Syrian refugee child at school. Photo by UNHCR

Refugee settlement

Published 2nd October, 2016

NSW remains ready and willing to do more than our fair share to assist the Commonwealth Government to settle the additional 12,000 refugees.

The conflicts occurring in Syria and Iraq represent one of the worst humanitarian disasters of our time. So far, the conflict has displaced 11.6 million people, including 7.6 million people internally, making the situation in Syria the largest humanitarian, peace and security crisis facing the world today.

On 9 September 2015, the Australian Government announced that it would make an extra 12,000 Humanitarian Program places available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. These places are in addition to the existing Humanitarian Program intake of 13,750.

The NSW Premier Mike Baird has appointed Professor Peter Shergold as Coordinator General of Refugee Resettlement to assist the government to prepare for the arrival of the additional refugee intake and coordinate across all levels of government, and the non-government, community, education and corporate sectors to settle refugees in NSW.

NSW remains ready and willing to do more than our fair share to assist the Commonwealth Government to settle the additional 12,000 refugees who are fleeing the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq and all refugees who arrive in NSW to build a new life. 

 Key facts

  • 11 million – estimated number of people displaced due to these conflicts, with most people fleeing to neighbouring countries such as Jordan and Lebanon.
  • 12,000 – number of extra Humanitarian Program places the Australian Government has announced it will make available in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq. These places are in addition to the existing Humanitarian Program intake of 13,750.
  • 4300 – the number of refugees NSW currently settles every year.
  • 6000 – the number of additional refugees NSW expects to settle over the next 12 -18 months out of the Commonwealth’s intake of 12,000 additional refugees. 

What is NSW doing to help?

The Commonwealth Government has primary responsibility for settling refugees and services are mostly provided by the Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program, operated by the Department of Social Services. HSS providers give practical support in the first 6-12 months of arrival such as orientation into Australian law, assistance to register with Centrelink, Medicare, school enrollments and other supports. 

NSW also provides support to assist the successful longer term settlement of refugees. This includes the provision of core services such as health and education, as well as specialist services including the Refugee Health Nurse Screening Program, Intensive Education Centres, and English  as Additional Language or Dialect (EALD) support in schools.

Refugees are also eligible to apply for housing support, travel concessions and Vocational and  Educational Training  subsidies if the criteria are met. Although eligible to apply for social housing, refugees generally do not live in social housing but may access private rental products.

Further information on services for refugees in NSW is available at the NSW Settlement portal.

Further information on settlement services for refugees in Australia is available on the Australian Government Department of Social Services website. 

NSW settlement areas

Where refugees are placed in NSW is primarily a matter for the Commonwealth Government.

The settlement locations in NSW are Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle, Coffs Harbour, Wagga Wagga and Albury.

Each of these locations has a proud history of welcoming refugees into their communities.

To find out more about NSW support services for refugees, visit Multicultural NSW Settlement Services portal.

Can you help?

As well as the work that state government agencies and settlement service providers do to support refugee families to settle in NSW, other non-government organisations, community groups and charities are also working to support and assist refugees - however, they need your help.

Opportunities exist for all members of the NSW community to get involved, and to volunteer their time, skills or experience to help welcome refugees to NSW. Big or small, your contribution can help make a difference to the lives of refugees living in our community. 

Find out more about volunteering opportunities that support refugees in NSW. Please note donations of food and offers of accommodation are not needed at this time.

Volunteering stories


Rob, 61, Drivetime

"I'm a volunteer driving mentor, helping kids build up hours so they can get their licences."

“When I was a deputy principal at a school with a high number of refugee students, it became apparent to me that some kids found getting a licence really difficult. They didn’t have people in their family who could give them help, lessons cost up to $80 and there is a requirement to log 120 hours practice to get a licence. So I became a volunteer driving mentor for Drivetime in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire. The kids take lessons from a local driving school, then work with me to build up hours. One young fellow I work with lost his parents when he was just five years old. If he gets his licence, he’ll be able to get an apprenticeship, so this program can have a real impact on a refugee kid’s future.”


