Refugee Council of Australia
Three people at Metropolitan Migrant Resource Centre

Settlement services

Cultural orientation

There are two forms of cultural orientation provided to refugee and humanitarian entrants to Australia – pre-arrival orientation through the AUSCO program, and post-arrival orientation provided as part of settlement programs.

Pre-arrival orientation: the Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program

The Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program is provided to refugee and humanitarian visa holders who are preparing to settle in Australia. The program provides practical advice and the opportunity to ask questions about travel to and life in Australia. It is delivered overseas, before they begin their journey. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is currently contracted to deliver AUSCO on behalf of the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).

The five-day AUSCO course is delivered in refugee camps and urban centres across three regions – Asia, Africa and the Middle East – by trainers recruited by IOM. Each year approximately 300 courses are organised for groups of 25-30 people per course. Since AUSCO began in 2003, courses have been delivered in countries including: Bangladesh, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, India, Iran, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Romania, the Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The AUSCO program is the beginning of the settlement process for people coming to Australia under the Humanitarian Program and is designed to provide practical information to prepare participants for life in Australia. Information covers: travel tips, settlement support services and on-arrival assistance including language, healthcare, employment and accommodation services and comparative cultural practices.

AUSCO is designed to:

  • prepare visa holders for travel;
  • enhance settlement prospects;
  • create realistic expectations for their life in Australia; and
  • provide information about Australian laws, values and lifestyle.

AUSCO curriculum

The AUSCO course is tailored for delivery to four separate groups – adults, youth, children and people who are pre-literate. In addition there are Family Day sessions for all family members. The curriculum is designed to give participants confidence and independence starting their new lives in Australia, and is an opportunity for them to meet others making the same journey.

Topics covered during the course include:

  • an overview of Australia including government, geography and climate;
  • travel to Australia including arrangements for the airport, the flight, transit and arrival;
  • settling in, including on-arrival assistance;
  • cultural adjustment, including communication and behaviour;
  • healthcare including Medicare, hospitals, immunisation and preventative health;
  • education including learning English, schools, tertiary and community education;
  • finding a job including Centrelink, Job Network, recognition of overseas qualifications and experience and Australian working conditions;
  • money management including banking, budgeting, taxation and credit;
  • housing including renting and household management arrangements
  • public transport and driver’s licences;
  • Australian law, values and citizenship; and
  • access to torture and trauma counseling.

AUSCO teachers use a variety of teaching methods throughout the course including brainstorming, simulations, case studies, debates, discussions, problem solving and role plays. A student handbook is supplied to participants and provides information on all AUSCO topics as well as a video on the Australian settlement journey available in various client languages which is also available on the Department’s YouTube channel.

Post-arrival orientation

Newly arrived refugee and humanitarian entrants face a range of challenges when they settle in Australia, including acquiring foundational English skills, understanding Australian bureaucratic, educational and business structures and adjusting to a society and culture which differs significantly from what they have previously experienced.

While orientation to assist with navigating these challenges begins for many humanitarian entrants before they arrive in Australia through the AUSCO program, most orientation must happen after a person has arrived and is negotiating their new life and new systems for the first time. This includes orientation through the settlement services that are explained in the next pages: the Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP), Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) and Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program.

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