Timeline of major events in the history of Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program


5 May 2016 A group of 12 Sri Lankan asylum seekers whose boat was intercepted by Australian authorities near Cocos Island earlier in the week were screened at sea before being returned to Sri Lanka. They were reportedly arrested on arrival at Colombo airport.


3 May 2016 Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, blamed advocates for a series of incidents in Nauru, alleging they encourage asylum seekers and refugees in Nauru “to behave in a certain way”.


2 May 2016 A young Somali refugee living in Nauru set herself on fire. She was later flown to Australia by air ambulance and at the time of this post, remains in hospital. Reports suggest that she was transferred from Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation to Nauru a week before the incident. She was initially transferred to Brisbane for medical treatment.


26 April 2016 Omid Masoumali, a refugee who was living in Nauru for three years set himself on fire.  He was medically evacuated to Australia more than 24 hours later and died in a hospital in Brisbane on Friday 29 April 2016.


26 April 2016 PNG’s Supreme Court ruled that the transfer and detention of asylum seekers on Manus Island are both illegal and in breach of the right to personal liberty in the PNG constitution. The Supreme Court ordered that immediate steps be taken to end the detention of asylum seekers in PNG. Australia’s Immigration Minister responded that the people detained in the centre would not be brought back to Australia.


15 April 2016 A refugee in Nauru was convicted of attempted suicide, which was recognised as a crime in Nauru at the time. The conviction followed an incident in January when he tried to take his life.


4 April 2016 Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, confirmed that of the 30,037 asylum seekers who are awaiting assessment of their protection claims in Australia after arriving by boat, 28,290 people are yet to have their cases assessed, while about 1,700 have been forced to leave or have left voluntarily.


4 April 2016 A New Zealand man detained in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre died. The Department of Immigration issued a statement, saying the man is suspected to have suffered a heart attack. The matter is subject to coronial inquiry.


1 April 2016 It was reported that the last group of children held in immigration detention left on the evening of Friday 1 April. A few days later it was reported that at least two children remained in closed immigration detention. Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, later clarified that the announcement of no children left in detention was referring to children who arrived in Australia by boat.


17 March 2016 Immigration Minister announced that since the beginning of Operation Sovereign Borders in 2013, 25 boats carrying 698 asylum seekers have been turned back.


21 February 2016  Baby Asha, a one-year old asylum seeker child who was transferred along with her family from Nauru to Brisbane’s Lady Cilento Children’s hospital for medical treatment was released into community detention. It came after the doctors at the hospital refused to discharge Asha after the completion of her treatment, fearing she would be transferred back to Nauru. Many members of the public rallied and held vigils outside the hospital.


3 February 2016  The High Court of Australia dismissed a challenge to the legality of the offshore processing regime. The government’s legal victory rested on a retrospective amendment to the Migration Act.


9 November 2015 The news of Fazel Chegeni’s death sparked unrest and riots inside Christmas Island’s North West Point Detention Centre. The unrest lasted a few days and the damage to the facility was estimated at $10 million.


8 November 2015 Fazel Chegeni, an Iranian refugee detained in Christmas Island Detention Centre, escaped the centre and his dead body was found outside the centre a few hours later. Fazel was recognised as a refugee in March 2012 but was charged with assault and sentenced to six months jail after an incident in Curtin Detention Centre in December 2011. The conviction resulted in his ongoing detention and the refusal of several Immigration Ministers to grant him a visa despite his deteriorating mental health.


29 October 2015  Amnesty International Australia published a report revealing evidence that Australian officials paid boat crews to return people seeking asylum to Indonesia.


5 October 2015 The Nauruan Government announced that the Regional Processing Centre would operate under an open centre arrangement and the remaining 600 claims would be processed within a single week. The announcement came just days before the High Court of Australia heard a challenge to the legality of offshore detention (on 7 and 8 October 2015).


25 September 2015 The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Francois Crépeau, called off his upcoming visit to Australia’s offshore detention centres. The cancellation of the visit was due to concerns that the 2015 Border Force Act, which sanctions detention centre service providers who disclose “protected information” with a two-year prison sentence, would have an impact on the visit and people’s ability to fully disclose relevant information.


15 September 2015  Ali Jafarri, an Afghan refugee detained in Yongah Hill Detention Centre after the cancellation of his protection visa, died after setting himself on fire. It was reported that he attempted suicide and self-harm before.


9 September 2015  The Australian Government announced that it would make additional 12,000 humanitarian places available to refugees from the crises in Syria and Iraq. People in this intake will receive a permanent visa and it is expected that they will arrive within two or three years from the time the decision was announced.


 31 August 2015  The Senate Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru released its final report. The report made 15 recommendations, including increasing the transparency of conditions and operations of offshore detention centres (including by ensuring the provisions of reasonable access by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the media), developing a plan for the removal of children from the Nauru detention centre as soon as possible, and a full audit of all allegations of sexual abuse, child abuse and other reported criminal conduct to be undertaken by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, in consultation with the Australian Federal Police.


 31 July 2015  Mohammad Nasim Najafi, an Afghan asylum seeker detained in Yongah Hill Detention Centre, died. It was reported that he died of a suspected heart attack.


 28 July 2015  A group of 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers whose boat was intercepted by the navy a week before was flown back to Vietnam. It was reported that upon arrival the group was taken into a police station for questioning and three people in the group were later transferred to a provincial detention centre.


 1 July 2015 The Migration Review Tribunal (MRT), Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT) and Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) merged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). The amalgamated AAT is responsible for the independent review of a wide range of decisions made by the Australian Government, including the Department of Immigration.


1 July 2015  The Australian Border Force Act took effect on 1 July 2015. The Secrecy and Disclosure provisions of the Act makes it a crime punishable by two years’ imprisonment for an “entrusted person” to make record of or disclose protected information. According to the Act, the “entrusted person” could be an Immigration and Border Protection worker, including people engaged or employed by the Department of Immigration. This can include medical professionals, educators and others contracted by the Australian Government to perform services on behalf of the Department.


 12 June 2015  Allegations were aired that officials of the Australian Security Intelligence Service had paid people smugglers to take 65 asylum seekers intercepted on the seas back to Indonesia. The Australian Government refused to comment on these claims “for security reasons”.