Sharyn, 69, Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families (SCARF)

“I’m a primary school and reading tutor – I help refugee kids with homework and we read books together.”

“After managing the SCARF (Strategic Community Assistance to Refugee Families) volunteering program for eight years, I’m now working as a volunteer primary school tutor in Wollongong. One Syrian family I work with has three kids in kindergarten to Year Six. I help them with homework and we read books together. I mentor a number of families, some who’ve been here a long time. Life changes – what somebody needs when they first arrive is not what they need five years later. Australia has a wonderful history of welcoming people, but opening the door is only the beginning.”


Frank, 69, St Vincent de Paul

“I’m a family mentor - I help with everything from getting bicycles for the kids to grocery shopping.”

"I’m from the UK and was new to Australia myself when I responded to an appeal from the local St Vincent De Paul branch for volunteers to help new families settle in Wagga Wagga. After some induction training, I started working with a family, helping them with everything from getting bicycles for the kids to grocery shopping. A real highlight for me was helping a father and his daughter both get their licences. We also had a family over for dinner once and introduced them to roast potatoes, a big hit! Volunteering is a hugely enriching experience. It’s a chance for me to share with own good fortune with others and also learn from them.”


Natalie, 31, Ignite Small Business Start-Ups

"I mentor refugees who would like to start a business, helping with product development or shaping their idea.”

“I’ve been working in advertising and marketing for 12 years and was looking for my next challenge in the industry. I came across Settlement Services International and their ‘Ignite’ small business start-ups’ initiative, and I’ve been volunteering here since. I spend around two days a week mentoring refugees who would like to start a business, helping with product development or shaping their idea. We’ll often work with a financial advisor to get a business plan off the ground then I’ll work with the refugee on a marketing strategy. We get some really talented people coming through, with varied skills and different specialties – like the man who makes Israeli ice-cream. He’s an expert at that! I feel like I’m contributing to my community in a really positive way. I absolutely love it".

Andrew, 64, Anglicare

“I’m a community engagement volunteer, helping refugees set up their new homes.”

“I started volunteering with Anglicare after an acquaintance mentioned she did it. I do a whole range of things, from helping people learn to read a bus timetable to taking them shopping and introducing them to local suppliers. I’ve even helped people buy lawn mowers. We’ve recently set up a community garden, which we encourage new arrivals get involved with. We try to source vegetables from around the world; there are plants in there even I wouldn’t recognise. There are lots of little joys in volunteering, but one of the most rewarding things I’ve done is greeting new arrivals at the airport. These people have been tapped on the shoulder and told they’re going to Australia tomorrow. The relief on their faces when they arrive is incredibly moving.”

Refugee employment support

Woman holding brochure and giving advice to a man

Refugees bring new skills and experiences, fill important labour shortages in the economy, are highly entrepreneurial, and contribute to the social and human capital of the communities where they settle.

Successful refugee settlement outcomes are underpinned by economic empowerment. Supporting newly arrived refugees into employment pathways is fundamental to successful transitions.

The NSW Government is working in partnership with corporate Australia to reduce barriers to employment and thereby improve settlement outcomes of refugees. The government is showing leadership in improving employment outcomes for refugees, with a commitment having been made to employ at least 100 refugees across the public sector.

The corporate sector has also demonstrated great leadership and a strong commitment to improving employment outcomes for refugees. Key organisations have committed to train, mentor, or employ refugees. Many have also pledged to develop targeted refugee employment programs, provide employment grants, and assist refugees to become ‘job ready’.  

In May 2017, the Coordinator General announced that Settlement Services International will deliver the Refugee Employment Support Program (RESP), a $22 million program to support refugees in Western Sydney and the Illawarra over four years. The RESP will support up to 7000 refugees, including 1000 asylum seekers, to find sustainable and skilled employment. Job seekers who would like more information about the RESP are encouraged to contact SSI on [email protected], 02 8713 9366 (Western Sydney) or 02 8713 9366 (Illawarra). 

