Supporting Settlement: Balancing Obligations with ‘Putting Australia First’

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 11:15
Oral Presentation
Ciara SMYTH, Social Policy Research Centre, Australia
Ilan KATZ, Social Policy Research Centre, Australia
Social and political upheavals around the world have resulted in the displacement of the largest volume of people on record. These migrations present significant challenges for the international community with different nation states adopting a range of policy responses. Migration to Australia is achieved through the Migration Programme and the Humanitarian Programme. The Australian Government funds a range of services and supports to assist Humanitarian Programme arrrivals’ settlement in Australia. Among these is the Settlement Grants Program, which provides funding to organisations to support the settlement of humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants in their first five years of life in Australia, with a focus on fostering social and economic participation, personal wellbeing, independence and community connectedness.

This paper draws on the findings of an evaluation of the Settlement Grants program. The evaluation was guided by six key questions relating to the program’s appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency, to assess whether it had achieved its intended outcomes. While there were some suggestions for improvements, there was a strong consensus among clients, service providers, policy makers and peak organisations that the Settlement Grants program fills an important role in the range of services it makes available to humanitarian and other eligible migrants.

This paper reflects on the evaluation findings to critically examine how they tally with recent shifts in political rhetoric on immigration to Australia, reflected in the Prime Minister’s recent pronouncement about ‘putting Australia first’. Subsequent political developments include a review of the skilled worker visa program and citizenship reform, including more stringent English language requirements. It will discuss how Australia’s obligations under the United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees mesh with ‘putting Australia first’.