The Centre for Policy Development (CPD) welcomes the release of “Investing in Refugees, Investing in Australia”, the findings of the Review into integration, employment and settlement outcomes for refugees and humanitarian migrants to Australia, chaired by Peter Shergold AC.
“Releasing the Shergold Review, however belatedly, is an important first step. Its principles and recommendations were based on wide consultations, and should resonate with Australian communities. It can now inform discussions on how to best settle our most vulnerable arrivals.”
The review recognises that despite a proud settlement record, we can do much better to support refugees to make the most of their strengths, skills and experience, as early as possible in their settlement journey. The opportunity cost of not doing so, as signalled in the Settling Better
report of 2017, is too high.
The Review’s recommendations embrace much of the vision and blueprint for greater economic and social participation for humanitarian migrants advanced through the Cities and Settlement Initiative
and Settling Better
. The Government response has endorsed and supported this vision and the key priority now will be implementing the blueprint in full to make this vision a reality.
Chief among the priorities at hand is building a centre of gravity for refugees in Canberra, to coordinate employment, settlement and language services, and to make sure the efforts of state and local government, industry and the community sector are joined up and complementary. Current arrangements under the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, and within the Department of Home Affairs, as well as appointing a Coordinator-General for Migrant Affairs in the department, will go part of the way to achieving the centre of gravity needed. It will be important that the right governance and advisory bodies are in place to bring in the voice of refugees, business, civil society and state and local government counterparts. Also that the relevant senior official has the independence, resources and authority needed to implement significant improvements to capability, services and partnerships needed.
Central to the vision, and to CPD’s work, is helping refugees into suitable and sustainable work, self-employment and small business sooner, and supporting them to grow and develop in their careers. Given the complex needs of refugees, this not only requires the key services to be working much more seamlessly together but also comprehensive reform to employment and language services so they are more effective in adapting to local circumstances and an individual’s journey.
A patchwork service system, including the enhanced employment service (or reformed jobactive) slated for July 2020, other Commonwealth and state employment related programs, and a maze of language and settlement supports, will simply not deliver what’s needed. As advocated by CPD, the review recommends trialling specialist place-based employment services, that engage all service providers and support organisations in delivering on a refugee’s personal plan and desired outcomes, and meeting the needs of local employers. This approach is being trialled by Wyndham City Council and partners, and supported by CPD in the Improving Economic Participation for Refugees project. The project was profiled in the Government’s response to the Shergold review.
The Community Deals model, emerging from the Cities and Settlement Initiative
, provides the structure and operating model to replicate and expand these place-based initiatives in the locations settling the most refugees across Australia. Place-based approaches also provide the opportunity to harness the goodwill and resources of Australian communities to support refugees settling in their local areas, including in our regional towns.
The review has done an excellent job at gathering the analysis and good practice of actors across Australia and weaving a comprehensive vision for greater refugee economic and social integration. It aligns strongly with CPD’s thinking. The job at hand is to make that vision a reality through the implementation of the full blueprint for action recommended.
Helping refugees find work, Stephanie Borys, ABC AM, 23 November 2019
Government wants half of new refugees to be settled in ‘regional’ Australia by 2022, Michael Koziol, Sydney Morning Herald, 22 November 2019
Secret report urged Morrison government to create ‘more positive narrative’ on refugees, Michael Koziol, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 September 2019