 4 June 2015  Nine months after the $55 million Cambodia deal, four refugees arrived in Phnom Penh from Nauru.


 26 March 2015  The Senate resolved to establish the Select Committee on the Recent Allegations relating to Conditions and Circumstances at the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru to inquire into and report on the responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government in connection with the management and operation of the Regional Processing Centre in Nauru.


 25 March 2015 Migration Amendment (Protection and Other Measures) bill passed Parliament. The new Amendment creates grounds to refuse a protection visa application when an applicant refuses or fails to establish their identity, nationality or citizenship; defines the risk threshold for assessing Australia’s non-refoulement obligations under certain treaties; and amends the framework in relation to unauthorised maritime arrivals and transitory persons who can make a valid application for a visa.


 20 March 2015  A boat carrying 46 Vietnamese asylum seekers was intercepted by Australia. Its passengers were held at sea for nearly a month and underwent “enhanced screening” before being returned to Vietnam on 18 April. The Australian Government was heavily criticised by other parties for its secrecy in reporting on the fate of this group.


 20 March 2015  The Department of Immigration released the 86-page report of the independent review by Philip Moss into allegations of sexual abuse on Nauru. The report upheld some of the sexual abuse allegations in Nauru Detention Centre, found accounts of failure of oversight and recommended greater partnership between Nauruan operations managers and the Department of Immigration and its contracted service providers.


 11 February 2015  The Attorney General tabled the final report of Australian Human Rights Commission’s national inquiry into children in immigration detention. The reportThe Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014, was provided to the Attorney-General on 11 November 2014. The report made sixteen recommendations, including the release into the Australian community as soon as possible of all children and their families detained in onshore detention facilities and on Nauru; an amendment of the Migration Act to limit the detention of children and their parents to a strictly limited period of time necessary to conduct health, identity and security checks; the closure of all detention facilities on Christmas Island and the appointment of an independent guardian to all unaccompanied minors seeking asylum in Australia.


 21 December 2014  As part of the Government’s deal with backbenchers to support the passing of the Legacy Caseload Bill, 94 children, plus another 100 people, were moved from Christmas Island to Bladin Point detention facility in Darwin.


 18 December 2014  In a deal with Senator Ricky Muir, the Immigration Minister Scott Morrison agreed to process the applications of babies born to asylum seeker mothers and their families on mainland Australia and not to return them to Nauru. This applies to all babies born before 4 December 2014, totalling 31 babies and their families.


 12 December 2014  Inverbrackie Detention Facility in South Australia, considered a detention facility with more humane conditions, closed and people detained there were relocated (the majority to the community after being granted a bridging visa).


 5 December 2014  The Migration and Maritime Powers Legislation Amendment (Resolving the Asylum Legacy Caseload) bill passed both Houses. It resulted in significant changes to the Migration Act. The most notable changes include:

  • providing the Immigration Minister with the power to detain people at sea (including outside Australia’s jurisdiction) and send them to other countries or vessels, even without the permission or knowledge of those countries;
  • the re-introduction of Temporary Protection visas and introduction of Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV); introduction of a fast track assessment process and removal of access to the Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT);
  • removing most references to the Refugee Convention and instead creating a ‘new, independent and self-contained statutory framework’ which sets out Australia’s own interpretation of its protection obligations under the Refugee Convention;
  • retrospectively establishing the legal status of newborn children as ‘transitory persons’ and ‘unauthorised maritime arrivals’;
  • and placing a ‘cap’ on the number of protection visas that can be issued in any year, allowing the Minister to suspend processing of protection visas once the ‘cap’ is reached.
 26 November 2014  The Character and General Visa Cancellation bill passed both Houses. It added additional grounds on which an individual can fail a character test. These amendments to the Migration Act now permit (and in some instances, require) the Minister for Immigration to cancel a person’s visa (temporary or permanent) on the basis of character issues, such as having committed a crime or posing some form of perceived threat to the Australian community. People who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison or those who have been sentenced to two or more terms of imprisonment, where the total of those terms is 12 months or more will have their visas mandatorily cancelled. The new cancellation powers place people from refugee backgrounds at risk of prolonged indefinite immigration detention, as they cannot be returned to their countries of origin.


 18 November 2014  Scott Morrison announced that asylum seekers who have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia after 1 July 2014 will no longer be able to be resettled under Australia’s humanitarian program.


 26 September 2014  The Australian and Cambodian governments signed a deal under which people on Nauru who are found to be refugees are to be resettled in Cambodia. The deal included the allocation of $40 million in aid money to Cambodia, as well as an allocation of $15.5 million to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to handle the resettlement.


 5 September 2014  Hamid Khazaei, an Iranian asylum seeker living on Manus Island, died from a sepsis infection three weeks after he cut his foot at the detention centre. Inadequate medical care in Manus Island and PNG and delayed medical evacuation were later reported to have contributed to Mr Khazaei’s death.


 29 June 2014- 1 August 2014  The Australian navy intercepted a boat carrying 157 Sri Lankan asylum seekers. The boat reported to have left India for Australia two weeks before. The interception of the boat was the beginning of a period of controversy and political tension. The Government considered returning the asylum seekers to India (their point of departure), including by inviting Indian consular officials to meet with the asylum seekers and training some asylum seekers to operate the “unsinkable” lifeboats used in turnback operations. It also considered returning them to Sri Lanka. On 7 July 2014, in an urgent High Court hearing, lawyers for Tamil asylum seekers won an injunction against their transfer to the Sri Lankan navy. After nearly a month of detention at sea (in “windowless rooms” according to the group’s lawyers), the group was brought to the Cocos Island and from there on 27 July transferred to Curtin Detention Centre. A few days later, on 1 August 2014, they were transferred to Nauru overnight. On 28 January 2015, the High Court of Australia ruled that the Sri Lankan asylum seekers were legally detained at sea.


 28 May 2014  The Australian Government cut core funding to the Refugee Council of Australia, the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them, despite allocating $140,000 just two weeks before in its Budget.


 31 March 2014  Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, announced that asylum seekers who arrived in Australia without valid visas are no longer eligible for government-funded legal advice. Asylum seekers who arrive with valid visas, and asylum seekers who arrived by boat and have been identified as vulnerable by the Department of Immigration (such as those currently in immigration detention and part of the legacy caseload), are eligible for free legal advice only at the primary stage of decision-making.


