Refugee Council of Australia
Family in front of house

The home stretch: Challenges and alternatives in sustainable housing for refugees and people seeking asylum

Strategies by service providers

Strategies to address housing challenges

As highlighted in the previous sections, people seeking asylum and humanitarian arrivals face a wide array of challenges in finding somewhere suitable and secure to live in Australia. Community members and service providers consulted spoke about a range of strategies that were being pursued to address the significant housing issues and challenges their clients and compatriots faced.

Common themes emerged from consultations about the effectiveness of strategies that provide practical support for new arrivals to navigate and access the housing market, that provide an intermediary to bridge the gaps between housing providers and those seeking accommodation and that draw on community connections and networks.

Support to navigate the housing market

In terms of effective strategies to address housing issues and challenges, a clear finding from consultations was the importance of services that focus on supporting individuals and families in practical ways to navigate, enter and stay in the Australian housing market. As previous sections have highlighted, the challenges that people seeking asylum, refugees and other humanitarian entrants face are multiple and complex and securing somewhere to live in a competitive housing market for people who may have had vastly different experiences of housing requires targeted support. The following strategies have been used by services to provide practical housing support for people to successfully navigate the housing market.

Orientation

For new arrivals, one of the biggest challenges in finding somewhere to live is accessing accurate information about the Australian housing market and how to navigate it. A number of consultation participants talked about different strategies service providers employ to orientate their clients to local housing options and the processes involved in securing a property.

Many spoke about the effectiveness of orientation that incorporates not only information about the housing market in Australia (or in a local area) but that also helps people realign their expectations if there is a significant disjuncture between their experiences of housing in other countries, their expectations of finding somewhere to live in Australia and the reality of the local housing market.

In terms of orientation strategies, one service provider in Tasmania said:

We talk to clients about what housing is available and ask them what their real priorities are and what is on their wish list. We make sure we understand their highest priorities – for example, whether it is to do with the standard of housing or the proximity to the community or school. If we understand their priority need, we can focus the search much better.

Another provider in Victoria echoed this, saying that housing support officers discuss with clients their “housing goals” and try to uncover why they have identified certain locations where they want to live. In addition, clients are shown properties that are graded ‘good’, ‘average’ or ‘bad’: “Showing clients different conditions gives them an idea of what is out there and ‘average’ seems better than ‘bad’ when seen in light of the different conditions. We go through the positives and the negatives of each property.”

The same provider emphasised the value of having someone from the clients’ own background provide this orientation, saying: “It is so important to have someone from the same culture and background to not just interpret but to contextualise. For example, you can say ‘bond’ as many times as you want, it doesn’t mean that people understand what it means. You must contextualise.”

One-on-one housing support

Many consultation participants spoke about the effectiveness of practical one-on-one support to assist people seeking asylum and refugee and humanitarian entrants to navigate the housing market and successfully apply for a property. Tasks where one-on-one support was seen as effective included helping people search for properties, travel to rental inspections, fill in application forms, understand and complete lease agreements, set up rental payment arrangements, connect utilities and set up payment arrangements, fill in condition reports and apply to be put on public housing priority lists.

While this one-on-one support was identified as of pivotal importance to new arrivals being able to secure a property, it was also discussed as particularly time-consuming and resource-intensive. While some of this housing support is provided through roles within funded programs – such as the Community Assistance and Support (CAS) program for people seeking asylum and Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) and the Settlement Grants Program (SGP) for refugee and humanitarian visa holders – many participants spoke about the limitations of these funded programs to provide intensive one-on-one support (see also Section 5.8.3). As one CAS worker described:

Sometimes if I have the time (which is not always the case), I’ll prepare all of their support documents and fill out the application ahead of the inspection, so that it’s ready to go and there are no delays for the real estate agent and they can see that they’re getting effective support. I think that’s a great strategy but it’s just not always feasible.

In response, volunteers are used by many agencies for roles that can be time-consuming but were seen to be important, such as accompanying clients to rental viewings, filling out application forms and condition reports and photocopying and collating required paperwork. Refugee communities have also responded to this need, with community members providing considerable assistance to newer arrivals to navigate and successfully apply for property.

One strategy used by a number of larger service providers has been to create specialist housing roles within asylum seeker or settlement support services. These specialist housing workers were able to focus primarily on finding properties and liaising with real estate agents as well as providing practical assistance to individual clients or case managers.

