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Research has shown that refugees, once they have the opportunity to establish themselves, make important economic, civil and social contributions to Australian society. Australia’s refugees and humanitarian entrants have found success in every field of endeavour, including the arts, sports, media, science, research, business and civic and community life. Former refugees are very entrepreneurial, being more likely to set up their own businesses than other migrant groups. They play an important role in facilitating the development of trade and other links with their countries of origin. Former refugees value the education of their children very highly, with the proportion of young refugees attending an educational institution being higher than other migrants and even than people born in Australia. They make substantial social contributions to Australia through volunteering, promoting community development and engaging in neighbourhood activities and events.

Just some of the many Australian high achievers who once were refugees include scientists Sir Gustav Nossal and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, 2009 Victorian of the Year Dr Berhan Ahmed, painter Judy Cassab, comedian Anh Do, filmmaker Khoa Do, author Nam Le, academic Associate Professor My-Van Tran, Dr Anita Donaldson, poet Juan Garrido-Salgado, painter and restaurateur Mirka Mora, actor Henri Szeps, broadcasters Les Murray and Caroline Tran, Australian Rules footballer Alex Jesaulenko, footballer Atti Abonyi, swimmers John and Ilsa Konrads, newspaper editor Michael Gawenda, architect Harry Seidler, business people Sir Peter Abeles, Larry Adler, Ouma Sananikone and Judit Korner, public servant Tuong Quang Luu and politicians Jennie George and Nick Greiner.

By definition, refugees are survivors. They have survived because of their courage, ingenuity and creativity. These are qualities which we value in Australia. If we assist newly arrived refugees to recover from the experiences of their past and rebuild their lives in Australia, we will reap the benefits of the qualities and experiences they bring to our society.

Sources: Department of Immigration and Citizenship, ‘A Significant Contribution: The Economic, Social and Civic Contributions of First and Second Generation Humanitarian Entrants’