 17 February 2014  Peaceful protests by asylum seekers detained in the Manus Island facility turned into a violent riot. Security guards and police stormed the facility attacking asylum seekers, including people who had not been involved in the protests. One asylum seeker, Reza Berati, was beaten to death and over 60 others were injured, some of them seriously.


 3 February 2014  The Australian Human Rights Commission announced that it would conduct an inquiry into children in immigration detention, to investigate the ways in which life in closed immigration detention facilities affects the health, wellbeing and development of children. The inquiry coincided with the ten-year anniversary of the Commission’s landmark report, A Last Resort? At the time of the announcement, more than 1,000 children were detained in closed facilities.


 30 January 2014  The Government implemented the Code of Behaviour.  The Code of Behaviour is set to apply to all adult asylum seekers arriving by boat who are considered for the grant of a bridging visa and “describes the behaviour expected of people who are living in the Australian community”.


 January 2014  In another response to the disallowance of TPVs, the Australian Government began to grant Temporary Humanitarian Concern visas (THCs) to refugees who arrived by boat, as an alternative to TPVs. THCs were originally introduced in 2000 to allow people on Temporary Humanitarian Stay visas (a short-term visa originally developed in 1999 to allow for entry and temporary stay in Australia in humanitarian crisis situations) who were in need of continuing medical attention to remain in Australia. The conditions attached to THCs are similar to those attached to TPVs.


 19 December 2013  The Minister for Immigration issued a directive (No. 62) specifying that family visa applications lodged by refugees who arrived by boat should be the lowest processing priority, meaning that they have virtually no chance of success. The directive applied to all family visa applications currently in the pipeline as well as all future applications. People affected by the directive who have an application pending will not have their substantive visa fee refunded should they choose to withdraw their application. There is no priority for families facing compelling or compassionate circumstances. The directive does not apply to Australian citizens.


 14 December 2013  In response to the disallowance of TPVs, the Australian Government issued a regulation which renders refugees who arrive by boat ineligible for a permanent Protection Visa.


 11 December 2013  Amnesty International Australia released a report of its visit to the offshore processing facility in Manus Island. Entitled This is Breaking People, the report asserts that offshore processing in Papua New Guinea “has resulted in a host of human rights violations” and recommends that the Manus Island facility be closed and all asylum seekers be transferred back to Australia to have their claims processed.


 2 December 2013  The Australian Senate passed a disallowance motion preventing the reintroduction of TPVs.


 26 November 2013  The UNHCR reported on conditions in the offshore processing facilities in Nauru and Manus Island, finding that men, women and children continue to be held in arbitrary indefinite detention and conditions in both sites remain below international standards. Of particular concern was the finding that since the facilities re-opened in 2012, only one claim for refugee status had been fully processed in Nauru and none had been fully processed in Manus Island.


 18 October 2013 Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) reintroduced. TPVs allow their holders to stay in Australia for up to three years, after which time their protection claims will be reassessed. As with the previous TPV policy (in place between 1999 and 2007), TPV holders are not allowed to sponsor their family members for resettlement, cannot return to Australia if they travel overseas and have limited access to settlement services. Unlike the previous policy, TPV holders who are still in need of protection after their visa expires cannot apply for permanent residency. The Minister can grant permanent residency by discretion after a person has held a TPV for five years.


 18 September 2013  Operation Sovereign Borders, a military-led border security operation designed to prevent boats carrying asylum seekers from arriving in Australia, commenced.


 3 August 2013  The Australian Government signed a new memorandum of understanding with Nauru similar to its Regional Resettlement Arrangement with Papua New Guinea. Asylum seekers who are transferred to Nauru for processing and found to be refugees could be settled in Nauru permanently, although confirmation is pending.


 31 July 2013  The average length of time spent in closed immigration detention facilities in Australia dropped to 72 days, down from 277 days in November 2011. At the same time, however, the number of children in closed detention reached an all-time high of 1,992.


 25 and 26 July 2013  The UN Human Rights Committee found that Australia has breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by indefinitely detaining refugees who have failed security assessments. It asserted that Australia has violated Articles 7 and 9 of the Convention through detaining refugees arbitrarily, failing to provide an effective judicial remedy and subjecting detainees to conditions of detention which are “cumulatively inflicting serious psychological harm upon them”. The Committee directed the Australian Government to provide all refugees in this situation with an effective remedy, including release from detention under appropriate conditions, rehabilitation and appropriate compensation. The full findings can be read here and here.


 19 July 2013  A peaceful protest at the offshore processing facility in Nauru degenerated into a riot. Several buildings were destroyed and over 100 people in detention were arrested. On 23 July, a group of current and former Salvation Army staff members who had worked in the Nauru facility released a public statement asserting that “this riot although shocking, was an inevitable outcome from a cruel and degrading policy”. They described the “constant degradation and suffering” experienced by people in detention in the Nauru facility and claimed that the riot “was not borne out of malice. It was a build up of pressure and anxiety over ten months of degrading treatment, and a planned peaceful protest that degenerated. It was a reaction to a refugee processing system that is devoid of logic and fairness”.


 19 July 2013 Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced a new “Regional Resettlement Arrangement” with Papua New Guinea, whereby all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat from 19 July onwards would be transferred to Papua New Guinea for processing and, if they are found to be refugees, face permanent settlement in PNG.


 12 July 2013  A second UNCHR report on conditions in the offshore processing facility on Manus Island acknowledged that, while there have been some positive developments, “conditions remain below international standards for the reception and treatment of asylum-seekers”. In particular, UNHCR expressed ongoing concern about the harsh physical living conditions, the mandatory and indefinite detention of asylum seekers, the lack of adequate safeguards in transfer arrangements and shortcomings in the legal framework for refugee status determination.


 3 July 2013  The Government resumed processing of asylum claims for people who arrived by boat on or after 13 August 2012. By this point, the backlog stands at over 20,000.


 19 June 2013  The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights released the report of its inquiry into changes introduced in response to the Expert Panel’s recommendations. The Committee, which included Members of Parliaments and Senators from the Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party and the Australian Greens, concluded that “the measures as currently implemented carry a significant risk of being incompatible with a range of human rights”.


