factsheetsWhat social security benefits do refugees receive?
A refugee who has permanent residency in Australia receives exactly the same social security benefits as any Australian-born person in the same circumstances.
Refugees apply for social security through Centrelink like everyone else and are assessed for the different payment options in the same way as everyone else. There are no separate Centrelink allowances that one can receive simply by virtue of being a refugee.
Centrelink payments are calculated at exactly the same rate for both refugees and non-refugees. As of August 2012, a single person with no dependent children applying for Special Benefit or the Newstart Allowance (whether or not he or she is a refugee) will receive $489.70 per fortnight, whereas a single person on an Age Pension payment will receive a fortnightly payment $695.30. A single age pensioner therefore receives over $205.00 more per fortnight more than a single refugee (or a single Australian-born person) who qualifies for Special Benefit or Newstart.
Australian citizens and permanent residents with dependent children on lower-to-middle incomes (including refugees) may also be eligible to receive Family Tax Benefits or Parenting Payments. However, none of these allowances are paid at a higher rate than the single age pension.
Asylum seekers are not entitled to the same forms of financial support as citizens or permanent residents. The Asylum Seeker Assistance (ASA) scheme provides assistance to some eligible asylum seekers who are in the process of having their refugee status determined. The ASA Scheme offers income support to cover basic living expenses, at a rate below Centrelink benefits.
In what ways do refugees contribute to Australian society?
By definition, refugees are survivors. They have survived because they have the courage, ingenuity and creativity to have done so. These are qualities that we value in Australia. The challenge for Australia is to assist newly arrived refugees to process the experiences of their past and rebuild their lives in Australia. If we do this we will reap the benefits of the qualities and experiences they bring to Australia.
Research carried out by the Refugee Council of Australia has shown that refugees make important economic, civil and social contributions to Australian society. Australia’s refugees and humanitarian entrants have found success in every field of endeavour, including the arts, sports, media, science, research, business and civic and community life.
Just some of the many Australian high achievers who once were refugees include scientists Sir Gustav Nossal and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, 2009 Victorian of the Year Dr Berhan Ahmed, painter Judy Cassab, comedian Anh Do, filmmaker Khoa Do, author Nam Le, academic Associate Professor My-Van Tran, Dr Anita Donaldson, poet Juan Garrido-Salgado, painter and restaurateur Mirka Mora, actor Henri Szeps, broadcasters Les Murray and Caroline Tran, Australian Rules footballer Alex Jesaulenko, footballer Atti Abonyi, swimmers John and Ilsa Konrads, newspaper editor Michael Gawenda, architect Harry Seidler, business people Sir Peter Abeles, Larry Adler, Ouma Sananikone and Judit Korner, public servant Tuong Quang Luu and politicians Jennie George and Nick Greiner.
Australian Government Department of Human Services - Payment rates for Age Pension.
Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) Settler Arrivals publication.
Boat arrivals figure is from DIAC’s 2009-10 Annual Report. They aren’t referred to as “boat arrivals” but rather as “irregular maritime arrivals” or IMAs. The relevant stat is on page 195.
Signatory status can be found through the Status of Treaties database.
The Refugee Council's Developing an Asia-Pacific Protection Framework report.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Statistical Year Books.
UNHCR’s annual publication Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialised Countries.