Corporate supporters

allianz logo

Allianz is proud to support diverse communities in Australia and give opportunities to people who come to this country as a result of misfortune and instability in their homeland. Our relationship with the NSW Government and Settlement Services International (SSI) is key, and our support tackles two critical issues faced in successfully integrating into the Australian community: employment and education. Our Sustainable Employment Program that commenced in 2016 provides permanent employment opportunities to refugees and asylum seekers. The SSI Allianz scholarship program is focused on developing the long-term prosperity of successful applicants and their families through education.

The AMP Foundation’s goal is to help create a better tomorrow for everyone - especially those facing challenges accessing education and employment opportunities. We know that refugees face numerous challenges when they begin their journey to build new lives in Australia and the new arrivals from Iraq and Syria will be no exception. We welcome the opportunity to work with the NSW Government and the community to help improve employment, training and educational outcomes for refugees as we recognise that economic empowerment is key to the best futures for all.

Australia Post logo

Australia Post is proud to support the Refugee Settlement Program by providing refugees with an Australian workplace experience. This partnership with the NSW Government is complementary to our desire to build healthier, more vibrant and more inclusive communities. We value and embrace cultural diversity and are fortunate to have a workforce of 31,281 people who represent 146 nationalities and 64 languages (statistics as at 30 June 2016). We really do reflect the multicultural Australian community with 25.3% of employees from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

  Clayton Utz Logo

Clayton Utz is committed to the wider Australian community and legal profession, which is why we have serious goals to assist with addressing disadvantage and supporting access to justice in the communities in which we live and work. We are excited to be extending this support to the NSW Government's Refugee Employment Support Program and to contribute to its goal of improving employment outcomes for refugees.

ClubsNSW is committed to working in partnership with the NSW Government to assist in the development of long-term employment pathway opportunities to support refugees in NSW. ClubsNSW values the objectives of the NSW Refugee Resettlement initiative and is committed to helping achieve positive outcomes through a new pilot program by providing up to 30 long-term employment opportunities for settled and job ready refugees at registered clubs in the Greater Western Sydney region.

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”, Nelson Mandela

Crescent Foundation understands the importance of corporate giving and provides a platform for corporates as well as individuals to contribute towards betterment of the Australian society.

One of our biggest passions is providing refugees with an equal opportunity for a better life in Australia. A recent collaboration with Western Sydney University has resulted in the creation of Crescent Foundation leadership Scholarships which is a step towards achieving our goal. These scholarships aimed at newly arrived refugees will help them build towards a bright future for them and their families.

Crescent Wealth has been at the forefront in ultra ethical investing and assisting the Australian communities achieve its dreams for a better tomorrow.

Part of Crescent Wealth’s commitment for a prosperous future involves its long term contribution towards refugees globally and in Australia. Using Crescent Foundation’s platform, we support Refugee education partnering with Western Sydney University and other partner non-profit organisations to deliver humanitarian aid and relief. We also provide sponsorship to local sporting teams and community organizations in organizing events that bring Australians closer and build harmony.

We are pleased to announce a new program in partnership with Western Sydney University which will provide educational scholarships for refugee students to help them build better futures for themselves and their families. This will assist refugees to acquire Australian standard education and seamlessly integrate into the Australian workforce and society.


First State Super recognises that diversity and inclusion are key drivers of sustainable business outcomes and that this approach helps to develop strong and cohesive communities. This is why First State Super is working with the NSW government to build employment opportunities for humanitarian refugees from Syria and Iraq. First State Super will work with our staff to identify ways that our organisation can support refugees to achieve their educational and employment goals and reach their potential to build new and fulfilling lives in Australia.


