Media Release by Senator the Hon Zed Seselja

Australian Government committed to world-class refugee settlement program

The Australian Government completely rejects the tenor of the ABC report published on Monday (31 July) in relation to alleged mistreatment of refugees in Fairfield.

The Refugee Council of Australia claimed refugees settled in Fairfield are being treated with disrespect from staff at Government service provider jobactive.

The Australian Government is unaware of any disrespectful treatment of refugees.

The Australian Government recognises the importance of English language proficiency for migrants and refugees. English is a key contributor to better employment and educational outcomes, social participation levels and helps provide an overall sense of belonging to the Australian community.

Participation in Adult Migrant English Program is an approved activity under jobactive when it is included in a job seeker’s Job Plan. A job seeker who is fully meeting their part-time Mutual Obligation Requirements by undertaking an accredited training course (which can include AMEP) for the required number of hours, can be suspended from employment services. These job seekers can decline to accept offers of suitable work while they are fully meeting their part-time requirements.

As with Australian citizens and permanent residents, refugees who are job seekers are required to look for work and undertake Mutual Obligation activities to increase their chances of finding a job in return for receiving government income support.

Newly arrived refugees can be granted exemption from mutual obligation requirements for up to 13 weeks following arrival to allow them time to make arrangements such as housing, childcare and schooling and adjust to living in a new country. Refugees may voluntarily engage with employment services during this time.

The Government has introduced a redesigned Humanitarian Settlement Program, under which referrals and services will begin operating from 30 October 2017.

The new Humanitarian Settlement Program will:

  • improve English language, education and employment outcomes for humanitarian entrants, including introducing new methods to track outcomes over time
  • create clearer linkages to the Adult Migrant English Program and the Skills for Education and Employment Program, and jobactive.

Australia’s humanitarian settlement program is one of the best in the world. The Australian Government, through the Department of Social Services, is investing about $1.03 billion over the period to 2021 on settlement services alone. This is on top of health, welfare and other associated costs.

The Coalition Government’s strong border protection policy means that we are able to resettle some of the most desperate and vulnerable people in humanitarian need.