Wednesday, 23 November 2016 16:13

Targeted support key to West’s refugee challenge

Fairfield City Council Refugee Settlement Symposium Fairfield City Council Refugee Settlement Symposium Fairfield City Council


WSROC’s President and CEO met with NSW Coordinator General for Refugee Settlement, Professor Peter Shergold, in November to discuss challenges surrounding refugee settlement in Western Sydney.

In response to the humanitarian crises in Syria and Iraq, the Australian Government has committed to make an extra 12,000 Humanitarian Program places[1] available to refugees fleeing these conflicts, many of whom will call Western Sydney home.

WSROC President Cr Stephen Bali said “Western Sydney has a proud history of welcoming refugees into its communities, however the current influx of new arrivals brings specific challenges for local government and WSROC was keen to discuss these with Professor Shergold.

“Local government plays a pivotal role in refugee settlement. Councils are instrumental in awareness raising and creating a welcoming community. They coordinate multi-agency initiatives, build capacity of their community and sector agencies, and facilitate local partnerships and collective impact work,” he said.

“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.

“For example, 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 state and federal government,” he said.

“Another challenge raised at the meeting was the highly localised settlement pattern of refugees in Western Sydney,” said Cr Bali.

“Where refugees are placed in NSW is primarily a matter for the Commonwealth Government[2]. There are a number of dedicated settlement locations across the state, but the reality is that the vast majority of refugees will settle in Western Sydney, and more specifically in the Fairfield local government area (LGA),” he said.

“In 2016 (Jan – Oct), Fairfield became the new home for 75 per cent of Western Sydney’s refugee intake, with Liverpool taking in the second highest percentage of 14 per cent – that means 90 per cent of all refugees arriving in Western Sydney settle in just two LGAs.

“Liverpool and Fairfield have traditionally been high settlement areas and this trend is expected to continue; putting disproportionate pressure on services in these LGAs.” said Cr Bali.

“The majority of current humanitarian refugees arrive through family sponsorship, which means they will naturally want to settle with or nearby to family and friends,” he said.

"This localisation is further exacerbated by secondary settlement; refugees who are initially settled in one area, but eventually move to an area where their families or communities reside.

“Fairfield and Liverpool fit this category. They are home to significant Syrian and Iraqi communities with established community services, cultural groups and places of worship. This naturally makes them a more attractive place to settle for those wanting to feel at home in Australia,” he said.

“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, people will naturally want to settle near family and friends, so in the short-term funds and services will need to follow patterns of settlement rather than the other way around.

“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.



[1] In addition to Australia’s existing intake of 13,750 refugees.

[2] The Commonwealth Government has dedicated settlement locations set up in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Albury.



Further information:

New South Wales Government - Refugee settlement 

Australian Government, Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection - Refugee and humanitarian programme 

Multicultural NSW - New arrivals to NSW

Settlement Services International

Last modified on Wednesday, 23 November 2016 16:33