The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) welcomes the opportunity to provide its views in response to the Australian Government’s discussion paper on Australia’s Humanitarian Program in 2021-22. As the national community peak body on refugee policy, RCOA has been involved in providing detailed feedback to the Australian Government on this program for more than 35 years. It started with our first formal consultation with the Australian Government on directions for the Refugee and Humanitarian Program in 1984 and has continued since 1987, when we made our first detailed written submission to the Government.
Our submission brings together views collected throughout the past 12 months through numerous engagements with our member organisations, refugee service providers, and refugee communities, ranging in format from targeted consultations to regular teleconferences. Like every other organisation, the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges for RCOA’s work. We were not able to proceed with our usual large-scale, face-to-face consultations and were unable to travel to different parts of the country; however, we continued to use every opportunity to understand the issues our members and refugee communities identify as their priority concern and how they want the Government to respond to those. Those concerns were not limited to domestic issues and included our response to the growing global displacement, especially at a time when a global pandemic has reduced access to protection.