Refugees on temporary visas and up to 30,000 people in Australia awaiting processing of their refugee status applications are being denied an opportunity to study in the tertiary sector. This report highlights barriers people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas face in accessing secondary school and further education.
It shows that without access to Commonwealth Supported Places and federal loan schemes, these people are effectively denied further education. It calls on the Federal Government to provide access to further education in order for refugees and asylum seekers to improve their skills, gain qualifications and contribute to Australian society.
People seeking asylum have constantly expressed to RCOA their keen desire to improve their English and to undertake further education in order to contribute to Australia. There are currently around 30,000 asylum seekers living in Australia who arrived by boat and are waiting to have their claims processed. If they are found to be refugees, they will not be eligible for permanent residency in Australia and will instead be granted either a Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV).
As they are not permanent residents of Australia, people seeking asylum and refugees on TPVs and SHEVs do not have access to the same services and entitlements as permanent Protection Visa holders or refugee and humanitarian entrants who are resettled from overseas. Some of the most significant differences in entitlements are those relating to tertiary education. These people face significant barriers which effectively prevent most people on these visas from pursuing further study. This in turn diminishes their employment prospects and undermines positive settlement outcomes.
People living in the community who have either already been granted SHEVs or TPVs or who are awaiting a decision on protection claims also face barriers in their attempts to participate in high school education.
The impacts of these barriers were captured by one young asylum seeker during RCOA’s annual consultations:
I lost my dad, I lost my brother and I couldn’t stay anymore. I came to be safe here. I came here in 2012, I’m not allowed to work, there are no funds for me to study. It’s not just me; it’s all asylum seekers I am talking about. I am involved in many organisations to raise awareness about what is happening. When I arrived I was 17. Imagine if you are 17 and you are not allowed to go to school, there are no funds for you to go to school. Now I’m almost 20. The best years of my life are gone. When can I go to school? When can I go to college? When can I have my education? I don’t know what will happen to me or when I will have funds at least to go to school. It could take another four to five years. How old will I be then? In the circumstances in which I’m living, do you think I will be safe? You can’t be sustained, you just stay home all day and do nothing, just keep worrying. Your family is not safe at all. You are 25, your life is almost gone. I think the ages from 17 to 25 are the best years of your life. You can make your future, you can go to uni, you can get a degree. You are spending your life like it’s a prison, stay home all day, do nothing. It’s not only me. There are 30,000 in my circumstances, staying home all day and doing nothing. I escaped from my country because I couldn’t go to school. The only thing I wished to have was a better life, a safe life, to be educated and I couldn’t have that. I took all of the risks, I came here and now the policies make it much harder.
This research is informed by RCOA’s annual consultations with service providers and refugee community members, as well as a national teleconference on education held in partnership with the Multicultural Youth Advocacy Network (MYAN). RCOA thanks all those who contributed and especially the young people who shared their personal experiences.
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government grant people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas access to Commonwealth Supported Places and the higher education loan scheme.
RCOA recommends that the State Governments grant people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas access concession rates for TAFE and other vocational courses.
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government allow TPV and SHEV holders to receive income support under standard programs, to ensure that they are not excluded from higher education.
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government provide people seeking asylum access to 510 AMEP English language hours and the SEE program.
RCOA recommends that the Federal and State Governments ensure consistency in enrolment policies to so that young people seeking asylum and refugees on TPVs and SHEVs are able to complete secondary school, up to the age of 21.
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government allow students in secondary school access to additional financial support for school until they complete their final year
RCOA recommends that the Federal Government review the level of support people receive on SRSS to ensure it adequately covers all costs associated with living costs, travel and attending education
RCOA recommends that the Federal and State Governments ensure complete access to traineeships and apprenticeships for people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas, including access to incentive programs and loan schemes.