3 May 2016
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Manus Island solution: Time for cooler heads to prevail

Last week's announcement by the PNG Prime Minister of the closure of the Manus Island immigration detention centre, following the PNG Supreme Court decision, provides the opportunity for an urgent rethink on Australia’s immigration detention policies. 

Several Labor MPs broke rank in the days following the decision, speaking out against asylum seeker policy. Melissa Parke, federal member for Fremantle, stated that 'this is a sick game and it needs to end'. Official Labor policy, however, remains unchanged. Meanwhile, the Australian government has failed to take action to relocate the men in Manus Island's detention, leaving them stuck in a continued state of limbo. 

In the meantime, those sent to Nauru by Australia  have continued to resort to desperate measures.  Whilst some continue to bravely protest against their lack of freedom, there has been an worrying number who have  attempted to take their own lives. Last Friday came the sad news that a young man, Omid Masoumali had died after setting himself on fire.  It was reportedly 24 hours before he received proper medical attention.  His wife it has been reported, is now being kept in a hotel, sedated, and denied legal support.   Since then, a young Somali woman has also attempted to take her own life in the same way. Hundreds of people around the country joined vigils and protests over the weekend, calling for the government to end offshore processing and 'bring them here'. 

Paul Power, CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), commented that “with the Manus Island ‘solution’ and Australia’s offshore processing system crumbling under legal challenge and human despair, it’s time to set politics aside and put humanity first. Australia can bring those we sent to Manus back to be resettled or have their claims assessed here. Those already recognised as refugees can be quickly resettled and the asylum claims of the remainder processed as should have been done three years ago." He added, "This is the perfect opportunity for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to take charge of his Government’s policy and act with a cooler head than his predecessors.'
Photo above: Laura Stacey
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Victorian budget supports safe and rapid resettlement  

RCOA welcomes the political leadership shown by Premier Daniel Andrews in supporting the safe and rapid resettlement of refugees and people seeking asylum into Victoria.

On 27 April 2016, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced that an additional $18 million in funding was to be made available for a range of programs that will provide a coordinated, integrated and early intervention approach to promote settlement. These programs will be built on pre-existing capacities of organisations, settlement services and state government sectors. The programs will look to strengthen: support for new arrivals; community capacity; access to education and employment; the use of sport, arts and cultural services with the aim of creating a “sense of place and belonging”.

In addition, $644.4 million has been allocated for state education, which will include refugee education support. A further $2.9 million each year for the next three years has been earmarked for primary, community and dental heath assistance for newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers, and for arrival services to accommodate needs of the expected 4000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees Victoria will take in over the year. The funding will provide for refugee health nurses, health screening, immunisation and language translation services.
  • The 2016 – 17 Western Australian Budget is due to be handed down on Thursday, 12 May 2016. 
  • The 2016 – 17 Tasmanian Budget is due to be handed down on Thursday, 26 May 2016. 
  • The 2016 – 17 New South Wales and Queensland Budgets are projected to be handed down in June 2016. 
Photo above: Flickr/MartinHoward:
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Help us access education for ALL people seeking asylum

'Coming to Australia, I had high expectations that I would be able to study and work to support myself, however these dreams are spoiled now. I think it would be a good idea for the Government to let asylum seekers and refugees have access to education and work. With these opportunities, refugees and asylum seekers would be able to make a more significant contribution to society.."
-Bahar, 29

Read more of Bahar's story here.  We need your help with our campaign 'Education for All'. Our recent report outlines the many financial barriers faced by refugees on temporary visas and people seeking asylum in accessing further education.  We are calling on the state and federal governments to allow people in this situation to pay the same fees as Australian nationals.

Sign our petition to join us in asking the government to commit to enabling access to tertiary education for people seeking asylum and refugees on temporary visas.
Photo above: PIXABAY/Creative Commons license
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Global Refugee Youth Consultations

The MYAN (Australia) and the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) coordinated a national conversation with young people from refugee backgrounds in March and April 2016. This conversation is part of the Global Refugee Youth Consultations (GRYC) - a series of consultations taking place around the world in preparation for the 2016 annual UNHCR-NGO Consultations in Geneva, Switzerland, which has the theme 'Youth'. This has been an exciting opportunity for young people aged 15 to 25 from a refugee or asylum seeker background to be involved in advocacy work in Australia and globally, including online options.
As part of the GRYC in Australia, the MYAN and RCOA will be supporting Arif Hazara, Elizabeth Lang, Sarah Yahya and Arash Bordbar to join the Australian NGO team in Geneva in June 2016 and take the voices of young people in Australia to Geneva. Thanks to the generous support of sponsors - MYAN Australia, AMES Australia, Youth Affairs Council of WA (YACWA), Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA), Access Community Services, Amnesty International Australia, MDA Ltd. 
Photo above: Wikimedia Commnos
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Refugee Communities Advocacy Network Statewide Conferences in NSW and VIC - RCOA, in partnership with STARTTS, invites former refugees and people seeking asylum to participate in two upcoming conferences in Sydney and Melbourne with the Refugee Communities Advocacy Network (RCAN). 
The Sydney conference will be held on 21 May 2016, at Auburn STARTTS 
1st Floor 44 – 50 Auburn Road, Auburn 
The Melbourne conference will be held on 28 May 2016, at: Refugee Legal 
Level 6, 20 Otter Street, Collingwood 

Settlement and Citizenship in Civil Society - Settlement Council of Australia Triennial Conference. Federation Square, Melbourne, 5-7 May 

6th Annual Asia Pacific Consultation on Refugee Rights - Applications to participate close on 7 May.  Bangkok, 20-22 September

Diasporas in Action Conference - focusing on the innovation and growing impact of diaspora communities in the global humanitarian, peace and development effort.  University of Melbourne, 26-27 September

Chasing Asylum - Film Screening and Director Q&A 

Join us (and some of our best friends) for a screening of the film the Australian government doesn’t want you to see. Followed by a post-film Q&A with director Eva Orner. May 25, 6.45, Randwick Ritz Sydney. 

Seeking English - RCOA is delighted to be hosting Seeking English, a live database of English classes from all over Melbourne, specifically for people seeking asylum. This database is a joint project of the Network of Asylum Seeker Agencies Victoria (NASAVic). If you are a person seeking asylum (or a caseworker, a friend, or someone in the community who just wants to help out) please use this database to locate an English class at the right time and place for you.

Visa Cancellations Teleconference - RCOA will be holding a teleconference on the topic of visa cancellations on the grounds of character and as a result of criminal charges on Thursday 12 May, 12pm AEST. We encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to email if you wish to participate in this teleconference.

For a full list of events see coming up across Australia and in your areas, see our calendar here.



Every month, our 'Bright Ideas' series profiles an innovative program, initiative or project developed to support refugees and asylum seekers.  It provides a way to share ideas,success stories and good practice to improve service provision and assist organisations and communities in addressing key issues and challenges.
This month, we profiled Bridging Women's Worlds -a project run by women, for women, which aims to showcase the benefits of multiculturalism and promote awareness and acceptance. 

RCOA is currently in the process of updating its services directory. Some of RCOA's wonderful volunteers are currently contacting organisations to confirm the details of the services they provide and their contact details. If your organisation is not currently a member, or currently not on our services directory, and would like to be listed, please email :   

Refugee Legal: Digest is a new subscription service providing essential updates in refugee and immigration case law and legislation, with news and analysis on significant policy developments.







Refugee Week 2016 will run from 19-25 June and will see thousands of events across the country celebrating the positive contributions of refugees to Australian society.  

Let us know what you have planned so that we can add it to the website, promote your event and provide you with resources. Email: or

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