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SCoA Submission to Joint Standing Committee on Migration: Inquiry into migration in regional Australia

SCoA Submission Submission to the Community Affairs Reference Committee: Inquiry into the Adequacy of Newstart and related payments and alternative mechanisms to determine the level of income support payments in Australia

This submission considers the effect of the current rate of Newstart, Special Benefit and related payments on people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, particularly humanitarian entrants and other recently arrived migrants. Read the full submission below:

The Effects of Discrimination of Refugee and Migrant Housing Needs

Housing is one of the nine foundations identified in the National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards (NSSOS). This standard is achieved when appropriate, affordable and long term housing is available and close to both social and community supports and to available employment. The standard recognises that achieving this standard is needed to meet the other NSSOS. And it recognises that newly arrived communities are at high risk of homelessness and exploitation in the rental market. Refugees and migrants often struggle to find appropriate housing. This can be because there are long waiting lists for public and social housing while, at the same time, there is a shortage of affordable and appropriate private housing stock.  Even when housing is available, new migrants can face discrimination that is based on cultural racism and a lack of understanding of the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families. This bias can add to other forms of discrimination, for example, where migrants have large families, have low incomes and/or rely on Centrelink benefits. Housing is essential if people from refugee and migrant backgrounds are to settle successfully. This paper, produced by SCoA, points to research that explores the barriers to accessing housing and their effects on refugees and migrants and shows that Australia is not meeting the standard. The paper indicates that Australia, as a host country, is not meeting its obligation to make sure that appropriate and affordable housing is available to new refugees and other migrants.

SCoA Achievements 2018-2019

SCoA's 2018-2019 Achievements Record is now available. The document catalogues SCoA's work over 2018-2019, including our key activities representing and promoting the work of the sector and supporting our members across the country. Please download the attached document for a snapshot of our work promoting the best possible settlement outcomes for migrants in Australia.

ATCR 2019 Report

Recognising Overseas Skills and Qualifications

Australia is a nation of highly skilled immigrants. Unlike the majority of OECD countries where the migrant intake tends to be less qualified than the native population, the opposite is true in Australia, where 65 per cent of recent migrants possess a non-school qualification prior to arrival. Indeed, the success of Australia’s migration program is acclaimed internationally, as 91% of migrants in the labour force are employed – a trend which is virtually the same as the nativeborn population and significantly higher than the OECD average. Yet, for too long, it has been observed that many of these migrants work in jobs below their human capital capacity, as they are forced to work in low-skilled and low-paid roles with limited opportunities to progress. Various studies, including those conducted by the IOM and the OECD, report that migrant overqualification is ‘common’ in Australia, situating the rate of overqualification at over 30% of the migrant population. That is to say, that over 30% of highly skilled migrants in Australia are employed in positions below their formal qualification level, and are 42% more likely to be overqualified than their native-born counterparts. To read more, download the PDF. An employment tip sheet is also available to download below.

My Health Record

In 2019, SCoA worked with the Australian Digital Health Agency to ensure Australia’s newest residents are aware of their My Health Record and what it means for them and their families. This follows our previous work with the Agency in the lead up to the opt-out period to ensure new arrivals and settlement service providers understood their rights with respect to opting out. By providing the below information, SCoA does not endorse My Health Record, nor make any recommendation with respect to opting out. If members or their clients require more detail about whether to opt out of My Health Record, we recommend they visit the My Health Record website or call the Help line on 1800 723 471, or contact their local Primary Health Network.

Volunteering and Settlement in Australia

Volunteering Australia and SCoA have released a report on their National Survey on Volunteering and Settlement in Australia. The report sets out the key findings and makes recommendations to support volunteering in the settlement sector. Volunteers are the lifeblood of Australian communities. More than 5.8 million Australians are volunteers – that is 31 per cent of the population. It’s more than double for refugees and migrants, with our research indicating that 65 per cent supported their communities through their volunteering work within the first 18 months of their arrival to Australia. Volunteering brings social inclusion, community resilience, participation and social cohesion to communities. It also helps to ward off isolation and loneliness.  Many volunteers in the settlement sector are from a migrant or refugee background. They have benefited from the volunteer work of others in their communities and use their lived experiences to help other new arrivals. Key insights from the report:
  • 65 per cent of new arrivals engaged in volunteering within the first 18 months of their arrival to Australia.
  • People mainly volunteer as a way to contribute to society, make friends, improve their English, and/or gain local work experience.
  • There are personal and professional benefits from volunteering.
  • Organisations gained many benefits from their volunteers.
  • More than two-thirds of organisations surveyed reported that they and their volunteers need more formal support, and would benefit from funding for training programs, supporting material, and from forming new partnerships and sharing resources.

