First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees meeting



CPD convened the first meeting of the First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees meeting on 22 February 2018, hosted by the Boston Consulting Group in Melbourne.

The Council is the first pillar of CPD’s new Cities and Settlement Initiative (CSI).

The First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees meeting brings together key federal and state government officials with service providers, international experts and the metropolitan and regional cities that are settling the most refugees. We are focused on building integrated service delivery to improve the economic participation of refugees.

The objectives of the First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees meeting were threefold:

  1. Establish a common understanding of the barriers to refugee employment, through updated CPD-BCG analysis of refugee employment outcomes and of the current employment services landscape;
  2. Initiate discussion about a range of more effective responses to overcome these barriers; and
  3. Agree on the goals, activities and cadence of meetings for the Council.

Key issues discussed at the First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees can be encapsulated within six inter-related themes:

  • Gender – women face a disproportionate number of barriers to economic participation although currently no government-led employment programs specifically focus on women’s needs.
  • Employment Services – existing employment services struggle to generate better outcomes for the most disadvantaged jobseekers, with jobactive failing to respond adequately to the needs of refugees.
  • Language – poor English-language proficiency is a significant barrier to employment, but employment and language programs are not integrated.
  • Skills Recognition – problems with recognition and the cost of certification of humanitarian migrant skills contribute to skilled refugees being un- or under-employed.
  • Local Knowledge and Coordination – local governments and local networks could be better leveraged to assist the settlement and employment journey of humanitarian refugees.
  • Engaging Employers – employers aren’t sufficiently engaged with services or with policy design/delivery to understand barriers and opportunities to refugee recruitment, including work experience.

Responses to reduce or overcome the barriers identified were discussed, narrowing in on three areas:

  1. Employment services and the need to reform existing models – a personalised, whole-of-career and whole-of-family approach, changing the funding model, and building provider capability.
  2. Enhancing the role of local government in coordinating settlement and employment services – local government can facilitate access to local employer and social networks using a place-based approach.
  3. Improving provision of language services – English language training has been found to work best when it is practice-based, delivered within a workplace and/or built into other activities.

Participants were enthusiastic about continuing and further developing the Council, noting the unique assembly of perspectives and the great potential for driving policy and practice reform in this important area.

Working groups of Council members are forming around central themes to: develop a further understanding of issues; seek further information as necessary; and work through policy and practice responses in more detail.

CPD provides secretariat support to the Council, with the ongoing assistance of the Boston Consulting Group.


Alice Ling – Assistant Secretary, Policy Group, Department of Home Affairs

Domenic Isola – CEO, Hume City Council

Evan Lewis – Group Manager, Department of Social Services

Hakan Akyol – Director, Community Participation, Victorian Department of Premier & Cabinet

Julie Andrews – Coordinator, Community Capacity Building, Hume City Council

Kathryn Campbell CSC – Secretary, Department of Social Services

Kelly Grigsby – CEO, Wyndham City Council

Lin Hatfield-Dodds – Deputy Secretary, Social Policy, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

Linda Geddes – Deputy Secretary, Policy Group, Department of Home Affairs

Loga Chandrakumar – Director, Outcomes, Performance and Risk, Department of Health & Human Services Victoria

Sandra Parker PSM – Deputy Secretary, Workplaces and Small Business, Department of Jobs and Small Business

Simon Overland – CEO, Whittlesea Council

Susan Gibbeson – Manager, Social Development, Farfield City Council

Service Providers

Cath Scarth – CEO, AMES

Conny Lenneberg – Executive Director, Brotherhood of St Laurence

Dewani Bakkum – Chair, Settlement Council of Australia CEO, Migrant and Refugee Settlement Services of the ACT Inc.

Gail Ker OAM – CEO, Access Community Services

Hussain Razaiat – Manager, Middle Eastern Communities Council of South Australia

Janet Chimonyo – Policy Officer, Jobs Australia

Josef Szwarc – Manager, Research & Policy, Foundation House

Katrina Currie – General Manager, Work and Learning, Brotherhood of St Laurence

Katrina Grech – Principal Advisor, Settlement Services International

Kerrin Benson – CEO, Multicultural Development Association 

Nick Debere – Interim CEO, Jobs Australia 

Paris Aristotle – CEO, Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture
Chair, Ministerial Advisory Council on Settlement Services

Sonja Hood – CEO, Community Hubs Australia

Stephanie Cousins – Australian Director, Talent Beyond Boundaries

Terry Wilson – Manager, Employment and Enterprise Services, Settlement Services International


Aleem Ali – National Manager, Welcoming Cities

Andrew Kaldor AM – Chair, Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law

Carla Wilshire – CEO, Migration Council of Australia

Jock Collins – Professor of Social Economics, UTS Business School

Judy Slatyer – CEO, Red Cross

Larry Kamener – Senior Partner & Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group

Mark Watters – Partner & Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group

Matt Garbutt – Chief of Staff, Business Council of Australia

Natalie Garcia de Heer – Consultant, Boston Consulting Group

Paul Power – CEO, Refugee Council of Australia

Philippe Legrain – Founder, Open Political Economy Network, Former Economic Advisor to the President of the European Commission

Terry Moran AC – Chair, Centre for Policy Development

Tom Forde – CEO, Tanarra Philanthropic Advisors

Travers McLeod – CEO, Centre for Policy Development

Trish Clancy – Partner & Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group

Key documents from the First Council on Economic Participation for Refugees meeting