A number of asylum seeker and settlement services in different states have employed support workers with specialist skills and expertise in the housing market – including workers who were licensed real estate agents, who understand how real estate agents operate and can advocate effectively on behalf of clients. As one consultation participant said, housing workers need to “have the mentality of agents, a business and client mentality. Housing teams need case management skills and marketing skills.”

Tenancy education

Strategies that facilitate greater understanding of tenancy rights and responsibilities among people seeking asylum and humanitarian entrants were spoken about by consultation participants as effective for a number of reasons. Firstly, they can provide evidence to housing providers that a person understands how to be a good tenant.

One service provider that had extensively consulted real estate agents and landlords, for example, found that many wanted to be sure that prospective tenants understood their tenancy rights and responsibilities. Tenancy education was also seen as important in ensuring that people are able to sustain a rental lease and avoid termination of leases due to tenancy infringements or misunderstandings. One service provider working with people seeking asylum also suggested:

What we’re trying to do is to make sure that clients know their responsibilities as a tenant. This is not just so that they can keep their own property but also to avoid setting up a negative stereotype which would affect future clients… It’s very easy for people in the community or real estate agents to stereotype and it’s a common thing to do. If we can create a positive stereotype, it is of benefit to our clients and future people seeking asylum as well.

Consultation participants identified a number of effective strategies for delivering tenancy education, including group tenancy training and skills workshops, one-on-one personalised tenancy training, ongoing tenancy support and advocacy and resources in community languages.

In terms of group tenancy training, services across Australia had developed a wide range of group tenancy training initiatives targeting different audiences and using a variety of models. For example, some providers had developed programs specifically for people seeking asylum; clients in some services were provided tenancy training as part of on-arrival HSS orientation programs; and some group programs had been developed for people from particular backgrounds (for example, for humanitarian arrivals who have come out of refugee camps where previous housing experiences were vastly different).

A wide array of topics were covered in these group training workshops, including: managing a tenancy; tenants’ rights, budgeting, understanding the lease, lease requirements, applying for a property, cleaning a property, share house agreements and where to go to get help with housing.

With regard to models, some of these group training models were delivered by people with particular expertise (for example, by real estate property managers, representatives from tenants unions or consumer affairs), by bilingual and bicultural workers who could contextualise or through peer co-facilitators, by specialist housing support services or by settlement and asylum service providers.

Many participants spoke of the importance of using practical demonstrations wherever possible. A number of group training programs provide certificates for participants to use as evidence of having undergone tenancy training when applying for a property.

Some consultation participants felt that one-on-one personalised tenancy training was more effective as it could be tailored to a person or family’s past experiences and current circumstances.

As one service provider explained:

It’s not going to work if you get people from different nationalities, different backgrounds, different education levels, different languages, under one umbrella and get them trained. Training is personalised for each family and is provided onsite… It is costly and time-consuming but that’s what works.

Another service provider in New South Wales accompanied clients to lease signings and explained their rights and responsibilities as a tenant at this time and after they are in a property: “We do a lot of tenancy training with our clients. We are in their houses probably two to three times a week… so that we can do education around maintaining the house, putting out the bins, lawns. Because we’re actually there, we’re addressing the issues before they’re presenting.” This more intensive strategy was echoed by a settlement service provider in regional Queensland:

[Our] philosophy is: Spend one hour now, get a good outcome and it will save a lot of time in future… For example, we provide tailored one-on-one tenancy training. If there is this client who is having trouble with something, one of our support staff will go and take an hour out of the office. She will go with them to the shop, buy what they need, then go to the house and show them how to use it. It is intensive support but you have to see it as a long-term investment.

Another strategy to ensure people have access to information about tenancy rights and responsibilities is to offer ongoing workshops and clinics that people can attend when they encounter an issue, or if they would like to find out about particular issues. For example, one service provider consulted was running fortnightly workshops on a range of issues and was developing housing clinics on topics such as basic maintenance, how to use natural cheap cleaning products, how to keep utility bills down and setting up direct debit for rent and bills.

Finally, a number of people spoke about the value of supplementing tenancy training with written information translated into community languages as resources for people to take home and use when they needed it. This is particularly relevant because some housing issues are hard to convey or understand until a person is actually experiencing them (for example, what to do if you receive a notice to vacate). Useful resources mentioned in consultations included translated material from NSW Fair Trading and some tenants unions. AMES in Victoria has translated an eight-page resource on tenancy rights and responsibilities.