 3 June 2013  The Community Proposal Pilot commenced. The pilot allows approved community organisations in Australia to propose humanitarian entrants for resettlement in Australia and help them to settle once they arrive. Organisations are expected to pay a substantial visa fee and meet a range of costs related to the person’s resettlement in Australia (such as airfares, medical checks and on-arrival support).


 June 2013 The Australian Red Cross released its inaugural Vulnerability Report, focusing on asylum seekers living in the Australian community under the “no advantage” test. The Report revealed that many people seeking asylum live in the Australian community in a state of poverty, with many struggling to access adequate and sustainable housing and afford basics such as food, furniture and bedding. In launching the report, Red Cross CEO Robert Tickner said We are not talking about destitution here by normal standards. We’re talking about what is by any measure among the most destitute people in the country, who are absolutely marginalised by every reasonable measure.”


 16 May 2013  The Australian Parliament passed legislation which extended the excision policy to the Australian mainland. This means that asylum seekers who arrive by boat anywhere in Australia cannot lodge a valid protection claim except at the discretion of the Minister for Immigration and are at risk of being transferred offshore for processing. Previously, the excision policy applied only to excised offshore places, such as Christmas Island.


 20 March 2013  In Minister for Immigration and Citizenship v SZQRB, the Full Federal Court found that the International Treaty Obligations Assessment process (used by the Government to assess complementary protection needs) was not being carried out in accordance with the law. It also found that the Minister’s decision not to exercise his non-compellable public interest powers to grant the plaintiff a visa, irrespective of the merits of the case, denied the plaintiff procedural fairness “in the most fundamental way”. The Court issued an injunction preventing the deportation of the plaintiff until his claims have been assessed according to law. As a result, deportation of other asylum seekers in a similar position to the plaintiff was temporarily suspended.


 9 February 2013  The Australian Government announced a new resettlement deal with New Zealand, whereby 150 places from New Zealand’s overall resettlement quota of 750 would be allocated to refugees who sought asylum in Australia. The refugees may be resettled directly from Australia or from offshore processing centres in Nauru and Manus Island. The government announced that the deal would commence in 2014.


 4 February 2013  UNHCR released a report on the conditions in the offshore processing facility on Manus Island which similarly concluded that “the transfer of asylum-seekers to unsatisfactory temporary facilities, within a closed detention setting, and in the absence of a legal framework and functional system to assess refugee claims, do not currently meet the required international protection standards”. It also expressed concern about the situation of children transferred to Manus Island, noting that “the lack of any appropriate legal or regulatory framework for their treatment (in what UNHCR finds to be a mandatory, arbitrary and indefinite detention setting), and on-going delays in establishing any procedures to assess children’s refugee protection needs, and broader best interests, is particularly troubling”.


 14 December 2012  UNHCR released a report on the conditions in the offshore processing facility in Nauru. It concluded that “the transfer of asylum-seekers to what are currently harsh and unsatisfactory temporary facilities, with in a closed detention setting, and in the absence of a fully functional legal framework and adequately capacitated system to assess refugee claims, do not currently meet the required protection standards.”


 23 November 2012  Amnesty International Australia released the findings of its visit to the offshore processing facility in Nauru, reporting that “a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions [is] creating an increasingly volatile situation on Nauru”. Amnesty concluded that “the human rights of these men are being breached by both the Australian and Nauruan Government” and recommended that the Nauru facility be closed and all asylum seekers be transferred back to Australia.


 21 November 2012  Following a significant increase in boat arrivals, the Australian Government acknowledged that it would not be possible to transfer all asylum seekers who arrived by boat on or after 13 August 2012 to offshore processing centres in the immediate future. As a result, some of these asylum seekers would be processed in Australia, but still be subject to the “no advantage” test. This meant that they would be released into the community on bridging visas but would not have the right to work. If found to be refugees, they would remain on bridging visas and would not receive a permanent visa until they have “waited” for the same length of time that they would have waited if they had applied for resettlement overseas. They may also be transferred to Nauru or Manus Island at any time.


 21 November 2012 Australia began transferring asylum seekers, including families with young children, to the re-established offshore processing centre on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island. 


 October 2012  The Australian Government introduced an “enhanced screening” process for Sri Lankan asylum seekers who arrive by boat. Under this process, an asylum seeker is interviewed by two officers from the Department of Immigration about their reasons for travelling to Australia. If the asylum seeker raises concerns which suggest that they may have a valid protection claim, they are “screened in” so that their claim can be formally processed. If they do not raise any protection concerns, they are “screened out” and returned to Sri Lanka without having the opportunity to formally lodge a protection claim. The system has been criticised for lacking transparency and preventing asylum seekers from being able to have their claims assessed fairly.


 22 September 2012 The Australian Government announced that it would implement the Expert Panel’s recommendations on humanitarian family reunion. Refugees who arrived by boat before 13 August 2012 (except for unaccompanied minors) will have to meet additional criteria if they wish to sponsor family members for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Program, and their applications will be given the lowest processing priority. Refugees who arrived by boat on or after 13 August 2012 will no longer be eligible to sponsor their family members for resettlement under the Special Humanitarian Program. An additional 4,000 places will be made available under the Family stream of the migration program for humanitarian entrants seeking to sponsor family members.


 14 September 2012  Australia began transferring asylum seekers to the re-established offshore processing centre in Nauru.


 23 August 2012  In line with the Expert Panel’s recommendations, the Australian Government announced that the Refugee and Humanitarian Program would be increased to 20,000 places annually.


 14 August 2012  The Australian Government introduced legislation to allow offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea. It was passed by both Houses of Parliament and became law on 17 August. The legislation striped away legal safeguards for asylum seekers subject to offshore processing, including those which led the High Court to rule the Malaysia arrangement invalid. Any asylum seeker who arrived in Australia on or after 13 August 2012 became at risk of being processed offshore.


