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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.

SCoA Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs: Inquiry into the Migration Amendment (Strengthening the Character Test) Bill 2019

In this submission, SCoA outlines concerns with the introduction of the category of 'designated offences' to the Character Test and the departmental discretion around cancelling a visa on the basis of character.  Passage of the Bill means long term residents who are not given prison sentences could be deported, including those whose only family ties are in Australia, young people convicted of minor offences, such as shoplifting, and people with caring responsibilities in Australia.  It could also create a sense of alienation by refugees and other migrants who feel insecure and that they are treated differently from other Australians, threatening social cohesion. Read the full submission below.

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

Fundamentals of effective settlement – 2018

Multiculturalism in Australia

SCoA Policy Focus – Loneliness

Humanitarian Settlement Program online survey – 30 August 2018

As the national peak body for settlement in Australia, the Settlement Council of Australia welcomes the government’s commitment to the delivery of settlement services that are focused on achieving effective settlement outcomes for recently arrived migrants from a refugee background. In 2017, this commitment was manifested in the introduction of the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), which targets settlement service delivery for the first twelve months post arrival and has a stated focus on increasing outcomes against the “3E’s”: Employment, Education and English. Since the introduction of the HSP, almost 12 months ago, SCoA has had regular discussions with government and with our members about the program, its delivery and its stated policy objectives. Arising out of those discussions, SCoA has developed a survey to test the views of the settlement sector about the HSP and determine how best SCoA can advocate on behalf of all members.
Please click here to complete the survey today!
The survey, which is entirely anonymous and will be collated and analysed by an independent consultant, will enable us to synthesize the most common areas where practical improvements could be made, with the intention of providing input into the outcomes-focus of the HSP. Our intention, in light of our role as peak body, is to provide a cohesive voice for the sector on this important program.We have discussed the survey in detail with government, which has expressed its support for this approach and is eagerly awaiting practical insights that will inform the ongoing improvement of policy and practice in the HSP model.
The survey will take only ten minutes to complete and we strongly encourage every SCoA member to participate (and where relevant, multiple staff within each member organisation). It is designed to capture information from service providers both directly and indirectly involved in the HSP program.
Please click here to complete the survey today! The survey will close on Friday 14 September 2018.

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 Member Survey: May 2018

SCoA Members are invited to take part in our 2018 Online Survey covering a range of topics of importance to settlement in Australia in 2018. The survey will take just 10 minutes to complete and is open until Friday 8 June 2018. The survey is completely anonymous and is open to all staff members within SCoA member organisations. We therefore hope that members will circulate this widely and encourage staff and colleagues to complete the survey. Please click here to complete the survey today!

Peak Bodies Urge Increased Oversight of Migration Services: 1 May 2018


1 May 2018


The Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) and the Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA) have joined forces to call for increased Government funding for the oversight of migration services in Australia. In a joint submission to the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Migration, the two peak bodies acknowledge the critical role played by migration agents in often-complex applications for migration but stress the detrimental impact that unregistered migration agents have on vulnerable individuals applying to visas. The Chairperson of FECCA, Mary Patetsos, said: “FECCA believes that registered migration agents are currently regulated and supported by a strong system and that the majority adhere to sector regulations and guidelines. “However, the robust regulation of migrant agents, combined with a well-resourced effort to reduce the impact of unregistered practice, is in the best interests of CALD and migrant communities and those with family members keen to migrate.” The Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA) said that the role of migration agents should be acknowledged. The Chairperson of SCoA, Dewani Bakkum, said: “Our members witness firsthand the true value of the contribution made to multicultural Australia by those it welcomes as migrants, as well as the challenges those people face when attempting to settle in their new communities. “We believe that stringent regulation and accreditation of migration agents is crucial to ensure strong, safe and prosperous CALD and migrant communities. Confidence in the visa application process must be maintained.” FECCA and SCoA have recommended to the Committee that:
  • The current system of regulation of migration agents be maintained, including strong registration and stringent accreditation processes, as well as swiftly enforced penalties for exploitative and unethical migration agents;
  • The allocation of resources to further investigate the volumes and patterns of unregistered migration agents and education agents providing unlawful immigration services in Australia;
  • A comprehensive effort be made to inform clients of migration agents of their rights as consumers, and a streamlined process for migrants to raise concerns and have them arbitrated as efficiently as possible;
  • Consideration be given to additional resourcing to the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (OMARA), including the maintenance of a compensation fund for individuals who are left out of pocket as a result of unethical behaviour.
The joint submission by FECCA and SCoA can be found here. FECCA is the national peak body representing Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. FECCA’s role is to advocate and promote issues on behalf of our constituency to government, business and the broader community. SCoA is the national peak body for settlement. SCoA represents settlement agencies across Australia providing direct services to people of refugee and migrant background. SCoA’s goal is to help ensure the best possible settlement outcomes for migrants and refugees settling in Australia.   CONTACTS FECCA: 0403 044 216 / SCoA: 0434 589 493 /