Bond and other financial assistance

A number of consultation participants spoke about the effectiveness of initiatives that support people who are experiencing financial hardship (including a large majority of people seeking asylum and newly arrived humanitarian entrants) to be able to establish or maintain a lease. This included support to cover (and navigate options for) paying bond when moving into a new property, financial support for people who are in arrears with their rent or whose tenancy is being affected by financial issues, setting up payment systems and providing budgeting support.

One service provider in New South Wales, for example, provided food vouchers and assisted clients to link in with organisations that could provide emergency and material aid and provided limited assistance with costs of removalists for people who have received a termination notice. Others mentioned the usefulness of small no-interest loan schemes that could help people meet unexpected housing costs (for example, to cover the costs of moving house) without getting into further debt. At the same time, a number of consultation participants lamented the lack of these small loan options for people on very low incomes.

Transitional and supported housing models

A number of consultation participants talked about the important role of transitional and supported housing models for people seeking asylum and some refugee and humanitarian entrants who may be particularly vulnerable (for example, young people) and where entering the private rental market was either impractical or inadvisable. These more intensive service models were seen as effective in providing stability, security and support particularly for people seeking asylum who are on very low incomes, are living with considerable uncertainty about their future and who may have complex mental and other health issues.

Across Australia, a range of examples of transitional and supported housing models that were highlighted in consultations. With regard to housing stock, some services had sourced and converted larger properties (for example, old nursing homes or hotels) into short-term accommodation for clients; some service providers had been given free or low-cost access by private landlords or churches to properties for exclusive use by their clients; and some had formed partnerships with public housing providers to access government housing stock for transitional accommodation. Key elements in these transitional models included that they were:

  • Affordable: Minimal or no-cost to residents, with costs offset by charities or organisations or as a component of funded program budgets;
  • Supported: Clients were provided additional support by asylum and settlement services in the transitional or supported accommodation (for example, case workers visiting or living onsite, staff managing the property, volunteers providing social and recreational support);
  • Linked: Residents were linked to other service supports through the accommodation (for example, health and legal support services visiting and providing assistance on site); and
  • Transitional: Most were transitional or short-term in nature, with training and support given to link clients in with more sustainable long-term housing.

As one service provider in New South Wales described: “It’s not an independent living space that we might visit every now and again to check that everything’s okay. it’s more designed for people who genuinely need that kind of casework; that hands-on assistance.”

Some of the benefits of these kinds of transitional supported models noted in consultations included that they allow for housing to be addressed in the context of a range of other needs and services have the flexibility to respond to fluctuating referrals and/or larger numbers of new arrivals. These sorts of models have, of course, been used in the past.

Indeed, migrant hostels were extensively used in Australia up until the 1990s. The Enterprise Hostel in Springvale in Melbourne’s southeast, for example, provided housing and settlement support to over 30,000 refugees and migrants between 1970 and 1992. A recent exhibition at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne provided testimony of the experiences and impact that this migrant hostel had on the lives of those who passed through its doors. As the exhibition described:

Enterprise provided migrants with a transition period, free from immediate concerns for shelter and food. It became a “bridge” between their previous lives and their new ones, through access to welfare, housing and employment services. The hostel was attractively landscaped and provided amenities such as a dining hall, milk bar, bank, recreation areas and child minding centre. The Catering, House and General Managers rented flats on site and shared the dining room with residents.

Homelessness services and prevention

While very few consultation participants spoke in detail about homelessness services in relation to people seeking asylum, refugees and humanitarian entrants, this may not be because there is a lack of need for this kind of crisis support. As highlighted earlier, refugee and humanitarian entrants are much more likely to experience secondary rather than primary homelessness and are therefore not eligible for many homelessness services (see Section 5.6). Having said this, some consultation participants did talk about the challenges posed by the lack of culturally-appropriate crisis accommodation in general and the need for a more effective response.

A number of consultation participants did emphasise the need for and effectiveness of homelessness early intervention services, specifically in relation to refugee young people. The Federally-funded Reconnect program was mentioned by a number of people as a particularly effective support service that has funded targeted refugee and migrant services that work with young people. Reconnect services seek to address the underlying factors that contribute to homelessness and try to find ways of preventing or getting a young person out of homelessness and reconnected with their family, friends and community. As one service provider described:

We use a holistic model, combining employment, referrals to other services, advocacy, as all are closely related… Family relationships are also crucial, because if the family breaks down a young person will often be homeless. We use mediation in cases where there is conflict within the family. We have a counsellor who tries to get the young person out of homelessness or couch surfing and reunited with their family. For example, in some cases a mother might need respite. We can help access respite, where the young person can go to give the mother a break and give her increased energy to parent better and so the young person will be able to go home.

