Discussion and recommendations
Refugees and migrants overwhelmingly want to contribute to the Australian economy and society, and governments rightly want them to succeed in doing so. Yet the main national employment program, Jobactive, is failing both refugee and migrant jobseekers and the wider Australian community.
This report has identified a series of employment transition barriers, drawn from the 102 case studies of people who have used Jobactive services in the Fairfield LGA and from broader national consultations. It has identified several recommendations and established the need for a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the Jobactive program for refugees and migrants.
Yet, while reforms to Jobactive are much needed, there is also a vital need to rethink the national Jobactive program in the longer-term as the main model of employment support.There are many innovative initiatives that seek to fill the gaps left by Jobactive, which could provide the ingredients of a much more effective (and ultimately cost-effective) program for helping refugees and migrants into work.
The following provides a brief discussion and four key recommendations for ways forward.
Developing a national multicultural employment strategy
RCOA has previously called for the development of a national employment strategy that specifically addresses the employment transitions of refugee and migrant jobseekers.21 The need
for a national multicultural employment strategy that maps out pathways and supports that lead to more sustainable employment outcomes for people settling in Australia was likewise reinforced in this research. A whole-of-government approach to such a strategy could ensure there are effective links and collaboration between settlement, education and training and employment programs. The development of such a strategy would need to take into consideration the views of settlement and other community service providers as well as refugee and migrant communities themselves.
Recommendation 1: A national multicultural employment strategy
The Australian Government should develop a national multicultural employment strategy that incorporates a whole-of-government approach. This strategy should ensure the appropriate linking and collaboration between settlement, education and training and employment services. It should identify areas for targeted investment in employment transition programs for refugee and migrant jobseekers.
Reviewing and improving Jobactive services
There are several ways in which the Jobactive program could be improved in the interim to better meet the needs of refugee and migrant jobseekers. The need to improve the effectiveness of Jobactive is particularly important for those living in areas of Australia that are unlikely to see the critical mass of refugee and migrant jobseekers that would warrant the funding of a specialist employment service. For these jobseekers, it is vital that the significant limitations of the Jobactive model and services are addressed.
To inform areas for improvement in the Jobactive program, the Department of Employment should commission an independent review into the effectiveness of the Jobactive program for refugee and migrant jobseekers, informed by the views of refugee and migrant jobseekers themselves, as well as settlement and specialist migrant services. Key elements of this review should include an assessment of the:
- Cross cultural competency of Jobactive providers
- Use of translating and interpreting services
- Appropriateness of streaming processes for refugee and migrant jobseekers, including the streaming of those with a disability
- Suitability of Work for the Dole placements for refugee and migrant jobseekers
- Accessibility of Jobactive services and support for jobseekers with limited proficiency in using online platforms and technologies
- Effectiveness of collaboration and referral between Jobactive providers and other key services and supports, including AMEP and settlement services
- Effectiveness of processes and support for Jobactiveclients who have prior qualifications and experience to have these recognised
- Effectiveness of engagement between Jobactive providers and refugee and migrant jobseekers in the negotiation of Job Plans
- Adequacy of compliance processes, including the suspension of Centrelink payments, processes for reinstating Centrelink payments, and the effectiveness of routine appointments
- Effectiveness of Jobactive in ensuring refugee and migrant jobseekers have adequate support to develop resumes and interview skills, and
- Effectiveness and accessibility of complaint mechanisms to ensure Jobactive providers are accountable for providing poor service.
Recommendation 2: Review and improve Jobactive program
The Australian Government should commission an independent review of the effectiveness of the Jobactive program in meeting the needs of refugee and migrant jobseekers, and develop a plan to address key areas for improvement identified in this review.