Refugee Council of Australia
Refugee advocates with backs to camera and in front of Parliament House, in artistic style

The use of non-judicial accountability mechanisms by the refugee sector in Australia


This report has examined the use of non-judicial accountability mechanisms from the perspective of its ‘consumers’ in one policy area. It is a policy area in which accountability is essential, because of the impact on people’s lives and the enormous imbalance of power. At the same time, it is a policy area in which accountability is contested, because it is a policy area that is politically contentious.

The report canvasses systemic, institutional and cultural issues that make it difficult to achieve accountability. These accountability mechanisms could be more accessible, and this could be achieved through better understanding of their role and relationship-building. However, there is a strong perception that these mechanisms are also increasingly ineffective, in part due to delays and frustration, and in part due to an increasingly antagonistic attitude by the government. Constraints on time and resources mean the refugee sector increasingly have to make strategic choices about which mechanism will provide the most value.

This report makes several recommendations to improve the use, and the usefulness, of these mechanisms. There is much scope for improvement, but ultimately the effectiveness of these mechanisms rests on a shared agreement about the need and value of accountability. Refugee policy has strained this agreement, for it is exactly when accountability is most contested that the democratic commitment to accountability will be most tested.

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