 13 August 2012 After six weeks of consultation and research, the Expert Panel released a report containing 22 recommendations. These include: working towards the development of a cooperative regional framework for improving protection and asylum systems; increasing Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program to 20,000 places annually; reintroducing offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island; and changing Australia’s humanitarian family reunion policies to make it more difficult for refugees who arrive by boat to reunite with their family members. Central to the Expert Panel’s recommendations was the “no advantage” test, which stipulated that refugees arriving by boat should not receive an “advantage” over refugees awaiting resettlement overseas. On this basis, the Panel proposed that asylum seekers who were processed and found to be refugees should have to “wait” for resettlement for the same amount of time they would have waited if they had applied for resettlement from overseas. The Panel did not specify a “waiting time” or explained how a fair “waiting time” could be calculated. On the same day, the Australian Government endorsed in principle all 22 of the Expert Panel’s recommendations.


 28 June 2012  Following the sinking of several boats en route to Australia and the resulting deaths of dozens of asylum seekers, Prime Minister Julia Gillard appointed an Expert Panel to “provide a report on the best way forward for Australia to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia”. The Panel was led by Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the former chief of Australia’s defence force, and included Paris Aristotle, Director of Foundation House, and Professor Michael L’Estrange, the Director of the National Security College at the Australian National University.


 30 March 2012  The Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network released its findings. Key recommendations included a 90-day time limit on detention for asylum seekers who pass inital identity, health, character and security checks; the publication of reasons for continued detention beyond 90 days; the replacement of the Minister for Immigration as the legal guardian of unaccompanied minors; using detention as a last resort for the shortest practicable time; and allowing the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review negative ASIO assessments of refugees and asylum seekers.


 24 March 2012  The single processing system for asylum seekers, regardless of their mode of arrival, came into effect.


 2 March 2012 Multicultural Affairs became a Ministerial portfolio, with Senator Kate Lundy being promoted to the position of Minister for Multicultural Affairs.


 20-23 February 2012  Australia hosts a meeting of the Working Group on Resettlement (WGR) in Melbourne. The meeting brings together 87 leaders of government, NGO and UN refugee resettlement programs to discuss post-arrival settlement support for resettled refugees. It is the first WGR meeting in the Southern Hemisphere and the first WGR meeting to focus exclusively on post-arrival support.


 14 December 2011 The High Court of Australia ruled that it was not a requirement for the grant of a Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) visa for the sponsor to be under 18 both at the time of application and the time of decision. The ruling removed the barrier to family reunion faced by unaccompanied minors who applied to sponsor their parents for resettlement but turned 18 before a decision was made on the application.


 7-8 December 2011  UNHCR hosted a ministerial-level meeting in Geneva to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 50th anniversary of the 1961 Statelessness Convention. The meeting resulted in a number of significant breakthroughs on statelessness, with 20 countries pledging to ratify one or both of the two key Conventions on statelessness and 25 countries pledging to improve protections for stateless people.


 25 November 2011  Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen announced that the first group of asylum seekers in detention would soon be released on bridging visas. He also announced that asylum claims would be processed under a single system regardless of whether asylum seekers arrived by boat or plane.


 19 November 2011  The Refugee Council of Australia celebrated its 30th anniversary.


 13 October 2011  After failing to secure support for its proposed legislation to allow the Malaysia Arrangement to proceed, the Government announced that it would expand community-based alternatives to detention for asylum seekers, including through granting bridging visas to asylum seekers who have passed health, security and identity checks.


 19 September 2011  The Australian Parliament passed the Migration Amendment (Complementary Protection) Bill 2011. The new legislation improved protections for people who are not found to be refugees but are still at grave risk of persecution, torture or death on return to their country of origin.


 12 September 2011  The Australian Government proposed legislative amendments to nullify the High Court’s decision on the Malaysia transfer arrangement.


 31 August 2011  The High Court of Australia ruled that Australia’s transfer arrangement with Malaysia could not proceed due to the absence of legal protections for refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia.


19 August 2011 The Australian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Papua New Guinea to re-establish an “assessment centre for asylum seekers” on Manus Island.


25 July 2011  The transfer arrangement between Australia and Malaysia was formally signed.


 29 June 2011  The Minister for Immigration announced that 62 per cent of children in immigration detention had been moved into community-based arrangements. He also announced the closure of the detention facilities at the Virginia Palms in Brisbane and the Asti Hotel in Darwin.


 17 June 2011  A research report by Dr Graeme Hugo, one of Australia’s leading demographers, was released, highlighting the many economic, civic and social contributions made by refugees and humanitarian entrants to Australian society.


 16 June 2011  The Parliament of Australia established the Joint Select Committee on Australia’s Immigration Detention Network to conduct a comprehensive inquiry into Australia’s immigration detention system.


 7 May 2011  The Australian Government announced an arrangement with the Malaysian Government whereby 800 asylum seekers who arrived by boat in Australia would be transferred to Malaysia, in return for Australia resettling 4,000 refugees out of Malaysia over the next four years.


 April 2011  Protests, hunger strikes and unrest in many detention centres occur across Australia. The Minister for Immigration proposes changes to the Migration Act that would see a person in detention convicted of any crime (such as damage to Commonwealth property at a detention centre) be denied permanent protection on character grounds. Prior to the changes, the conviction must have involved a sentence of over 12 months for such a finding to be made.


 28 March 2011  The fifth death in immigration detention in six months occurs.


 March 2011  Peaceful protests at the North West Point detention centre on Christmas Island turned into widespread unrest. The Australian Federal Police took control of the centre using tear gas and rubber bullets. The Minister for Immigration established an independent inquiry into the protests and the Commonwealth Ombudsman later announced use of his own powers to also investigate the incident and its causes.


 March 2011  The Australian Government announced the expansion of the Darwin Airport lodge as a detention facility and the construction of a new 1,500 person facility at Wickham Point, an industrial area 35km from Darwin.


 February 2011  It was revealed that there were 900 people in detention who have been found to be refugees but were awaiting an ASIO security assessment, for which there are no time limits.


 17 January 2011  The Australian Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Government of Afghanistan, permitting the involuntary repatriation of refused Afghan asylum-seekers from Australia to Afghanistan, including unaccompanied minors.


 7 January 2011  In response to the High Court decision of 11 November 2010, the Government announced changes to the refugee determination system for asylum seekers arriving in excised territories. Under the new system, asylum seekers refused protection had access to judicial review in situations where an error in legal reasoning occurred or where procedural fairness been denied. They continued to lack access to the mainland status determination process and the Refugee Review Tribunal.


