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Settling better: reforming refugee employment and settlement services

Policy Online carries a link (20.2.17) to a Centre for Policy Development report on Australia’s refugee settlement services and policies. The report argues that the best way to help humanitarian migrants to build flourishing lives is to help them find work through better targeted training and support schemes.

‘Since the end of World War II, successive governments have helped more than 800,000 refugees and displaced people of different nationalities and faiths to build new lives in Australia. Our humanitarian migration program – one of the world’s largest – enjoys the backing of all major political parties and broad community support. As Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confidently told the UN General Assembly in September 2016, ‘Australia is one of the most successful multicultural societies in the world’.

‘Australia’s achievement rests in large part on the effectiveness of its post-arrival settlement program. ‘No country has integrated newcomers as well as we have,’ says former immigration department head John Menadue AO. Australia provides refugees with services to help them overcome past trauma and integrate into the community. It offers hundreds of hours of free English classes and provides immediate access to government benefits and public healthcare. The active engagement of a myriad of community organisations helps refugees to build social connections and find their way in a new society. Over time, these resettled refugees and their children make an enormous contribution to the community and the economy.

‘If there is a weak link in Australia’s settlement record, it is getting refugees into jobs soon after they arrive. There is overwhelming evidence that employment provides the bedrock for successful settlement. The best way to help humanitarian migrants to build flourishing lives is to help them find work. Yet the current expansion of Australia’s humanitarian program comes at a time of profound changes in the economy that mean many of the jobs taken up by refugees in the past are becoming scarcer.’

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