Brokerage and liaison with housing providers

Perhaps the strategies most frequently talked about by consultation participants as having a positive impact on housing outcomes were those that can best be described as intermediary roles between housing providers (real estate agents, landlords and public or community housing providers) and those seeking accommodation. Important intermediary roles mentioned by consultation participants included building relationships, brokerage and advocacy, head leasing, formal partnerships and language services.

Building relationships

Almost all of the service providers involved in consultations that were directly involved in supporting refugees and people seeking asylum to find housing spoke about the pivotal importance of building good relationships with housing providers. Good relationships between service providers and real estate agents, for example, had the potential to circumvent the barriers that clients may otherwise experience in a competitive private housing market because of lack of rental history, racism and discrimination, visa status, low income and communication difficulties.

The idea that interpersonal relationships between workers from settlement and asylum seeker services and housing providers could have a positive impact was echoed in a number of places. As one service provider in Western Australia explained:

We have built up relationships with owners and agents over the last eight years. Generally speaking, we have access to housing in some instances even before it comes on to the market. In other instances, if we’ve applied and someone else has applied, we tend to get the nod. I’m not saying from every agent but from a select group of agents. So that makes it relatively easy, at least with some clients, to find accommodation.

In terms of how relationships are built and fostered, one provider in the Northern Territory described the process of building relationships as such:

We build rapport with individual property managers, set up interpreting services so estate agents will actually use them and provide general assistance through the period of the tenancy. We send certificates of appreciation to helpful property managers, who are usually quite pleased and proud to receive them.

Other strategies for building relationships mentioned in consultations included: writing letters of introduction; meeting with real estate agents to explain the client group and service support available to them; inviting property managers to settlement or asylum seeker service provider functions and celebrations; regular phone calls; sending Christmas cards; giving out case worker mobile numbers and responding if a property manager has any questions or concerns; providing training and giving presentations to staff at estate agencies; and ensuring that staff are mindful of presenting professionally. One consultation participant in New South Wales described their approach in building relationships with local real estate agents as follows:

I identified some real estate agents I could work with in the area. I wrote to all of them to say: ‘Hi, I’m working here at [organisation] and I’m helping out newly-arrived refugees and migrants to get accommodation. Can I meet with you so I can tell you more about what I’m doing?’ I met with them and asked them two things: one is to be on their mailing list, two is to have an understanding that most of our clients are still in transition in terms of accommodation. They may not have a rental history, most of them may not be working but they have an income from Centrelink which can guarantee the rent will be paid. Because in the end, they want rent money. If the rent is paid, it doesn’t matter where you have come from.

At the same time, several consultation participants highlighted the potential pitfalls, complexities and considerable time and resources required in developing and maintaining good relationships with real estate agents. As one worker in New South Wales described: “It’s very hard to develop relationships. It takes many years to fully get a real estate agent on side, so that they understand, so they get a few clients and get a feel for what they’re like and the way we deal with them as well. We do develop new ones but it’s a very lengthy process.” Some participants spoke about the fine line that services walk as relationship brokers in terms of how much they feel they can demand of real estate agents on behalf of their clients and the risks of jeopardising relationships when problems arise. One consultation participant felt that real estate agents sometimes exploit the need for services to maintain good relationships with them for the benefit of their existing and future clients:

We act as referees and then agents contact us instead of clients because it’s easier. It’s a bit of an opt-out. If they call us to say there is a problem, it is easier for them because they don’t have to communicate and explain systems. Tenant education then falls to us. We are the middle men.

While relationships between service providers and real estate agents were seen as critical, some consultation participants also felt it was important to ascertain which estate agents are willing and interested and investing time in those relationships rather than pursing agents that are not interested.

For those that are interested, some of the “selling points” that services used to promote refugee and people seeking asylum as potential tenants included: that settlement or asylum services can provide a steady supply of tenants for them, can support tenants with issues as they arise and can refer tenants who have recently undertaken training on rental responsibilities; and that these tenants have a reliable way of paying rent (i.e. for those on Centrelink benefits). As one participant in Tasmania put it, “they understand that our HSS clients are well supported and they understand that they will get their rent on time”.

