SCOA is disappointed that the Federal Government has not gone far enough to address the growing pressures facing our neglected settlement service industry, with many migrants and refugees left behind in the 2023/24 Budget.
The organisations delivering the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) program– one of the main programs supporting migrants and refugees–have faced consecutive funding cuts which have reached a critical level, with staff burnout and financial pressures threatening the quality of service delivery, and ultimately settlement outcomes.
“Our country’s settlement service workers are already being pushed to breaking point, and without adequate funding we will see more providers forced to lose essential staff and cut back on services, leaving vulnerable migrants and refugees who often have nowhere else to turn to fend for themselves,” SCOA’s chief executive, Sandra Elhelw Wright said.
SCOA has long been advocating for adequate funding and an expansion of the SETS program, which provides essential support for new arrivals to successfully participate in and contribute to our society. While we welcome the Government’s decision to remove the 5-year eligibility criteria for migrants and refugees to access this service, the sector will struggle to keep up with this unprecedented demand without urgent investment.
“Although the Budget contains some positive measures for migrants and refugees, it’s discouraging that the SETS program will be expanded without adequate indexation and paying grants in accordance with award level wages,” Ms Elhelw Wright added.
A recent consultation with SETS providers shows that 91.3% of organisations have had funding reduced due to the cessation of SACS supplementation funding. The vast majority (86.9%) of organisations have reduced staffing levels or indicated that their workforce would reduce if funding was not reinstated. One settlement service has already been forced to shut its doors, and others have flagged serious sustainability risks.
SCOA Board Chair Melissa Monteiro said: “As we prepare to welcome approximately one million people over the next five years, there has never been a more crucial time to ensure our settlement service providers are adequately resourced and supported, especially in the face of rising inflation and cost-of-living pressures.”
“The sector fills a gap in supporting new arrivals with education and training, housing, employment, and health. The SETS program also supports community groups and organisations to help migrants boost their economic and social productivity in our society for a better Australia for all,” Ms Monteiro added.
Budget funding measures directly set to benefit migrants and refugees include:
● $136 million over 4 years from 2023–24 (and $36m ongoing) to support the mental health of survivors of torture and trauma before moving to Australia on humanitarian grounds. This will take place through the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, and other culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
● $10 million over 4 years to expand family violence provisions targeted at temporary migrants.
● The Government will provide $18.6 million to prevent and address sexual violence, and funding will be allocated to support migrant women, including women on temporary visas, to escape violence.
● $9.1 million in 2023–24 to extend existing Youth Transition Support services for 12 months to 30 June 2024 to continue settlement services to young refugees and migrants to improve their employment outcomes.
● $15.3 million to establish a Primary Health Network Multicultural Access Program to support multicultural communities to access primary care services.
● $4.7 million to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates in multicultural communities.
● $2.5 million to the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts to partner with the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Council of Australia (FECCA) to support media literacy in CALD communities.
While these measures are a step in the right direction, this Budget does not go far enough to address an unmet need for post-arrival settlement.
SCOA welcomes all measures to ease cost of living pressures but encourages further increases to JobSeeker and highlights the need to remove the Newly Arrived Residents Period which currently precludes a large proportion of migrants and refugees from Australia’s safety net.
We look forward to working with the Government on continuing our conversations on the future of the migration strategy and ensuring Australia’s social infrastructure is welcoming and inclusive for migrants and refugees.
About The Settlement Council of Australia
The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) is the peak body representing services across Australia supporting new migrants and refugees. We are committed to building an Australia where every migrant and refugee feels at home, together with our membership which is over 115 members strong and counting. We are a trusted source of policy advice, and a thought leader on enhancing the economic and social inclusion of migrants and refugees. The services of our members range from greeting new arrivals at the airport, through to assisting them to secure housing, learn English, make social connections, access services and find their first job. Australia’s settlement services are recognised as being among the best in the world.
Media enquiries: Mahsa Fratantoni, 0422 180 674