Refugee Council of Australia
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Who we are

The Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) is the national umbrella body for refugees and the organisations and individuals who support them. It has approximately 200 organisational and over 300 individual members.

Formed in November 1981, RCOA is a non-profit, non-government organisation registered as an incorporated association in the Australian Capital Territory. It is funded through contributions from its members and by project grants from philanthropic bodies and government agencies. The priority activities for RCOA are set by its members, as represented by an elected Board.

RCOA’s own work is centred around five key areas: policy, support for refugees, support for its members, community education and administration. In addition, RCOA seeks funding for specific projects that directly relate to our objectives and enhance our capacity to serve the refugee community.

In its strategic planning for the five years to 2020, the Refugee Council of Australia defined its Vision, Purpose, Aims and Goals in the following way:


For the voices of refugees to be heard, the rights of refugees to be respected, the humanity of refugees valued and the contribution of refugees celebrated.


To work with its members in promoting the development of humane, lawful and constructive policies towards refugees and people seeking asylum by Australian and other governments and their communities.


In order to achieve this purpose, the Council pursues the following aims:

  • To act as a unifying organisation and to represent its members
  • To promote the empowerment of refugee communities and individuals in Australia and internationally and support the capacity building of the refugee sector in and beyond Australia
  • To monitor, research and present information on issues relating to the needs and circumstances of refugees and people seeking asylum
  • To assist governments and inter-governmental organisations to formulate policy and improve support and services for refugees and people seeking asylum
  • To increase public awareness and media sensitivity towards refugees and people seeking asylum.

Theory of Change

In 2017, RCOA adopted the following theory of change, based on its vision, purpose and aims.

To improve public and political support for refugees and people seeking asylum, and achieve a just policy environment, RCOA will coordinate sector-wide campaigns, informed by strong policy, research and refugee voices that we leverage through our members.

Goals 2016-2020

During the period 2016-2020, RCOA will work with its members, refugee communities and other relevant sectoral companions towards:

  • Promoting, fostering and achieving better opportunities and improved services and support for refugees settling in Australia
  • Promoting, fostering and achieving fairer government policies for people seeking asylum in Australia
  • Promoting, fostering and achieving more effective systems of international protection for refugees and people seeking asylum
  • Promoting, fostering and achieving increased public support for refugees in Australia
  • Supporting the advocacy and public role of Australia’s refugee communities
  • Enhancing the capacity of RCOA to achieve its organisational goals.

These goals are outlined in more detail in RCOA’s 2016-2020 strategic plan, which you can download here.

RCOA Strategic Plan 2016
Size : 226.1 kB Format : PDF

Policy principles

As RCOA is constantly being called on to respond publicly as new issues and new proposed responses emerge, the RCOA Board has developed a set of six principles to guide the formulation of RCOA policy positions. You can download this here.

RCOA Policy Principles 1711
Size : 192.8 kB Format : PDF


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