Refugee Council of Australia
Colourful reports on shelf
Home > Interesting publications > Building a new life in Australia, three years in

Building a new life in Australia, three years in


Author: Johan Ariff

What is life like, three years into building a new life in Australia?

What is life like for refugees settling in Australia? In this important report, we find out how people are doing, three years in. We find out what has worked, what hasn’t, and how settlement policy and services could improve. At a time of heightened political debate, this report gives us real insight into how people settle in Australia.

The study

Building a New Life in Australia is a landmark study. The project was first funded to look at the first five years after people have come for humanitarian reasons, but will now run for longer.

Five years is commonly taken as the ‘settlement period’ in Australia. The study appears to be the longest and richest study of its kind in the world.

The study, funded by the Department of Social Services, is run by the National Centre for Longitudinal Data. It follows 1509 people or groups (usually a family) who migrated on the same visa application. These people came to Australia or got permanent visas between May and December 2013. Three-quarters of the people studied were from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran, and most were relatively young.

The study focuses on three questions:

  • What are humanitarian migrants’ settlement outcomes; in particular, their English language proficiency, housing situation, labour force participation, use of qualifications, income, health, community engagement, citizenship, and level of satisfaction with life in Australia?
  • What role does access to and use of government and non-government services or welfare benefits play in humanitarian migrants’ successful settlement?
  • Do the settlement outcomes of humanitarian migrants vary according to the migration pathway taken?

The study is being undertaken in five waves of interviews and phone calls, between 2013-2018. The first wave of interviewees included more than 1,500 individuals and their families (totalling close to 2,400 respondents), from a total of 50 different countries, who have been granted a permanent humanitarian visa to live in Australia. A

At each ‘wave’ of the study (every year), interviewers asked people in the study many questions about their experiences through interviews with researchers. The study provides very rich data because it is following the same people over time, and speaking to them face-to-face. This report is based on the third ‘wave’, three years in.

Read the report

Be a champion for refugee rights

Join our mailing list and be the first to receive active resources. We need you to show Australia cares about refugees.


  • Category

  • Topic