Settlement Services for Refugees Roundtable

Overview

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Across western democracies there are increasingly heated public discussions about the role of immigration in society. Despite the economic and social benefits of immigration being well documented, the consensus supporting immigration is fraying. It is a pivotal time then to reaffirm Australia’s commitment to immigration and look for ways to improve how we integrate refugees into our diverse society.

With this context as the backdrop, on 3 August, CPD and the Centre for Public Impact (CPI) – a not-for-profit foundation set up by Boston Consulting Group – hosted a group of key stakeholders at BCG’s office in Melbourne to discuss the challenges and innovations in providing settlement services for refugees. Improving employment outcomes and labour market integration for refugees was a particular focus. This roundtable is part of Centre for Policy Development’s Cities and Settlements Initiative.

The three-hour roundtable was conducted under the Chatham House Rule and included public servants, service providers and policy advocates. The Settlement Services for Refugees roundtable was also attended via video-phone by government representatives, policymakers and consultants from Canada, the United States and Germany, who shared their countries’ experiences in delivering settlement services for newly arrived refugees.

Discussions from Settlement Services for Refugees Roundtable

The discussion highlighted the importance of studying closely emerging settlement practices from comparative jurisdictions, particularly from those attempting to settle a higher volume of refugees. For instance, Germany is building new technology to expedite recognition of prior learning of refugees in partnership with vocational education providers and businesses.

Canada takes the long view on refugee resettlement, views employment and language training as ‘critical enablers’, and has a strong track record of private and community sponsorship of refugees. The United States is a leader on providing microfinance for refugees to start their own businesses, boasting a 88 per cent business survival rate and a 98 per cent repayment rate. These and other jurisdictions hold a wealth of experiences and expertise that can enrich the Australian settlement approach.

Attendees agreed that the discussion was a valuable opportunity to swap notes and discuss what is working well and what needs to improve, and offered great ideas for further research by CPD and CPI.

CPD is grateful to BCG for hosting the Settlement Services for Refugees roundtable, and looks forward to continuing the good work with CPI.

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