Global Refugee Forum Pledge

The Settlement Council of Australia is pledging to optimise settlement services to position Australia well for increased intakes of humanitarian entrants. This will be achieved by implementing the Road to Belonging Strategy.

There are currently 108.4 million forcibly displaced people worldwide, including 35.3 million refugees. While most refugees remain in neighbouring host states primarily located in the Global South, Australia is a leading destination for those who depart for resettlement in a third country.

Australia has a long history of providing resettlement for refugees and others who are displaced as a result of conflict, persecution and human rights abuses. Since the end of World War II, Australia has successfully settled more than 950,000 refugees and others in humanitarian need. The size and composition of the annual Humanitarian Program are determined by the Australian Government. For 2023-24, the Humanitarian Program has been set at a ceiling of 20,000 places, with the current government committing to further expansion of Australia’s humanitarian intake.

All those who choose to make Australia home will undergo a process of settlement whereby they adjust to life in Australia. At the same time, Australia needs to continually adapt to ensure it is inclusive of those we welcome to our shores. The Australian settlement sector exists to make this process of adjustment as smooth as possible. In the face of increasing displacement and a growing humanitarian program it is more important than ever that this sector be as optimised as possible to welcome an increased number of new arrivals.

The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) is the peak body representing Australia’s migrant and refugee services and allied organisations. SCOA provides leadership to the settlement sector and broader society to enable people of migrant and refugee backgrounds to experience positive settlement outcomes. SCOA represents over 100 member organisations nationally, all working towards a shared vision for an Australia where all people of migrant and refugee backgrounds belong, thrive and experience fulfilling lives.

It is within this context that SCOA led the development of a collective Road to Belonging strategy for Australian settlement services. SCOA worked with 46 individuals from different settlement organisations, peak bodies, government departments and other key stakeholders – many with lived experiences – to co-design an ambition and roadmap for the settlement sector.

The Road to Belonging Strategy articulates an overarching shared ambition for Australian settlement services. Namely, that we are working to ensure Australia is a country where all people of migrant and refugee background belong, thrive and experience fulfilling lives. This ambition is the ‘north star’ we are all collectively working towards.

The strategy sets out six streams with a total of 26 actions for implementation over a five-year period. Since the strategy was initiated in January 2023, SCOA has completed or significantly progressed on the actions, developing a Community Engagement Framework, a research project on engaging with other stakeholders and broader Australian society, a survey of the Australian settlement workforce, a theory of change for settlement services, a feasibility study on return on investment in settlement services, and developing principles for conducting research with migrant and refugee communities.

SCOA is leading active implementation of the strategy over the next five years. A Governance Group oversees implementation, and six working groups drive implementation of actions across the six streams. Each working group is chaired by a leader in one of these fields and has 10-25 members.

The strategy will be the guiding manifesto for settlement for the coming years. Nearly 80 organisations have endorsed the strategy and joined one of the six working groups.

In the Global Refugee Forum 2023, SCOA pledges to implement the following six plans of the Road to Belonging strategy for the refugees and migrants in Australia by January 2028. Specific steps and work plans of each plan are available in the full version of the Strategy.

Empowered settlement journeys

We enable and support new arrivals to define their priorities and preferences and empower themselves.

Partnering with local migrant and refugee communities

We partner with local migrant, faith and cultural communities to support their collective settlement journeys.

Connecting with other sectors and broader Australian society

We create purposeful and meaningful collaborations with broader society (such as governments, local communities, private sector, philanthropy and others) to advance a welcoming society.

Supporting workforce and organisational capacity

We support our workforce to consistently deliver high quality services, and we ensure the depth of their experience and expertise is recognised.

Building monitoring, evaluation and data capability

We collaborate to ensure research and data collection is aggregated, shared and used to support positive outcomes.

Driving research and systems change

We collectively challenge systems or practices that are not working for migrants and their communities.