Fact Sheet 98 – Settlement Services for Refugees

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Why are refugees brought to Australia from other countries?

As a member of the international community, Australia shares responsibility for protecting refugees worldwide and for resolving refugee situations. This commitment is most strongly expressed through the Humanitarian Program.

The Humanitarian Program helps people who are subject to persecution or substantial discrimination amounting to gross violation of their human rights in their home countries and have fled their home country. It is one element in a whole-of-government approach to addressing humanitarian situations. The program helps people in humanitarian need resettle in Australia and rebuild their lives while also making a contribution to the diversity and prosperity of Australia.

For information on Australia's Humanitarian Program:

See: Fact Sheet 60 – Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program

What support do refugees receive when they arrive in Australia?

We administer a range of settlement services aimed at assisting refugees, other humanitarian entrants and eligible migrants within their initial period of settlement. These services focus on building self-reliance, developing English language skills and fostering connections with mainstream services as soon as possible after arrival in Australia.

The Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program provides early practical support to refugees and other humanitarian entrants on arrival, and throughout their initial settlement period. HSS providers work with clients to assess and identify their needs and deliver a tailored package of services to meet those needs. Not all clients will require or receive all services available under the HSS program. The department expects that most HSS clients will have reached their initial settlement outcomes within 6–12 months after arrival.

Services provided under the HSS program could include meeting clients when they arrive, help finding suitable accommodation, initial orientation and a package of basic household goods such as simple furnishings, linen, some white goods and kitchen equipment. HSS clients may also be assisted to register with Centrelink, Medicare, health services, banking and schools. The HSS program also features an onshore orientation program to assist clients understand Australian society, laws and culture.

Refugees and other humanitarian entrants may also be referred to migrant resource centres and organisations funded under the Settlement Grants Program (SGP). These programs help newly arrived refugees become self-reliant and participate in the Australian community as soon as possible. In addition, Complex Case Support (CCS) delivers specialised and intensive case management services to refugees and other humanitarian entrants whose needs extend beyond the scope of the HSS program and SGP.

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Are refugees taught English?

The Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is available to eligible migrants from the humanitarian, family and skilled visa streams. Free English language courses are available to eligible migrants who do not have functional English. All AMEP clients have access to up to 510 hours of English language courses in their first five years of settlement in Australia. Participation in the program is voluntary.

Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS National) provides fee-free interpreting services to non-English speaking Australian citizens and permanent residents communicating with approved groups and individuals, including doctors in private practice and pharmacies.

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What income support do refugees receive?

When refugees and other humanitarian entrants arrive in Australia through the Humanitarian Program, they can immediately gain access to income support payments under the same eligibility criteria as any other Australian permanent resident.

At present, the maximum fortnightly rate for the age pension, disability support pension and carer payment is $733.70* for a single person. The maximum fortnightly rate for Newstart allowance and special benefit is $497* for a single person with no children.

* Effective on August 2013. Please note that payment rates change regularly. More information is available on the Centrelink website.

See: Centrelink

Do refugees receive more than other Australians?

There have been a number of concerns raised within parts of the Australian community that more assistance is provided to refugee entrants than to other Australians, such as pensioners. There is no truth to these claims.

Refugees and other humanitarian entrants do not receive higher benefits than other social security recipients. They have the same entitlements as all other Australian permanent residents. Refugees do not have their rental bonds automatically paid for by the government, nor do they receive a lump sum payment from the government upon arrival.

Where do refugees settle?

Refugees and other humanitarian entrants are often located close to family members or their proposers living in Australia. If they do not have links in Australia they are settled, where possible, in regional locations that provide the best access to reasonable housing and employment prospects.

See: Fact Sheet 97 – Humanitarian Settlement in Regional Australia.

Further information about the role of proposers can be found in the 'Proposing an Applicant' page.

See: Proposing an Applicant

Are refugees accommodated in public housing?

Refugees and other humanitarian entrants must meet the same requirements as other Australians to be eligible for public housing. They are not given preferential treatment and must remain on waiting lists, as do other Australians in need of public housing. Most find accommodation in the private rental market, where they apply for properties on the same basis as other Australians.

Are refugees given health checks?

All refugees and other humanitarian entrants resettled in Australia are subject to strict health, character and national security checks before being granted a visa. This is consistent with the requirements to be met by all applicants for an Australian permanent visa.

What do refugees contribute?

Refugees and other humanitarian entrants arriving in Australia naturally face challenges in adjusting to the Australian way of life. Despite these challenges, most refugees and their families settle successfully and make a positive contribution to the Australian community. The significant contribution they make to Australia, however, has not always been understood.

Professor Graeme Hugo from the University of Adelaide, on behalf of the department, has examined the variety of ways in which refugees and other humanitarian entrants contribute to Australian society. Professor Hugo's research shows that refugees and other humanitarian entrants make an important contribution to Australia in many areas including social engagement, workforce participation, business ownership and volunteering within the community. He found that most refugee families, especially those in the second generation, are able to adjust effectively over time and eventually match and in many cases exceed Australian-born levels of economic and social contribution.

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What help do asylum seekers receive?

Asylum seekers in Australia are not eligible to receive financial assistance through Centrelink. In response to the needs of asylum seekers, the Asylum Seekers Assistance Scheme (ASAS) was created in 1992 by the Australian Government to address Australia's obligations under the United Nations 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

See: Fact Sheet 62 – Assistance for Asylum Seekers in Australia

More recently, in 2009 after the success of the Community Care Pilot, the department established the Community Assistance Support (CAS) Program to provide health and welfare assistance to highly vulnerable clients while they are actively progressing and resolving their immigration status. Clients are required to hold a Bridging visa that is in effect and must meet specific vulnerability criteria. The services under CAS include access to a departmental case manager as well as support through contracted service providers.

See: Fact Sheet 64 – Community Assistance Support

Asylum seekers who are found to be owed protection are granted protection visas under the Humanitarian Program.

From 30 August 2013, two groups of asylum seekers who are granted Protection visas will no longer be eligible for services under the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program. These groups are:

  • Illegal Maritime Arrivals who lived in the community on a Bridging visa E or who resided in community detention, aside from unaccompanied minors
  • other asylum seekers who lived in the community, including in community detention.

All unaccompanied humanitarian minors are exempt from this change. Most people granted protection in an Immigration Detention Facility also remain eligible for the HSS program.

People affected by the change will remain eligible for:

  • services funded by the Settlement Grants Program
  • English classes under the Adult Migrant English Program
  • the Translating and Interpreting Service
  • Complex Case Support, if assessed by the department as having multiple, complex needs affecting their settlement
  • torture and trauma counselling under the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, which is administered by the Department of Health and Aging.

As permanent residents of Australia, people affected by the change will continue to have access to the full range of mainstream services, such as Medicare, Centrelink and employment services.

Fact Sheet 98. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.

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