Harvey Norman recognises that diversity and inclusion are key not just to the Harvey Norman business but to all communities and Australia as a country. This is why Harvey Norman is delighted to be working with the NSW and Commonwealth governments to build employment opportunities for humanitarian refugees from Syria and Iraq. Harvey Norman is proud of its commitment to supporting refugees both in the workplace and the broader community. The successful integration of refugees is key to the future prosperity of all Australians.


Refugees, like all of us, want to work, learn, give and thrive in the community. Those who arrive in Australia with the hope of a new life bring potential to do great things for themselves, their families, communities and the country, but there's no doubt that initially many will need help and support to overcome language, social and employment barriers.

Henry Davis York is proud of its commitment to making a positive difference within our community, helping those who are marginalised, vulnerable or experiencing disadvantage, through our pro bono and community programs. Through the work we do with organisations such as CareerSeekers, HDY helps to create job opportunities for people who are refugees, bringing their diverse skills and talents into the workforce and supporting them to begin and continue fulfilling lives in Australia.

Henry Davis York is proud to support the NSW Government Refugee Resettlement initiative and its objective of assisting the successful longer term settlement of refugees within the NSW Community.


The NRMA understands the importance to all our stakeholders of making positive contributions to the community. We know that obtaining a NSW driver’s licence is an important step for refugees in the first stages of settlement and for this reason we have committed to piloting two refugee driver education programs - one in Western Sydney and another in the Illawarra. Being able to drive can make it easier for refugees to find employment and participate in many other aspects of community life. Volunteer as a driver mentor

The NRMA also hopes to find ways to assist newly arrived refugees, who bring with them skills as motor mechanics, by providing work experience to complement English language training and appropriate job pathways programs. 


Telstra’s purpose is to create a brilliant connected future, for everyone. This means we are committed to making a positive difference in all the communities we touch across Australia. We value diversity and recognise that while newly arrived refugees bring with them enormous potential, they often need local support to achieve that potential. Telstra is working to develop programs to help refugees to make better transitions into the Australian workforce. We’re confident our people, their skills, networks and, most importantly, their goodwill means that this generation of refugees will have both the opportunities and promise of a new life in Australia.

  Transurban logo

Through our ongoing commitment to sustainability, Transurban aims to deliver lasting benefits to the environment, our clients and the communities we serve. We support social investment initiatives that benefit communities in the areas in which we operate. We focus on enhancing social inclusion and improving mobility and do this in a range of ways including by supporting meaningful employment and mentoring programs to help disadvantaged people overcome barriers to employment. Building on this commitment and initiatives already in place Transurban is pleased to be working alongside the NSW Government and other leading private sector organisations to improve employment pathways for refugees to deliver better futures for those seeking a new life in Australia.


Westpac’s commitment to helping people and communities prosper and grow is inextricably linked to our capacity to create positive social impact through our advice, our people, our products and services. It also means that we have a role to play in supporting economic participation by facilitating and enabling the growth of SMEs and the creation of training opportunities and sustainable jobs. This recognition is reflected in the work we are doing with organisations such as Career Seekers and Green Connect to build career opportunities and employment pathways for refugees.


Woolworths is committed to ensuring our teams reflect the local communities they serve. We are committed to an inclusive workplace that embraces and promotes diversity through a range of initiatives including a focus on indigenous and disability employment, equal opportunity, and women in management. We value, respect and leverage the unique contributions of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives to provide exceptional customer service to an equally diverse community. That's why Woolworths is working with the NSW and Commonwealth governments to support humanitarian refugees in the workplace and the broader community.

Peter Shergold

Professor Peter Shergold AC, the Chancellor of Western Sydney University, is the NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement.

As Coordinator-General, Professor Shergold is taking responsibility for ensuring that the NSW Government is prepared for the arrival of the additional refugee intake, and coordinating across all levels government, and the non-government, community, education and corporate sectors to settle refugees in NSW.

Published 2nd October, 2016