Refugee Council of Australia
Audience clapping

2018 Conference Report

Civil society

Recommendations to NGOs, service providers, academic institutions, and the public.

The Compacts

The consultation phase on the Compacts has now closed and the Zero Draft on the refugee compact was published on 14 February 2018. Civil society now has less formal opportunity to comment on the Compacts, but this does not mean it can no longer engage. There is still room for advocacy in the negotiation phase with various member states, including the Australian Government. Civil society should keep abreast of the processes and continue to advocate on issues such as gender, diversity, access to justice and an end to child detention.

Lived experience

Advocacy should be led by people from refugee backgrounds. By collaborating with, and drawing on the knowledge and connections of refugees, common issues and concerns can be resolved. Various stakeholders and service providers need to ensure that there is support and engagement of refugees in affected communities, and that advocacy work is based on refugee and asylum seeker concerns and ideas.

Changing the discourse

Civil society should target and pressure all sides of the Australian media to report the realities facing people seeking asylum and ensure their voices feature strongly in such reporting.

Civil society can employ strategies, including:

  • Rallying the Australian public in large numbers
  • Tackling the political processes underlying harmful refugee policies
  • Reframing the negative messaging around refugees and people seeking asylum.


Civil society organisations should endeavour to:

  • Consult with refugee communities on creating spaces for self-representation
  • Collaborate fully with refugee communities to create platforms on which refugees can advocate for themselves and participate fully in processes that affect them
  • Include refugees in decision-making and policy-making, and not just story telling
  • Consider the depth of involvement as well as breadth
  • Make recruitment processes more accessible by consulting with communities on the most effective ways to advertise, and employ individuals who have had lived experience as a refugee
  • Maximise available resources and improve outcomes by partnering with other organisations, including diaspora organisations.

Local government

Civil society should work on incorporating regional settlement areas in their advocacy, and work with regional local councils to come up with innovative strategies for regional settlement.

Unions and corporations

Civil society should advocate with unions and corporations as well as at the government level to establish support for refugees among influential groups.


Civil society should pursue the following:

  • Targeting and pressuring elements of the media to cease the spread of misinformation on the potential danger of refugees
  • Connecting and providing capacity-building and advocacy support to civil society organisations in our region
  • Advocating on SRSS policy by making FOI requests to send to their local MPs
  • Organising groups to visit detention centres.

Support for people seeking asylum

Individuals can support people seeking asylum by:

  • Writing to them or speaking with them
  • Sharing their knowledge with their friends or community
  • Donating
  • Volunteering
  • Listening to people with lived experience rather than the media.

Higher education

Civil society and higher education institutions should pursue the following:

Access to legal and health services

    Civil society can employ the following:

  • Develop partnerships in regional and rural areas to provide wrap-around support for both health and legal systems
  • Offer programs to upskill lawyers in the area of refugee law so they feel comfortable offering their services
  • Use co-design to fill the gaps in the ways that are most needed by communities.


    Civil society should employ the following:

  • Advocate to the government for stateless people in Australia
  • Raise awareness that there are stateless people in Australia (the government reports to the UNHCR every year that there are zero stateless persons in Australia).

There was wide acknowledgement and consensus that the Rohingya refugee crisis represents an immediate and worsening situation in Australia’s region that requires urgent attention, and thus requires its own, separate set of recommendations.

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