SCoA Policy Focus – Access to Justice

As one of the nine key priority areas in the National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards (NSSOS), SCoA views Justice as a vital part of settlement.  For this reason, we were pleased to host research intern Neha Prakash, who conducted research into access to justice for newly arrived people from CALD backgrounds. Her research highlighted key issues in access to justice, including barriers to justice, and case studies that demonstrate best-practice principles under the NSSOS. We welcome input from our members and other interested parties, and invite you to contact our National Office on 02 6282 8515 or if you have any thoughts or insights. Read the initial report here.

Barriers and Exclusions: The support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability – February 2019

The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA); Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA); the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA); and the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) released a new report outlining the significant obstacles faced by refugees with disabilities who are living in Australia in February 2019. The report, entitled Barriers and Exclusions: the support  needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability, is based on consultations with affected individuals and service providers. It reveals that despite policy improvements which have enabled more refugees with disabilities to settle in Australia, many people still face barriers to resettlement upon arrival. The report identifies a number of hurdles for newly arrived refugees with disabilities including: access to timely assessment and support; provision of essential equipment and aides; lack of accessible and appropriate housing; inadequate support within the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS); lack of culturally appropriate disability services; and lack of translating and interpreting services within disability services and the NDIS.

SCoA Annual Report 2017-2018

SCoA Policy Focus – Loneliness

The future of employment services in Australia: July 2018

SCoA Achievements 2017-2018

SCoA's 2017-2018 Achievements Record is now available. The document catalogues SCoA's work over 2017-2018, including our key activities representing and promoting the work of the sector and supporting our members across the country. Please download the attached document for a snapshot of our work promoting the best possible settlement outcomes for migrants in Australia.

SCoA Submission on Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period: March 2018

The Federal Government has proposed to increase the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period (NARWP) for social services payments from two years to three (and, subsequently in the 2018 Budget, to four years).

In March 2018, SCoA made a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee outlining our concerns about the proposed increase.

Our Submission can be accessed below.

SCoA Policy Focus – Education

As one of the nine key priority areas in the National Settlement Services Outcomes Standards, we view Education as an area of paramount importance in migrant's settlement journeys. This work highlights the importance of education as a settlement outcome and identifies the different approaches across the country to ensuring education needs are met. Building on this research we have identified areas in need of further exploration with a view to developing a comprehensive policy approach that will help to improve outcomes. We welcome input from our members and other interested parties, and invite you to contact our National Office on 02 6282 8515 or if you have any thoughts or insights. Read the initial report here.

SCoA Submission to 2018-19 Migration Program: Feb 2018

Following a national consultation, SCoA has made a submission to the Department of Home Affairs consultation into planning for the 2018-19 Migration Program.

Highlighting the crucial importance of migration to Australia - both in economic and social terms - SCoA's submission calls on the government to adopt a settlement-focus towards immigration policies that will ensure the success of our Migration Program into the future.

SCoA has also used this opportunity to call for a holistic plan for the Migration Program which takes into account both global trends and Australia's needs into the future. We recommend the government learn from the successful National Settlement Framework and adopt a plan across all levels of government that will ensure our Migration Program remains flexible and dynamic.

Finally, SCoA has urged the government to review opportunities to increase access to the Migration Program for humanitarian migrants, including by investigating options to make skilled and other general visa streams more accessible and, crucially, prioritising family migration opportunities as a matter of urgency.

As a common theme across our submission, SCoA views the role of settlement services as being integral to ensuring that all new arrivals are empowered to achieve independence and become fully contributing members of the community. We see this as being the vital key to striking the best balance in our Migration Program and unlocking its full potential.

You can read SCoA's full submission here.

SCoA Policy Focus – Mental Health

In Semester 2, 2017, SCoA was pleased to host a student through the Australian National Internship Program. Rebecca is studying psychology at the ANU and embarked on some research into the mental health of refugees and the impacts of social engagement. You can download a copy of her research below. A number of SCoA members provided valuable insights to Rebecca's research and we thank them for their time. If you have any further thoughts about this issue, or would like to discuss it further, please contact our National Office on 02 6282 8515 or

SCoA Briefing Paper – Housing: August 2017

Access to suitable and sustainable housing is becoming an increasingly challenging issue in Australia. While this affects broad groups across the country, new arrivals face more hurdles than most when it comes to accessing housing. These hurdles include a number of factors such as a lack of understanding of Australian systems, lack of English, low income and insecure visa status. We find that these factors lead new arrivals to live in precarious housing situations. This is a growing concern, as not having access to appropriate housing impacts on many areas of life including health, employment, community participation, education and training and inevitably stifles new arrivals’ settlement prospects. Despite these obstacles, settlement agencies have been able to overcome some of the barriers to accessing adequate housing for new arrivals by seeking and implementing creative solutions. We have heard about countless examples of new arrivals attaining secure long-term housing across Australia through the tireless and innovative support of settlement agencies. Read our briefing paper on Housing for more information.