Refugee support services take $78 million hit in budget


The 2019 federal budget will have an impact on refugee communities in Australia.

Refugee support services have been dealt a $77.9 million hit in one of the few major savings measures in the 2019 budget.

Newly-arrived refugees will now need to wait one year instead of six months before they are required to access Centrelink’s job-search program Jobactive.

That follows the extension of the wait period from three to six months announced in last year’s budget.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handing down his first Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, Tuesday, 2 April 2019. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch) NO ARCHIVING
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg handing down his first Federal Budget in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra

A spokesperson for Jobs Minister Kelly O'Dwyer defended the changes.

"This measure supports newly arrived refugees to better focus on settlement and language assistance before looking for a job, while ensuring that those who are ready to participate in the labour market can access the full suite of Jobactive services," the spokesperson told SBS News.

"Refugees who wish to voluntarily participate in Jobactive prior to the 12 month mark will be able to access the full suite of Jobactive services commensurate with their level of disadvantage."

Jobactive connects dole recipients with private employment officers - reimbursed by the government - who help applicants improve their resume, offer interview tips and check on progress with job applications.

Budget papers said the change will allow “refugees to focus on settlement and language assistance during their first 12 months after arrival”.

Department officials estimate 3,200 refugees each year will be impacted by the “streamlining” of services and no longer accessing the Jobactive program.

The government said the program will be available to eligible refugees “on a voluntary basis anytime from their arrival” but the saving, projected over four years, suggests many may not take part.

The savings will be used to boost the budget bottom line, rather than fund any new services for refugees.

'Social cohesion' measures

Many migrant communities look set to benefit from Tuesday’s generous pre-election budget.

The government has earmarked $64.2 million for so-called “social cohesion” measures which help migrants “become established and integrated in their communities”.

“This budget provides funding for local sport, community languages, national community hubs and grants to encourage mutual understanding and celebrate diversity,” budget material stated.

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