Refugee Council of Australia
Young boy with hearing aid sitting with family

Barriers and exclusions: The support needs of newly arrived refugees with a disability

Lack of available statistics

There is inadequate data on the experiences of refugees with a disability, which essentially reinforces the “invisibility” of this group in the broader Australian community. Unfortunately, despite some information obtained through FOI (above), the proportion of humanitarian entrants that either arrive in Australia with a disability, or acquire a disability through arrival and settlement processes is unclear.There is a need for accurate quantitative data to plan for policies that can respond better to the needs of humanitarian entrants, refugees and people seeking asylum with a disability.

There are some data that are already collected which could be released to public and service providers for better research and program implementation. These include data obtained by the Immigration and Citizenship Services within Department of Home Affairs when a person is applying for a refugee or humanitarian visa. This can be implemented through the Department’s existing Settlement Reporting Facility.

Further, as each applicant must go through an assessment, particular data, including that which is health related, could be shared confidentially with service providers providing settlement support to the client. As one service provider has noted:

At the moment, the situation is that the information is protected. Which is fine, we don’t need full records, that’s not necessary. But they still disclose certain things in terms of alerts or torture and trauma history, there’s little tick boxes for that. I don’t see why you wouldn’t have the same for disabilities that have severe limitations.

Further, this information should be provided well in advance of a person with a disability arriving, so settlement services and other providers can plan and ensure that essential appointments and equipment and other disability related supports are available.

Further, data provided by settlement services to the Department of Social Services could be used to identify how many people with a disability are receiving settlement support, and to analyse if funding and services are adequate to meet this need. Without adequate data, many services and indeed the government are planning in the dark.

Recommendation 13: Collect and use data to help plan better responses

The Australian Government should ensure that it collects and disseminates data on the prevalence of people with a disability who are arriving through the Refugee and Humanitarian Program. This data should be de-identified and made available publicly, while individual data should be provided confidentially to settlement service providers, with the person’s consent.

Recommendation 14: Ensure the NDIS collects data on people from refugee backgrounds

The NDIA should include identifiers in its dataset to assist in ascertaining participation rates of people from refugee backgrounds.


AMPARO, The NDIS and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities: Aiming High for Equitable Access in Queensland (AMPARO Advocacy Inc, October 2016), 9.

Diversitat Settlement and Community Programs, Diversitat Disability Findings Report (2016), 8.

Karen Soldatic, Kelly Somers, Amma Buckley, and Caroline Fleay, ‘‘Nowhere to be found’: Disabled refugees and asylum seekers within the Australian resettlement landscape’ (2015) 2 Disability and the Global South 501, 502.

Julie King, Niki Edwards, Ignacio Correa-Velez, Sara Hair, and Maureen Fordyce, ‘Disadvantage and disability: Experiences of people from refugee backgrounds with disability living in Australia’ (2016) 3 Disability and the Global South 844.

Advance Diversity Services, Issues That Refugees with Disabilities Face and Recommendations on Improving Policy and Practice to Better Support This Group, 3.

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