 15 December 2010  A boat carrying people seeking asylum (SIEV 221) foundered off the coast of Christmas Island. 42 people were rescued but up to 50 asylum seekers were believed to have drowned in the accident.


 11 November 2010  The High Court ruled that two Sri Lankan asylum seekers were denied procedural fairness in the review of their claims under the processing arrangements which applied to asylum seekers who entered Australia through an excised offshore territory. The Court declared that any review of a refugee status assessment must be bound by the provisions of the Migration Act and the decisions of Australian courts.


 11 October 2010  The Australian Government announced that it would begin moving children and vulnerable family groups out of immigration detention facilities and into community-based accommodation.


 6 July 2010  Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the ALP Government’s intention to work towards building a regional protection framework in the Asia-Pacific, including the establishment of a regional processing centre in Timor-Leste “for the purpose of receiving and processing irregular entrants to the region”. The centre was never established.


 18 April 2010  The Australian Government announced the reopening of Curtin detention centre despite it being criticised as one of the country’s most isolated and punitive facilities.


 9 April 2010  The Australian Government suspended the processing of asylum applications from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, for three and six months respectively. The individuals affected were left in detention and a backlog of applications was created. The suspensions were lifted on 6 July and 30 September respectively.


 October 2009  Australian Customs vessel the Oceanic Viking rescued 78 Sri Lankan asylum seekers in Indonesia’s search and rescue zone and attempted to take them to an Indonesian detention centre. The asylum seekers refused to disembark and did so one month later with the Australian promise of speedy processing and settlement. A year later, 25 were still detained in a transit facility.


 8 September 2009  With the votes of some Opposition(Coalition) MPs, the Australian Government ended Australia’s practice of charging refugees for their time spent in detention. Previously, detainees were expected to pay back around $100 a day after being granted protection.  For some people this meant tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.


 16 April 2009  An explosion on SIEV 36 near Ashmore Reef resulted in the death of up to five asylum seekers and injured 44 people.


 2009 Eligibility for IHSS was extended to onshore Protection visa holders.


 July 2008  The Government released the Proust Report which examined the extent of the Immigration Minister’s powers when granting visas.


 28 May 2008  The UN Committee against Torture released its report on Australia, praising the end of the Pacific Solution but also calling for an end to mandatory detention.


 13 May 2008  The Rudd Government abolished Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs). Immigration Minister Chris Evans stated “the Temporary Protection visa was one of the worst aspects of the Howard government’s punitive treatment of refugees, many of whom had suffered enormously before fleeing to Australia. There is clear evidence that the TPV arrangements did nothing to prevent unauthorised boat arrivals.”


 8 February 2008  The last refugees left Nauru, ending the Pacific Solution.


 December 2007  The Rudd Government abolished the Pacific Solution. This resulted in the closure of detention facilities on Manus Island and Nauru.


 August 2007  The Baxter detention centre closed.


 August 2007  A report commissioned by Oxfam and A Just Australia, entitled A Price Too High, found that the Pacific Solution cost the Australian taxpayer in excess of $1 billion over five years. It revealed processing asylum seekers on Manus Island, Nauru or Christmas Island cost more than $500,000 per person, seven times more than it would have cost to process them on the Australian mainland.


 2007 Construction completed on the Christmas Island detention facility. Christmas Island is located 2,400km from Perth, 360km from Jakarta and nearly 2,000km from Darwin. It was excised from the Australian migration zone in 2001. Construction of a permanent, purpose-built detention facility began in 2005. The facility has been criticized by many human rights and refugee advocacy groups as resembling a maximum-security prison. Despite earlier commitments to detain children as a last resort, the facility included family units, a babies’ compound, childcare centre and classrooms.


 14 August 2006  The Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006 is withdrawn after fierce dissent from community groups and some politicians.


 1 July 2006  Funding for Migrant Resource Centres and the Community Settlement Services Scheme (CSSS) was replaced by the Settlement Grants Program (SGP). Under the SGP, community organisations can apply for funding for projects to assist new migrants and refugees to settle in Australia.


 11 May 2006  The Australian Government attempted to expand the Pacific Solution. In response to anger from the Indonesian Government over the granting of refugee status to 42 West Papuan refugees, the Migration Amendment (Designated Unauthorised Arrivals) Bill 2006 was introduced. The Bill stated that all asylum seekers who arrived without authorisation by boat were to be processed ‘offshore’ in places like Nauru or Christmas Island. The amendments would result in asylum seekers undergoing an inferior assessment process, with those found to be refugees having no automatic right to refugee protection in Australia.


 3 March 2006  The NSW Supreme Court approved an out-of-court settlement offer made by the Immigration Department to the family of Shayan Badraie, a five-year-old boy who was detained for one year in Woomera and six months in Villawood between 2000 and 2002, resulting in severe psychological trauma. A $400,000 compensation payout was made for the psychological harm he suffered.


 20 October 2005  The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that conditions in Australian detention centres be brought up to international standards and that children be assessed within 48 hours to ensure that there was a real need for them to be detained.


 October 2005  The Commonwealth Ombudsman revealed that of those wrongfully detained, more than half of cases were held for a week or less, 23 were held for more than a year and two were detained for more than five years.


 29 June 2005  The Migration Act was amended to allow for the detention of children only as a last resort. In reality, families continued to be placed in “alternative places of detention” (as opposed to “detention centres”) where they are still denied freedom of movement and face strict conditions.


 20 June 2005  The longest serving detainee, Peter Qasim, was released. Fleeing from Indian Kashmir, he spent a total of seven years in detention. For years the Australian Government refused to recognise him as a refugee and Indian authorities denied he was Indian. He was finally released on a bridging visa only (into a psychiatric hospital) which denied him the right to permanent protection in Australia.


 June 2005  Coalition Government MPs Petro Georgiou and Judith Moylan crossed the floor against their own party resulting in the release of long term detainees and the review of future cases by the Commonwealth Ombudsman.


 11 May 2005  The Australian Government introduced the Removal Pending Bridging Visa (RPBV), to be granted at the discretion of the Minister for Immigration to people who have been in long-term detention and whose removal from Australia was pending but delayed. RPBV recipients are required to do everything possible to facilitate their removal from Australia. In the interim, they have work rights and access to Medicare, Centrelink benefits and trauma counselling services. They are not eligible for family reunion or to return to Australia if they leave.


