RCOA welcomes the opportunity to provide feedback on the Employment White Paper and supports the focus of these consultations on women’s economic participation and equality and the need to create “more opportunities for more Australians”. This submission focuses on the employment of people from refugee backgrounds, outlining their experiences of the Australian labour market as well as opportunities to realise the potential of this diverse population group who, given the chance, can contribute significantly to the objective of the Australian Government for “a bigger better-trained and more productive workforce”.
Since the Council began its work in 1981, we have consistently seen and documented how refugees who come to Australia and seek protection, or who are resettled from a country of asylum, are strongly motivated to rebuild their lives in this country. They wish to work, to contribute to their local communities, to start their own businesses and to ensure their children prosper. The assumption from the Australian Government should be that refugee and humanitarian entrants, like other Australians, want to work in ways that draw on their skills, experience and aspirations. Public policy and services should be built on this assumption, helping to remove barriers and challenges that prevent full economic participation.
Our recommendations in this submission focus on: improving labour market outcomes for those who face challenges (5.2 in Terms of Reference), skills and training (5.3), migration settings (5.4), and the role of collaborative partnerships (6).
Summary of recommendations
Recommendation 1. The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations:
(a) considers sustained funding for refugee place-based employment programs in areas of high settlement that builds on the knowledge and experience of previous pilot initiatives;
(b) ensures panel members with refugee specialist expertise are funded under Workforce Australia in all areas of high refugee settlement; and
(c) actively considers how reform of the Workforce Australia funding model can incentivise support for meaningful career pathways within mainstream employment services.
Recommendation 2. That the Australian Government commits to long-term investment in anti-racism work as a cornerstone of ensuring better employment outcomes for more Australians and fully implements findings arising from the development of the National Anti-racism Framework.
Recommendation 3. That the Australian Government introduce a mechanism similar to that of the Canadian Office of the Fairness Commissioner (Ontario) with a mandate to provide oversight of registration practices in regulated professions.
Recommendation 4. That the Australian Government move quickly to increase the size of the Humanitarian Program to 32,000 places per annum.
Recommendation 5. That the Minister for Immigration reviews the conditions on bridging visas to reinstate or extend the right to work to people already in Australia to both support themselves and to fill labour shortages. The Minister for Immigration should also work with the Minister for Employment to identify opportunities for people already in Australia who not been successful in seeking refugee protection to have alternative visa pathways to continue their contribution in filling vital labour shortages.
Recommendation 6. That the Australian Government invest in the review, expansion and extension of the Skilled Refugee Labour Mobility Agreement Pilot as an important avenue for attracting overseas talent and demonstrating its leadership as co-chair with Canada of the Global Task Force on Refugee Labour Mobility.
Recommendation 7. That the Australian Government make targeted investment in initiatives that foster refugee entrepreneurship in partnership with community and private sectors.
Recommendation 8. That the Australian Government ensure social procurement targets are embedded in public procurement processes and that effective models that demonstrate effective collaborations are showcased.