At this year’s community consultations, a large amount of feedback was given on settlement challenges, service responses and recent changes to the machinery of government.
While settlement issues were not a specific focus in the themes and questions that informed these consultations, the sheer volume of feedback highlights the ongoing challenges refugee and humanitarian entrants face (regardless of how they made their journey here) in rebuilding their lives and settling in.
It also suggests that, while much of the public debate and policy focus remains on asylum issues, much still could be done to ensure refugee and humanitarian entrants are able to plan, participate, connect and succeed in their new lives in Australia.
The key settlement challenges that were spoken about in a number of locations and by different people focused on employment, education, housing, health and particular challenges facing young people, women at risk and people with a disability.
Recurring themes in the consultations included the need for better coordination and planning of settlement services across different levels of government, the untapped potential of regional settlement locations and concerns about funding challenges.
In particular, there was concern that demand for Settlement Grants Program (SGP) services would increase significantly as the Refugee Program entrants issued visas as part of the program expansion in 2012-13 are exited from the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program and due to the increasing number of people granted onshore permanent Protection Visas who will have received limited or no HSS support.
A concern was also raised about the lack of eligibility to settlement services for people granted onshore permanent Protection Visas. Finally, consultation participants raised a range of questions, comments and concerns relating to the changes to machinery of government after the Federal election.