Media release, 9 January, 2017
Western Sydney has a long and proud history of welcoming refugees into its communities. For decades the region has benefited from the diverse skills and vibrant cuisines of hardworking migrants; grateful for their chance at a better life in Australia.
Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC) President Cr Stephen Bali said “I am proud of the work Western Sydney councils are doing to welcome refugees arriving in Australia, and it is critical that they have the right resources to continue doing so.
“The Commonwealth Government plays a key role in refugee processing and placement, however it is local government that coordinates refugee settlement on the ground,” he said.
“Councils are instrumental in awareness raising and creating a welcoming community. They also take the lead role in coordinating the various agencies, non-for-profits and community groups that deliver programs and services for new arrivals.
“To do this effectively, councils need adequate resources and as much information as possible to ensure the services they are providing match the needs of incoming refugees,” said Cr Bali.
“The needs of a family with young children will be very different from a single, professional jobseeker, so besides having information on expected numbers, having some demographic information on refugee arrivals will be necessary to ensure councils are investing their efforts in the right kinds of services.
“In the past councils have received very limited, information on incoming refugees. This is something that we hope can be improved in consultation with the federal and state governments,” he said.
“Another challenge is the highly localised settlement pattern of refugees in Western Sydney,” said Cr Bali.
“While all councils have played a part in welcoming refugees, the reality is 75 per cent of Western Sydney’s refugee intake have settled in the Fairfield local government area; with Liverpool in second place at 14 per cent.
“This is not surprising. The majority of current humanitarian refugees arrive through family sponsorship, which means they will naturally want to settle near family and friends,” he said.
“Fairfield and Liverpool are home to significant Syrian and Iraqi communities with established community services, cultural groups and places of worship. This makes them attractive places to settle for those wanting to feel at home in Australia.
“Ideally the Government will be looking at ways to increase the distribution of refugee settlement across Western Sydney in order to prevent excessive demand for services in one particular area,” said Cr Bali.
“However, the ‘secondary settlement’ phenomenon, means that even where refugees are initially settled in one area, they will eventually move to an area where their family and communities reside.
“This means that in the short-term, funds and resources will need to follow patterns of settlement rather than the other way around if we are to prevent unmanageable demand on services in one particular LGA,” said Cr Bali.
“A place based strategy that is tailored to meet the specific needs of the local refugee and migrant populations is required to ensure the newest residents are able to successfully settle and integrate into the broader community,” he said.
2 The Commonwealth Government has dedicated settlement locations set up in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Albury.
 Between January and October 2016.