For SSI, being a leading contributor means finding ways to strengthen our sector through thought leadership, advocacy and policy influence. This manifests itself in research, partnerships, lobbying, media engagement, events and more.
Social policy index
During 2018-19, SSI refined its organisation position on the key social issues affecting our clients, partners and communities in order to influence our broader policy environment.
We created a social policy index comprising 20 documents articulating our position on everything from multiculturalism to affordable housing to access to income support and citizenship. These documents help our staff and partners better understand SSI’s position on important social issues. They also ensure we are consistently communicating these positions internally and externally.
Our organisation positions were developed collaboratively, based on our experience working with clients and communities, and underpinned by research and government policy documents.
The work on the index has shaped our thinking on social issues and our capacity to respond promptly. A good example of this is the policy position on domestic and family violence, which outlines the unique challenges facing women and families from CALD backgrounds.
This became the focus of SSI’s pre-election government relations activity, where SSI representatives advocated for CALD women and families to be prioritised in National Action Plan investments and funding. When a series of state and federal government funding announcements in February failed to make provisions for refugee and migrant women, SSI engaged in proactive media engagement to draw attention to the unique needs of these communities, resulting in an opinion piece based on our policy position reaching up to 2.7 million people.
CALD people with disability
SSI undertook research during the year that quantified what we see at the coalface in our disability services: CALD communities failing to get their share of support (see page 17).
Our report, Still Outside the Tent, concluded that despite having similar rates of disability to the Australianborn population, people with disability from CALD backgrounds are about half as likely to receive formal assistance and support. The paper also pointed to programs and practices in the area of disability that have been shown to shift the needle towards greater inclusion for people from CALD backgrounds, including SSI’s capacity building work in FutureAbility and our program delivery work in Ability Links.
The paper generated interest among stakeholders and resulted in media coverage in 25 outlets, including primetime ABC TV news with a possible reach of 595,000 people and radio syndications across regional NSW and Victoria. Importantly, the paper has also created opportunities to discuss the findings with policy makers and the statutory advisory body, the Disability Council of NSW.
This year marked SSI’s first full year resettling families in the new settlement location of Armidale. We partnered with Dr Sue Watt from the University of New England on research that monitored community attitudes towards refugee settlement in Armidale.
Through a series of pulse surveys, Dr Watt has assessed the attitudes, feelings and response to the arrival of refugees in the region. The majority of the findings highlight a positive and enthusiastic attitude towards refugees settling in Armidale. At each cluster analysis, the attitudes and understandings increased in positivity.
We believe one of the contributors to this success has been SSI’s self-funded Community Engagement representatives, and we are quantifying this in new research due out in the current financial year.
Leading international discussion
The “international” in Settlement Services International is not an aspiration. It is a reflection of the critical work we do engaging with our peers to gain a global perspective on, and contribute to, international dialogue on refugee and migration issues.
At SSI, we excel in providing essential services to new arrivals in Australia but, to achieve the best outcomes, we use our knowledge and expertise to lead discussions that inform policy and help people all around the world.
One step in achieving this goal on an international stage was working with our partners, Multicultural NSW and the Australian Multicultural Foundation, to bring the International Metropolis Conference to Sydney in November 2018. This international conference on migration has a history of influencing refugee and migration policy in countries all over the world. The 811 registered attendees represented 38 different countries and, over the course of five days, they consumed 150 hours of content.
It was a significant achievement for SSI to bring this forum to Australia, given that finding a way to humanely and practically respond to the global flow of human traffic is quickly becoming the key challenge of our times.
We’re living in a world where every minute 25 people are forced to flee their homes. Figures from UNHCR show that, by the end of 2018, 70.8 million people globally were displaced from their homes — representing the highest level since the UN refugee agency began 70 years ago.
In April 2019, SSI representatives attended a UNHCR resettlement working group hosted by the UK government and British Refugee Council. The discussions informed the development of the UNHCR-led three-year strategy on resettlement and complementary pathways. SSI shared best practice and experience from Australia and from SSI programs specifically.
During the year, SSI was also selected for an NGO expert group that will support the update of the UNHCR Integration Handbook. The expert group’s purpose will be to ensure that the updated handbook reflects the progress that has been made in integration practices. It will provide the opportunity for NGOs to support the integration efforts of states and enhance third-party country solutions for refugees.
In 2018-19, SSI also participated in international forums hosted by UNHCR, where we shared lessons from Australian resettlement and elevated the voices and experiences of people who have come to our country as refugees. Refugee voice was a central theme for a meeting of the UNHCR’s Annual Tripartite Consultations on Resettlement (ATCR) Working Group on Resettlement in June 2019. During the meeting, our international peers spoke about how motivated and inspired they have been by the powerful work the Refugee Council of Australia is doing to elevate refugee voices.
One of the prevailing themes of these discussions was that “refugee” is a situation and not something you are born into. Being a refugee is not an endless notion. It is a fleeting time that reflects one aspect of a multifaceted identity.
Self-representation is always a priority during SSI’s international advocacy work as this enables people from refugee backgrounds to advocate for their communities. During 2018-19, SSI supported people with lived experience to participate in the Refugee Council of Australia’s International Policy Network and sponsored community representatives to attend key international events. We also provided funds and governance support to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network.
At a time where the UN has called for responsibilitysharing to support refugees around the world, SSI has taken the initiative to engage in international dialogue, participate in the development of the Global Compact on Refugees, collaborate with our peers in other countries and advocate for innovative solutions to refugee and migration challenges.