Next steps to improve Australia’s settlement and integration of refugees
The Law Council welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to the Office of the Coordinator General for Migrant Services in the Department of Home Affairs (Department) in relation to its discussion paper ‘Next steps to improve Australia’s settlement and integration of refugees’ (discussion paper).
According to the discussion paper, the upcoming tender and grants process for Australian Cultural Orientation Program (AUSCO), Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) and Settlement Engagement Transition Support Program (SETS) has provided the Department with an opportunity to consider whether changes to these services and how they are delivered could assist to improve settlement outcomes.
The Law Council understands that these programs are directed to persons who have been recognised as a refugee and have been either granted a permanent Refugee or Humanitarian visa or a permanent or temporary protection or humanitarian visa. However, in the course of obtaining input from its constituent bodies on this issue, the LIV provided input about the experience in Australia of asylum seekers. These asylum seekers may ultimately be recognised as refugees and at which point, they may then come within the purview of these programs. The experience in Australia of asylum seekers is likely to affect their ability to settle into the community if and when they are recognised as a refugee. For this reason, the experience of asylum seekers is worth taking into account in the context of developing policy about the settlement of refugees.
As such, this submission is divided into two parts: the first part addresses the settlement experience of refugees – that is, people subject to these programs; and the second part addresses the submissions about asylum seekers.
Further, none of the questions in the discussion paper expressly address access to justice or legal supports. However, Law Council considers that access to justice is critical to ensuring a positive settlement experience for newly arrived refugees, and settlement services should be designed in a manner which aids access to justice. Specifically, the Law Council recommends that:
- free legal assistance and interpreter services should be provided to all asylum seekers through the Immigration Advice and Application Assistance Scheme (IAAAS); and
- the Australian Government should commit to additional, ongoing and evidence-based resourcing to community legal centres responsible for refugee legal services.
The Law Council has not addressed all of the questions in the discussion paper – it has focused on housing, health community relationships, and capability and self-agency. On these matters, it recommends:
- increased funding and access to crisis accommodation for non-citizens who are victims of family violence; and
- steps should be taken to ensure that such accommodation is accessible to women without income or means to pay and who do not have permanent rights to remain in Australia.