Another effective strategy mentioned by one provider was targeting and creating good connections with bilingual real estate agents: “What we find is that if we have a real estate agent who speaks the clients’ language, that’s a lot of the work done for us. The client can self-advocate and speak with the real estate agent much more easily.”

Brokerage

As a way of assisting people to successfully secure accommodation and maintain it, many service providers spoke about the importance of brokerage roles between those looking for housing and private housing providers. For instance, many services spoke about acting as a communication intermediary. One participant in New South Wales explained simply: “I facilitate communication between tenant and real estate agent”. Another participant explained this brokerage role as follows:

I talk to [real estate agents] about the challenges – that our clients do not have a rental history in Australia or experience renting – but I turn this into a strength. I say: ‘Someone who has never rented a house before, if you give them good orientation, you can set a high standard’. We demonstrated with some families and showed them, once you teach them they will look after your property. We also document the level of support we provide and give them a letter that outlines what our service can provide to support clients.

One brokerage strategy that was mentioned by a service provider in Tasmania was to directly target landlords as opposed to real estate agents. In their words:

About 25% of our long-term accommodation is sourced directly from private landlords… We ring landlords who advertise vacancies in the local newspaper… We received a lot of knockbacks at first but over time we have built up a group of landlords willing to be involved. The clients are very house proud; once they are in, they do the work [of promoting housing for refugees] for us. It can be attractive for landlords. We are like free property agents for them. They save 9% to 11% in management fees. The paperwork is minimal with private landlords; they ask for ID and then get the client to sign the lease. Through real estate agents, the paperwork for a large family can take up to five hours to complete.

Advocacy

An aspect of the intermediary role played by services between those looking for housing and housing providers relates to both individual and systemic advocacy. A number of consultation participants suggested that providing character references or assurances to property managers or landlords that clients will be good tenants can be influential in rental applications being accepted.

One asylum seeker who participated in consultations felt that he was only successful in applying for a property when he had a support letter from his case manager: “The letter explained that ‘these guys aren’t bad people, we can ensure that they won’t break the rules, we would be happy if you give them accommodation’… Finally I could make that man satisfied to give us a place.” Another service provider in South Australia said: “Landlords often ring [the organisation] to verify the status of the applicant. They are usually more comfortable about renting to the asylum seeker if they have an organisation that can vouch for them.”

Services can also act as effective intermediaries and advocate on behalf of clients when housing-related issues arise. For example, one service spoke about the risk of people having their leases terminated if they do not fully understand processes and miss their rental payments.

As they explained: “They have to report fortnightly to Centrelink. If they forget, their payments stop and their rent can’t be deducted from their payments through Centrepay. Then they get letters and tribunal notices.” In these situations, services can act as advocates to help people navigate systems, address issues and, most importantly, be able to retain their tenancy.

Others spoke about more systemic advocacy roles, such as encouraging and facilitating greater interpreter use by real estate agents:

We’re really heavy on using the interpreting service for the real estate agents and we’ve done a lot of training with them… I think it’s about actually about sitting with them and doing it. You won’t get every property manager on board but you’ll get a couple of key ones that are very open to those sorts of things. I also send out a reminder about the interpreting service and offer my services to come down and actually speak with the staff at real estate agents.

Systemic advocacy by service providers can result in real estate agents themselves becoming advocates for refugees and people seeking asylum in the private rental market.

Head leasing

A large number of consultation participants spoke about head leasing – whereby an organisation leases properties directly, effectively taking on legal and financial responsibilities and risks on behalf of their clients – as an effective way of helping new arrivals into their first property.

Quite a number of services were using this strategy to secure housing for humanitarian and refugee visa holders through the HSS, providing short-term accommodation through head leasing arrangements and then transferring leases into tenants’ names if the estate agent or landlord is amenable. At the same time, this was also identified as a potentially costly, risky and time-consuming strategy for service providers. As one consultation participant in Victoria described:

We’re head leasing and we’re becoming guarantors for six months to secure property. We’re putting more responsibility on our own shoulders. To do this, we have to make sure clients pay rent on time and understand rental responsibilities. We don’t know if families are going to stay but we can manage these risks as we can usually find a family to replace them if they move. We help them by setting up Centrepay and really focusing on orientation.

These sentiments were echoed by a provider in Western Australia who said:

Real estate agents are very happy to deal with one organisation… They don’t need to go to the interpreting system to communicate with people who can’t understand their language because they are talking to us and we have an accommodation officer to take care of the little issues. They are happy with that. With their permission, we can then transfer the lease into the name of client. That works but it is time consuming and financially we have to be careful because it costs us.