 February 2005  It was revealed that a mentally ill German citizen holding Australian permanent residency, Cornelia Rau, had been held in detention as an unauthorised immigrant for 10 months.


 30 December 2004  The Bakhtiari family was deported to Pakistan after four years of detention, appeals and legal battles. Their children were detained for over two and a half years and the family became a key rallying point against children in detention.  


 November 2004  A Kuwaiti man received $200,000 compensation payout from ASIO after being wrongly detained for two years. While he was immediately granted asylum in 1997, he remained in immigration detention after ASIO incorrectly deemed him a security risk.


 6 August 2004  The High Court of Australia ruled that asylum seekers can be detained indefinitely. The decision was handed down in the case of Al-Kateb v Godwin. The Court held that unsuccessful asylum seekers who could not be removed to another country, despite their wish to leave Australia, could continue to be held in immigration detention indefinitely.


 6 August 2004  The High Court of Australia ruled that harsh detention conditions were not unlawful. The decision was handed down in the case of Behrooz v Secretary Of The Department Of Immigration And Multicultural And Indigenous Affairs.


 June 2004  The Port Hedland detention centre closed.


 May 2004  The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission) released A Last Resort?, the report of its national inquiry into children in immigration detention. The inquiry found that children in Australian immigration detention centres had suffered numerous and repeated breaches of their human rights and that children detained for long periods of time were at a high risk of suffering mental illness. The inquiry found that the policy failed to protect the mental health of children, provide adequate health care and education and protect unaccompanied children and those with disabilities.


 April 2003  The Woomera detention centre closed. At its peak, the centre housed more than 1,400 people who sought asylum in Australia, some of whom remained in detention for more than three years.


 2003  The National Council of Migrant Resource and Settlement Agencies (NCMRSA) was incorporated. The NCMRSA changed its name to the Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) in 2008.


 24 October 2002  The UN working group on Arbitrary Detention released a scathing report on Australia’s detention centres stating “one could reasonably assume that if public opinion were fully and specifically informed about the conditions to which human beings are being subjected in Australia and the negative consequences for the image of a democratic country, public opinion would change.”


 23 October 2002  The Senate Select Committee for an inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident, which investigated the “children overboard” affair as well as the Tampa affair, SIEV X and the Pacific Solution, released its findings. The Committee stated that, along with “genuine miscommunication or misunderstanding”, “deliberate deception motivated by political expedience” was a factor in “the making and sustaining of the report that children had been thrown overboard from SIEV 4”.


 1 October 2002  UNHCR’s Refugee resettlement: An international handbook to guide reception and integration was released. The handbook was written by the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) and funded by the Australian Government.


 August 2002  The Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs announced a review of settlement services for migrants and humanitarian entrants. The resulting Report on the Review of Settlement Services for Migrants and Humanitarian Entrants was released in May 2003.


 August 2002  Curtin detention centre closed.


 July 2002  The UN Report on Mandatory Detention was released. Former Indian Supreme Chief Justice, Rajendra Bhagwati, wrote this report after visiting Australia’s immigration detention facilities in 2002 as a personal envoy of the UN Human Rights Commissioner. The report argued that the policy contravened the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which outlaws arbitrary detention and the denial of access to legal review of incarceration; and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits detention of children except as a last resort. Bhagwati reported that children were suffering mentally and physically, and that many were “traumatised and led to harm themselves in utter despair.” Then Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, Attorney-General Daryl Williams and Immigration Minister Ruddock issued a joint statement attacking this report as “emotive”, “fundamentally flawed” and lacking objectivity.


 19 March 2002 Captain Arne Rinnan, along with the crew and owners of the MV Tampa, were awarded the Nansen Refugee Award “for demonstrating courage and a unique degree of commitment to refugee protection.”


 1 February 2002 Then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Ruud Lubbers, expressed concerns about the vilification of asylum seekers in Australia and urged the Australian Government to provide its citizens with accurate information.


 Early 2002  The Australian Government froze asylum seeker applications from about 2,000 Afghans, sparking riots and protests including hunger strikes and self-harm.


 28 October 2001  In his campaign for re-election, then Prime Minister John Howard made the statement “We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come.”


 19 October 2001 SIEV X sank between Indonesia and Christmas Island. An estimated 146 children, 142 women and 65 men drown. After having spent close to 24 hours in the ocean, 44 survivors were rescued by two Indonesian fishing boats and taken back to Indonesia. Many of the women and children who died were attempting to reunite with husbands and fathers in Australia who were on TPVs, and therefore unable to sponsor their families for resettlement.


 October 2001  In early October 2001, senior Government officials alleged that asylum seekers onboard SIEV 4 had thrown their children overboard in a ploy to secure rescue and passage to Australian territory. The Government released photos as evidence of this event. It was later revealed that the photos were taken during the rescue of passengers as the SIEV 4 was sinking.


 3 September 2001  The Australian Defence Force commenced Operation Relex to interdict vessels carrying asylum seekers. Between September and December 2001, 13 asylum seeker boats tried and failed to reach Australia’s migration zone: four were intercepted by the Navy and forced back to Indonesia; five were held in custody then immediately sent to Nauru; two were sent to Christmas Island and then Nauru; one was sent to Christmas Island and then Papua New Guinea; and one was the SIEV X, which sank.


 1 September 2001 The Pacific Solution was implemented. Under the policy, asylum seekers arriving without authorisation were sent to Australian-funded detention camps in Pacific Island states, rather than being allowed to claim asylum on the Australian mainland.


 September 2001  The Migration Amendment (Excision from Migration Zone) Act 2001 amended the Migration Act to excise certain territories (among them Christmas Island) from the Australian migration zone. As a result of the amendments, a non-citizen who first enters Australia at an excised offshore place without legal authorisation is unable to submit a valid visa application unless the Minister for Immigration makes a personal intervention into the case.


 29 August 2001 The Border Protection (Validation and Enforcement Powers) Bill was introduced. This provided the Australian Government with the power to: remove any ship in the territorial waters of Australia; use reasonable force to do so; provide that any person who was on the ship may be forcibly returned to the ship; and guarantee that no asylum applications may be made by people on board the ship.


