Clients and client-centred practices are at the heart of our organisation. In 2018-19, this was evident through our values, behaviours and approach to service delivery.
Client and community voice consultations
SSI is trialling a unique consultation method designed to identify our clients’ and communities’ aspirations, assets and challenges. Differing from a traditional Q&A or feedback session, these consultations call on individuals to identify their own way forward.
During 2018-19, SSI used this method to improve the retention of newcomers in the settlement location of Armidale, where refugee arrivals are from the persecuted Ezidi minority (also known as Yazidi). In a series of “community voice” consultations, Ezidi representatives explained that, given their recent experiences with trauma and loss, a crucial step toward feeling at home in Armidale was being able to properly care for family members who pass away in Australia.
“Just as life is continuous, so is death,” said one senior Ezidi community member. “The Ezidi have been subjected to 74 genocide attempts throughout their history. We now feel Australia is our future and we want to build our lives here. Part of that is being prepared for death.”
The Ezidis have since worked with SSI, our member organisation Northern Settlement Services, Armidale Regional Council, mortuary operators and other stakeholders to develop strategies for understanding burial practices in the community in culturally appropriate ways.
One new arrival said that, while getting used to the requirements of Australian bureaucracy could be frustrating, these community voice consultations were empowering. “It makes a big difference, having a choice. It’s not just this is what you have to do.”
Leading culturally responsive service delivery.
People from CALD backgrounds should account for around one in five approved National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plans, based on levels of disability in these communities compared with the general population. But, so far, fewer than one in 10 plans are for people from CALD backgrounds.
In December 2018, SSI launched the National Multilingual Disability Hub to offer in-language information about disability and the NDIS in order to decrease this disparity.
Funded by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), the Hub comprises a website with multilingual resources and a telephone hotline serviced by operators speaking 14 languages.
The Hub is a full in-language experience. This process reduces the stress of having to get through language barriers before receiving support. It enables people to ask questions in a way that in meaningful for them, without mediation from a third party such as an interpreter.
A majority of callers (67%) have no existing NDIS plan, and one in three (36%) is seeking information on NDIS access requirements. This highlights the important gap the Hub is filling. As one caller with disability said, “I am a person with a disability and it has been a real challenge to get support from the NDIS. Without your encouragement, patience and great help, I would give up applying to NDIS already.”
Breaking down silos in settlement
SSI amalgamated its key settlement programs into a new divisional structure during the year. This broke down silos and improved collaboration. Ultimately, this will ensure continuity of service and strong outcomes for clients and communities from the day they arrive in Australia for up to five years.
Across four settlement programs, SSI supported 28,287 people in 2018-19. Our flagship Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) supported more than 9,500 refugees through the early days of settlement, including 4,925 who arrived during the financial year itself.
A particular challenge for HSP during the year was a sharp increase in arrival numbers that saw almost half (45%) of SSI’s annual intake arrive in the final quarter of the year. Upskilling staff helped us greatly in responding to this peak in arrival numbers. We also brought in SSI staff from other areas to assist in extreme peaks, with the added benefit of reskilling staff from programs whose own numbers were declining.
During 2018-19, SSI settled close to 800 refugees in regional locations, including Coffs Harbour. While Coffs Harbour has a history of refugee settlement, this area is currently experiencing some relocation of Ezidi settlers to Armidale and Toowoomba due to a natural alignment of kinship and friendship networks.
Working with local partners, SSI is developing a strategy for long-term retention in the area that focuses on infrastructure, planning, social engagement, inclusion and input from stakeholders. A draft action plan is currently under review.
During 2018-19, SSI successfully retendered for the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) program via its NSW Settlement Partnership consortium. Led by SSI, the NSP is a successful collaboration of 20 settlement providers across much of Sydney and parts of regional NSW that offer settlement support to new migrants and refugees who have exited HSP. NSP supported 11,739 individual clients during 2018-19, including holding 3,910 education and skills training sessions.
In 2018-19, SSI also received a four-year extension on its Community Hubs program — part of a national initiative that serves as a gateway to connect families with each other, with their school, and with services. SSI is the support agency for 19 hubs in the South West and West Sydney regions, which connected 5,293 families to the community during 2018-19.
The final arm of SSI’s settlement division, Status Resolution Support Services, supported 1,755 people seeking asylum to live in the community during 2018-19. SSI used a unique style of thematic case management in order to marry its client-centred approach with a new SRSS service model focused on overcoming barriers to employment. This approach responds to a person’s individual needs in the areas of mental and physical health, domestic and family violence, child protection and alcohol and other drugs.
Career pathways for refugees
In 2018-19, SSI supported around 360 refugees to start their journey to get their qualifications recognised and resume their professional careers in Australia.
The Department of Social Services funded the 12-month Career Pathways Pilot (CPP) program in recognition of the wealth of skills and experiences refugees bring to our shores and the challenges they face in having these recognised. Through targeted assistance, we helped newly arrived humanitarian entrants who have skills and/or qualifications and vocational English language proficiency to use their skills and qualifications in Australia in the same or a similar career.
Using funds provided under the grant, SSI was able to offer practical assistance, such as contributing to the costs of qualification recognition examinations and training to close skills gaps. We helped individuals create tailored career plans to identify a pathway into their preferred profession. We also supported people to connect with other professionals by building peer support networks such as professional exam study groups and a women’s mentoring program.
The breadth of SSI’s experience in the employment sector meant we were able to identify complementary resources available to CPP recipients, such as through jobactive. As the delivery agency for the NSW government’s Refugee Employment Support Program (RESP), we were also able to extend additional assistance to CPP participants. This integrated approach ensures individuals get the right support, while also maximising the services we can provide in a more integrated way and delivering great value for our funders.
While CPP ended on June 30, 2019, feedback highlights the merit of the pilot. As one participant said: “Your help, guidance and the financial assistance were very much essential in recognition of my certificate. The feeling that someone believes in me and supports me was awesome. I have received sadly the news that the program will no longer exist as I know that a lot of overseas qualified refugees may give up their own dreams of working in the same career they love due to the financial issues.”
At Access, a core point of difference is its collaborative service centres that deliver client–centred social services in community-based settings. Known as the Access Gateways, these centres are based on Access’s End-to-End Client Impact model. They enable the organisation to offer services to a diverse group of people from a range of vulnerable backgrounds but always with a clear focus and dedication to refugee, migrant and newcomer populations, regardless of visa type or background.
The two Access Gateway centres in Logan and Goodna provide assistance to a wide variety of people who attend for everything from service support to free computer access to just having a cup of tea. The strength of this approach is the number and variety of programs and support offered. As well as our own services, the Access Gateway gives clients access in to services through our partners who co-locate from these centres.
Two of the core funded services delivered at the Gateway centres include Disability Employment Services (DES) and National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Outside of these funded services, other programs run during FY18-19 included community education, English classes, homework support and women’s wellbeing activities.
Among its other services, Access runs Queensland’s only arts organisation dedicated to presenting, producing and developing CALD artists and arts. The Brisbane Multicultural Arts Centre (BEMAC) offers professional and skills development opportunities for emerging artists and arts workers. In 2018-19, BEMAC was engaged to partner on the national professional development program, GRID, as well as take the lead on the first ever professional development program in Logan City, known as BOOST. BEMAC also supported and delivered a number of festivals around the state, including the Cairns Children’s Festival, the Ipswich Festival and Logan Live Music Month. In a Refugee Week first, BEMAC, Access and SSI delivered a sevendate collaborative live music tour across Queensland and NSW, known as Homelands.