Good practice approaches for agencies

When an asylum seeker is training or studying, a community agency’s role  may be
to support the person in the areas of their life that impact their ability 

to engage in education and work.
This can be housing, physical and mental health,
social and recreational activities, and personal wellbeing.

As they are often the main (sometimes the only) point of contact for newly-arrived
asylum seekers and refugees, their role extends to the provision of settlement information
about the Australian labour market and education system. Therefore, community agencies
need to keep informed of general employment market trends and what constitutes
quality training in order to advise their clients.

Good practice in working with asylum seekers is the provision of wrap-around services.

Every asylum seeker (and refugee) need to be seen as ‘a whole person’ when supported through education, training and employment. Asylum seekers, like most disadvantaged groups, have complex needs of a constantly changing nature. There are many points of risk in their lives which, if not supported, meant their alienation from systems and much-reduced capacities to learn and work.

It may not be possible for one agency to meet several of the client’s needs on its own. Agencies should try to work closely together and harmonise their communication and information-sharing systems in regards to clients.

The ASRC is the largest asylum seeker support agency in Australia. Based on our experience, we recommend the following:

  • All essential services to be located in the one building/hub. Clients can use it as a ‘one-stop-shop’, and communication between services is facilitated
  • Agencies to be funded to provide more than one specialised service
  • Employment services to be located within a ‘hub’
  • Collaborating agencies and services to develop a policy on confidentiality/information-sharing
  • Collaborating agencies and services to develop a common database/information collection tool
  • Collaborating agencies and services to adopt a common client charter, to ensure consistency and continuing reinforcement of rights and responsibilities for clients
  • Collaborating agencies and services to have regular inter-agency meetings to discuss clients at risk and strategies.

The Pathways to Participation Story, a report on a 2012 employment and training project at the ASRC, provides an example of how wrap-around services can work.

Newly-arrived asylum seekers are often desperate to work and study, but do not have access to federally-funded employment services. They will often turn to community agencies for advice. Many agencies are not funded to provide employment and training advice as part of their services, but find themselves requested to do so by their clients who have nowhere else to turn.

Community agencies can help potential students build confidence and skills for self-advocacy with education providers and employers.

If you are providing incidental employment advice, or are planning to set up an employment support program, we recommend the following:

  • Provide intensive, well-informed career counselling, that draws on all areas of the client’s life, with no time limitation. This early investment ‘pays off’ in the long term as people are more likely to complete their course.
  • Develop your knowledge around employment outcomes in some key areas that are available through short courses: Transport and Logistics, Warehousing, Aged Care, etc.; and about local courses that are well respected by employers in these areas.
  • Prepare clients for education and employment by providing training on their rights and responsibilities in courses and workplaces (information is available in the Asylum Seeker section of this website).
  • Provide support to employers and course providers when required.

The financial and staff limitations that may curtail the ability to provide intensive and unlimited career counselling can be addressed by relying on a trained and well supported volunteer workforce.

This Training Checklist, developed by the Hume Whittlesea LLEN, will help you determine
if a training organisation offers the best possible training opportunity for your clients.
Good practice in training leads to better employment outcomes.