August 2001 The Norwegian ship MV Tampa rescued 439 Afghan asylum seekers from international waters near Australia. Captain Arne Rinnan attempted to dock at Christmas Island but was refused entry into Australian waters by Prime Minister Howard, who insisted the passengers must disembark elsewhere and sent the SAS onto the vessel. This resulted in a diplomatic dispute between Australia, Norway and Indonesia and garnered global media coverage. The asylum seekers were eventually loaded onto a Royal Australian Navy vessel. Most were transported to detention centres as part of what became known as the Pacific Solution.


20 June 2001 The first World Refugee Day was celebrated, having been decided upon by the UN General Assembly the previous December.


2 April 2001 Shahraz Kayani, a Pakistani citizen who was granted refugee status in Australia, commited self-immolation outside Parliament House in Canberra to protest the delay in reuniting with his family. At this point, the process had already taken five years and was unlikely to succeed until Mr Kayani could raise $75,000 to pay for the care of his middle daughter who had cerebral palsy. He died within three months of infection caused by his burns.


2001 Protests and violence at Port Hedland and Curtin detention centres. Several people escaped from Villawood detention centre.


2000 Protests took place at Curtin and Woomera detention centres over slow processing and poor conditions, included hunger strikes and lip sewing.


2000 The Integrated Humanitarian Settlement Strategy (IHSS), a suite of specialised, on-arrival services for humanitarian entrants, was introduced. These services included accommodation and household formation support, torture and trauma counselling, and individual assistance to gain access to government and community services. These services were provided in recognition of the high and often multiple needs of humanitarian entrants and of the benefits of early intervention.


13 October 1999 Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) were introduced for refugees who arrived without authorisation. TPVs allowed their holders to stay in Australia for three years, after this time they would need to reapply for refugee status. TPV holders could not sponsor family members for resettlement in Australia, were not allowed to return to Australia if they travelled overseas and had limited access to settlement services.


1998 The Commonwealth Government launched the Charter for Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society as a framework for best practice in culturally responsive service delivery. The Charter represented a concerted attempt to move away from access and equity as an ‘add on’ to government services and towards building cultural diversity considerations into the core processes of government service delivery.


1998 The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (now the Australian Human Rights Commission) released its report Those who’ve come across the seas: Detention of Unauthorised Arrivals.


1997 Management of immigration detention centres was outsourced to private companies.


1994 Mandatory detention broadened and the 273 day time limit was removed.


1993 The humanitarian program was split from the migrant program.


1992 Following a major review, the Adult Migrant Education Program was renamed the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and designated specifically as a settlement program for new arrivals. New arrivals without functional English gained a legal entitlement to 510 hours of English language tuition.


1992 Mandatory detention was introduced for non-citizens who arrived in Australia without a visa. The legislation, which had bipartisan support, disallowed judicial review but limited detention to 273 days.


1991 The National Integrated Settlement Strategy (NISS) was established to better coordinate the provision of settlement services across Commonwealth and state portfolios and departments and non-government agencies.


1989 The National Agenda for a Multicultural Australia was adopted.


1989 The Migration Legislation Amendment Act was introduced by the Hawke Government to deter and intimidate “illegal entrants”. The Act was prompted by the influx of asylum seekers arriving in Australia following the Tiananmen Square massacre and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The new regulations included mandatory deportation of “illegal entrants” and allowed for the recovery of funds from asylum seekers to pay for the costs of their detention and deportation.


1986 Refugee Week was first celebrated in Australia.


19 November 1981 The foundation meeting of the Refugee Council of Australia was held in Sydney.


1981 The Fraser Government introduced the Special Humanitarian Program (SHP) in response to unrest in Iran. This quickly became a major component of Australia’s humanitarian program and focused on those who are not strictly Convention refugees.


January 1979 The red bikini girl, 18-year-old Liliana Gasinskaya, made headlines in Australia when she dived out of the porthole of a Russian cruise liner, swam ashore into a media storm and claimed asylum.


1979 The Community Refugee Settlement Scheme (CRSS), a network of volunteer groups, was established to provide assistance to humanitarian entrants with finding accommodation and employment, general orientation and social support.


1978 The Galbally Report was released, reviewing existing settlement services and outlining a detailed program of action, particularly in response to the needs of the increased intake of South-East Asian refugees. The arrival of these refugees from 1975 had prompted an expansion of federally-funded services for new arrivals, including English language tuition, on-arrival accommodation and orientation assistance, interpreting and translating services, assistance with overseas qualifications recognition, and new programs and services (including ethnic radio and SBS, Migrant Resource Centres and grants to ethnic community organisations.).


1978 The Australian Government implemented a procedure for dealing with onshore applications for refugee status in accordance with Australia’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.


1976 The first immigration detention centre was established in Villawood, in a converted section of the migrant hostel established there in 1949.


13 December 1973 Australia acceded to the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Protocol removes the geographic and time limitations of the original Convention, broadening its scope to create capacity to respond to new refugee situations.


1971 With the emergence of multiculturalism in the 1970s, English language tuition increasingly became a right for new arrivals. Provision for English language tuition was enacted in legislation with the introduction of the Immigration (Education) Act 1971.


1958 The Australian Parliament passed the Migration Act 1958 to manage the entry into, presence in and departure or deportation from Australia of foreign nationals. The Act also regulated Australia’s procedures for assessing the claims of asylum seekers and providing protection to refugees.


16 October 1956 The Australian Government  “approved of the principle that political asylum and refuge should be available in appropriate instances to various categories of aliens namely Olympic Games visitors, members of visiting trade and other delegations, members of diplomatic and consular missions in Australia, [and] certain other defectors and Asian leaders.” This was in anticipation of the Melbourne Olympic Games, during which several Hungarian Olympians claimed asylum because of the USSR’s invasion of Hungary.


2 April 1954 Vladimir Petrov defected from the Soviet Union and was granted political asylum in Australia, starting the Petrov Affair.


22 January 1954 Australia acceded to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. It was the sixth nation to ratify the treaty, thereby bringing it into force, and a founding member of the UNHCR’s Executive Committee.


1948 The Adult Migrant Education Scheme was established following the arrival of the first wave of non-English speaking migrants after World War II.