for government planning
and funding of services to impact on communities at the local level.
The committee acknowledges the 2015 review of the Humanitarian Settlement
Services and Complex Case Support programs, undertaken by Ernst and Young. The
review found that the programs are achieving objectives and broadly meeting
client needs, and are having a clear and lasting impact on client outcomes and
The committee is also aware that the current Humanitarian Settlement
Services and Complex Case Support contracts will end in 2017 and are currently being
re-designed into the new Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP).
With the new HSP proposing to take on the recommendations of previous reviews,
and build upon the government's commitment to improve English, employment and
education outcomes for humanitarian entrants, the committee is hopeful that new
arrivals will experience improved services over the next few years.
With regard to the Adult Migrant English Program, the committee notes
that as part of the 2016–17 Budget measures, the Department of Education and
Training recently announced changes to the program's business model.
The changes, which commenced on 1 July 2017, seek to help clients
achieve better English language outcomes in order to find sustainable
employment and participate independently in society. The committee supports the
following features of the new business model, as relevant to the issues
discussed in this inquiry:
providing access to a capped programme of up to 490 hours of
additional tuition for clients who have not reached functional English after
completing their legislative entitlement of 510 hours;
increasing flexibility and innovation in service delivery by
allowing providers to choose a curriculum that best meets their clients' needs,
as well as providing access to an innovative projects fund;
enhancing flexibility and support for clients by offering choice
of tuition streams that will deliver tailored tuition to meet their needs and
a trial of a competitive model for delivering AMEP services,
encouraging service providers to become more responsive and creative in the way
they engage clients.
Although these changes have the potential to enhance the current
settlement services available to migrants and humanitarian entrants, the
committee recommends greater coordination and symbolic support on the part of
federal government, through establishing a coordination body to drive outcomes
under the National Settlement Framework.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government consider
electing a single department or government body to take an oversight role in
settlement services through:
coordinating and monitoring settlement services, including the
new Humanitarian Settlement Program, the Adult Migrant English Program, and new
arrivals' employment services;
conducting regular evaluation of settlement outcomes, including analysis
of the differences between outcomes for migrants compared with humanitarian
establishing state and territory partnerships to drive outcomes
under the National Settlement Framework; and
considering and responding to the recommendations from the Joint
Standing Committee on Migration inquiry into Migrant Settlement Outcomes when
With regard to the proposed changes to citizenship requirements, the
committee agrees that new migrants and refugees should be required to
demonstrate an adequate level of English language ability when applying to be a
citizen. However, the committee views the level of English proficiency required
in the newly introduced Australian Citizenship Legislation Amendment
(Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other Measures)
Bill 2017 to be unnecessarily high.
The committee is of the view that the Australian Government should seek
to lower the required standard of English proficiency from 'competent' to 'basic'
to reflect a foundational level of English language required for ordinary daily
The committee also suggests that the Australian Government consider the
outcomes of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Committee inquiry into the proposed Australian Citizenship Legislation
Amendment (Strengthening the Requirements for Australian Citizenship and Other
Measures) Bill 2017 when available.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government do not proceed
with their proposed changes to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, and
associated changes to the Australian citizenship test, which may severely
impact on the well-being of individuals seeking citizenship in Australia.
The committee accepts that employment pathways for new migrants and
refugees are convoluted and often slow in leading to a positive outcome. They
observe that there is no specific employment service available for new arrivals
to Australia, and individuals are instead referred through the Commonwealth jobactive
service or the Skills for Education and Employment program.
These programs, delivered through the Department of Employment and the
Department of Human Services respectively, emphasise the need for an integrated
employment assistance service that meets the unique needs of migrants and
The committee recommends that the Department of Employment consider
developing a specific migrant-stream employment service under the current jobactive
model. The model could incorporate the following elements:
a robust assessment framework that recognises overseas education
stronger coordination with the Adult Migrant English Program;
alternative assessment guidelines under the jobactive star
rating performance framework; and
comprehensive cross-cultural training, including torture and
trauma training, for all staff.
The committee further recognises that there is a need for regular
consultation between government, policy makers and the settlement sector to
ensure settlement services are adequately meeting the needs of clients.
Therefore, the committee broadly recommends ongoing consultation with community
organisations with regard to future legislative and policy changes.
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