Partnerships with housing providers

Another strategy that was proving successful in some parts of Australia centred on developing formal partnerships between services working with refugees and people seeking asylum and housing providers (estate agents, landlords, community and government housing).

In a regional city where the relationship between one settlement service provider and real estate agents was particularly strong, one estate agent had put forward a business proposal to enter into an ongoing partnership to secure rental properties for newly arrived refugee clients. In this case, the estate agent saw the benefits of formalising an ongoing relationship with a service that could provide a supply of tenants, offered intermediary support and provided tenancy training to ensure tenants looked after properties and were aware of their responsibilities.

Another example of a formal partnership was between a service supporting people seeking asylum and a community housing provider in New South Wales. As this service provider described:

We’ve now got one house which we use for emergency accommodation. We’ve been spending so much on putting people in boarding houses and that’s fine for a few weeks but, when it’s had to go on for two or three months, it’s started to have a huge impact on our clients’ mental health because they’re in a shared room of up to six people and that constant instability of feeling that they haven’t got somewhere stable to live is having a big impact. We’ve taken on this property which can house up to three people.

In Tasmania, another settlement service provider had formed a partnership with the public housing provider, with a number of short-term accommodation properties leased from Housing Tasmania.

Language support

A number of consultation participants identified the important role played by language services in enabling better communication between real estate agents and tenants with limited English. The opening up of the National Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) to real estate agents to facilitate communication between new arrivals was spoken about as a vital and effective initiative to help people apply for property and sustain their tenancy. At the same time, it was acknowledged that many property managers were reluctant or not confident to use interpreting services. Some settlement and asylum services have responded by providing practical training and support to real estate agents on working with interpreters and have advocated strongly about the benefits to property managers of being able to communicate directly and effectively with tenants.

Addressing community attitudes

At a broader level, participants also highlighted the importance of shifting community attitudes that may contribute to the difficulties refugees and people seeking asylum face in successfully applying for housing. In the words of one service provider, “educating the wider public is important as prejudices and racist views play a big part in determining whether or not an individual is granted a home or a job”.

Strategies included big picture initiatives to tackle racism and discrimination, such as work undertaken by the Australian Human Rights Commission that highlighted the experiences of African Australians or calling on politicians to show leadership in public discourse on people seeking asylum to counteract misconceptions and fear.

Others suggested more local initiatives, such as a housing service that was working on a multimedia community awareness raising campaign to address myths about refugees and people seeking asylum that targeted businesses and real estate agents. Another settlement and asylum seeker service provider was involved in a regional network that was working on issues at a broader level with the state Justice Department and were strategising about how to address discrimination among real estate agents.

Exploring non-traditional settlement areas

Consultation participants in both metropolitan and regional areas of Australia referred to the potential and success of some initiatives to settle families in non-traditional settlement areas where housing is more affordable and accessible. Of course, these initiatives were not seen as successful or driven purely because of positive housing outcomes but because of the way in which settlement was holistically addressed – from getting local communities engaged, addressing employment, education and health needs and ensuring appropriate settlement support was available. As one service in Western Australia described:

We have unofficially resettled 40 families in a place called Katanning, which is 300km away from Perth, where there is now a thriving Burmese Karen community. Housing is cheaper, they have rural backgrounds so they are able to do market gardening and the cost of living is much less for them. They are originally from regional backgrounds themselves, so it has worked out well for them.

This sentiment was echoed in other places, with emphasis on both the “fit” of the refugee community and the local community in the settlement location and ensuring there is support on both sides. Where this “fit” did not exist, it was felt that settlement in non-traditional areas was unlikely to be successful even if housing was considerably more affordable. This was exemplified through the experiences of a service provider in New South Wales whose attempts to settle humanitarian entrants in a non-traditional settlement area had unfortunately been less successful:

We tried for two years to get clients to settle there but we just couldn’t get any clients to stay in that area. A lot of the [real estate] agents weren’t really familiar with our clients, so it was actually quite difficult to get them housed in that region. Just last year, we had to pull out of that area because it wasn’t working. We just couldn’t establish that area… It wasn’t that there was [negative] feedback [from clients]; it was just what we came across when we approached agents to put in applications. We just wouldn’t get approved. It’s not very multicultural out that way yet… Over time we could develop strong relationships but it takes time.

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