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The department today
The purpose of the department is to 'build Australia’s future through the well-managed movement and settlement 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:
- Maximise the economic and social benefits for Australia from all forms of temporary and permanent migration.
- Foster an Australian society that is cohesive, diverse and inclusive.
- Improve public confidence in national security, particularly through effective border management.
- Identify and deliver productivity and improved risk management capability in an environment of fiscal restraint.
Since its establishment in 1945, the department has managed the arrival and settlement in Australia of about 7.2 million migrants from 200 countries, including more than 800 000 arrivals under humanitarian program.
The department has more than 9500 staff working in Australia and overseas.
During 2011–12, the department's staff:
- granted visas to more than 184 000 people to migrate to Australia
- granted visas to 13 759 people under the Humanitarian Program
- issued more than 4.4 million permanent and temporary entry visas
- approved Australian citizenship by conferral, descent and resumption for more than 114 000 people
- facilitated 31.63 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
- migration and temporary entry
- refugee and humanitarian entry and stay
- enforcement of immigration law, including effective border security
- safe haven
- offshore asylum seeker management
- settlement services
- translating and interpreting services
- Australian citizenship
- promoting the benefits of diversity and social inclusion.
The Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and the Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
On 18 September 2013 Scott Morrison MP was sworn in as the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection and Senator Michaelia Cash was sworn in as Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.
In addition to the department, the Office of the Migration Agents Registration Authority (Office of the MARA), 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 Migration 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
The department is headed by Secretary, Martin Bowles PSM, and five deputy secretaries – Dr Wendy Southern PSM, Peter Vardos PSM, Liz Cosson AM CSC, Michael Manthorpe PSM and Mark Cormack. 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.
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 58 Australian offices overseas.
The department completed a phased structural reorganisation in 2011. Under the new structural alignment, the National Office comprises five broad functional groups led by a deputy secretary:
- Policy and Program Management
- Client Services
- Business Services
- Portfolio Coordination and Innovation
- Immigration Detention Services.
Within these broad groups, there are currently 19 divisions and specialist units.
Policy and Program Management Group comprises:
- Refugee, Humanitarian and International Policy Division
- Citizenship, Settlement and Multicultural Affairs Division
- Compliance and Case Resolution Division
- Migration and Visa Policy Division.
Client Services Group comprises:
- Client Strategy and Performance Division
- Borders, Refugee and Onshore Services Division
- Visa and Offshore Services Division
- Risk, Fraud and Integrity Division.
Business Services Group comprises:
- Financial Strategy and Services Division
- Governance and Legal Division
- People Strategy and Services Division
- Technology Services Division.
Portfolio Coordination and Innovation Group comprises:
- National Communications Branch
- Ministerial and Executive Services Branch
- Strategic Policy and Innovation Division.
Immigration Status Resolution Group comprises:
- Detention Infrastructure and Services Division
- Status Resolution Services Division
- Community Programs and Children Division.
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 chief executive officer of the Independent Protection Assessment Division and Special Counsel also report directly to the secretary.
Contacting the department
Further information is available on the department's website.
The department also operates a national general enquiries line.
Telephone: 131 881
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm. Recorded information is available outside these hours.
Citizenship Enquiry Line: – Telephone 131 880
Translating and Interpreting Service: – Telephone 131 450
Fact Sheet 3. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed September 2013.