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Fact Sheet 3 – The Department of Immigration and Border Protection

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The department today

The purpose of the department is to 'build Australia's future through the well-managed entry and movement of people'.

The department is committed to ensuring it is open and accountable, deals fairly and reasonably with clients and has well developed and supported staff.

The department’s key objectives are to:

  1. Contribute to Australia's future through managed migration.
  2. Protect refugees and contribute to humanitarian policy internationally.
  3. Contribute to Australia's security through border management and traveller facilitation.
  4. Make fair and reasonable decisions for people entering or leaving Australia, ensuring compliance with Australia's immigration laws and integrity in decision-making.
  5. Promote Australian citizenship and a multicultural Australia.

Since its establishment in 1945, the department has managed the arrival and settlement in Australia of about 7.6 million migrants from 200 countries, including more than 800 000 arrivals under humanitarian programmes.

The department has more than 10 000 staff working in Australia and overseas and an operating budget of $5.18 billion.

The department's services are delivered in a cost-conscious and customer-focused manner from offices in every state and territory and in 54 locations across the globe.

During 2012–13, the department's staff:

  • granted visas to more than 190 000 people to migrate to Australia
  • granted visas to 20 019 people under the Humanitarian Programme
  • issued more than 4.69 million permanent and temporary entry visas
  • approved Australian citizenship by conferral, descent and resumption for more than
    123 000 people
  • facilitated 33.16 million people across the border.


The department was created in 1945 as the Department of Immigration.

The department has always had responsibility for immigration, but over the years, it has had a number of name changes to reflect more accurately its evolving responsibilities. At different times, these responsibilities have included local government, ethnic affairs, Indigenous affairs, multicultural affairs and citizenship.

Today, the department delivers a diverse range of services in Australia and overseas. Its key outputs and responsibilities include:

  • migration and temporary entry
  • refugee and humanitarian entry and stay
  • enforcement of immigration law, including effective border security
  • safe haven
  • offshore asylum seeker management
  • translating and interpreting services
  • Australian citizenship.

The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection

On 23 December 2014 Peter Dutton MP was sworn in as the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Senator Michaelia Cash was sworn in on 18 September 2013 as Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.

The portfolio

In addition to the department, the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority and the National Accreditation Authority for Translator and Interpreters (NAATI) Limited, the portfolio includes the following statutory bodies.

  • The Refugee Review Tribunal (RRT)—an independent organisation which reviews decisions concerning applications for refugee status made in Australia
  • The Migration Review Tribunal (MRT)—an independent organisation which reviews decisions concerning visa applications made in Australia.


The Migration Act 1958 and the Migration Regulations set out in detail the migration laws which the minister administers. The Act can be amended only if the changes are passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The Migration Regulations, which set out the detailed requirements for the grant of visas, can be amended by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the minister without the prior approval of the Australian Parliament. However, the changes have to be tabled in the Australian Parliament and can be rejected by either House.

Other legislation administered by the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection includes the Australian Citizenship Act 2007, the Immigration Guardianship of Children Act 1946 and the Immigration (Education) Act 1971.

The executive

The department is headed by Secretary, Michael Pezzullo, and five deputy secretaries – Dr Wendy Southern PSM, Peter Vardos PSM, Michael Manthorpe PSM, Mark Cormack and Marion Grant. The secretary, on behalf of the minister, is responsible for the administration of the department. He and the deputy secretaries exercise statutory and delegated decision-making powers.

These officers are the core members of the Executive Committee, which oversees the management and administration of the department's operations. The chief lawyer and chief finance officers are ex-officio members and provide specialist advice.

Departmental structure

The department's main administrative centre, its National Office, is in Belconnen, ACT. The department has 13 offices in Australia located in the capital cities of each state and territory with additional regional offices in Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. The department is also represented in 54 Australian offices overseas.

Direct reports to the secretary

The Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (MARA) is a discrete office attached to the department. The Chief Executive Officer of the Office of the MARA reports directly to the secretary.

The Special Counsel also reports directly to the secretary.