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Australia has a long and proud history of resettling people in humanitarian need and the Australian Government is committed to helping new arrivals become active participants in the community as soon as possible. In recognition that humanitarian entrants often face additional challenges to those faced by other migrants, they receive specialised assistance during the initial settlement period.
See: Fact Sheet 60 – Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program
Initial settlement support
The Humanitarian Settlement Services (HSS) program provides early, practical support to humanitarian entrants on arrival and throughout their initial settlement period. The HSS program helps humanitarian entrants to participate in the economic and social life of Australia and equips individuals with the skills and knowledge to independently access services after the initial settlement period.
Services under the program are generally provided for the first six to 12 months after a client's arrival.
Clients holding the following visas are eligible for HSS:
- Refugee category (subclass 200, 201, 203 and 204) visas
- Global Special Humanitarian (subclass 202) visa.
From 30 August 2013, two groups of asylum seekers who are granted Protection visas will no longer be eligible for services under the HSS program. These groups are:
- Illegal Maritime Arrivals who lived in the community on a Bridging visa E or who resided in community detention, aside from unaccompanied minors
- other asylum seekers who lived in the community, including in community detention.
All unaccompanied humanitarian minors are exempt from this change. Most people granted protection in an Immigration Detention Facility also remain eligible for services under the HSS program.
People affected by the change will remain eligible for:
- services funded by the Settlement Grants Program
- English classes under the Adult Migrant English Program
- the Translating and Interpreting Service
- Complex Case Support, if assessed by the department as having multiple, complex needs affecting their settlement
- torture and trauma counselling under the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, which is administered by the Department of Health and Ageing.
As permanent residents of Australia, people affected by the change will continue to have access to the full range of mainstream government services, such as Medicare, Centrelink and employment services.
Services provided under the HSS program
The HSS program is delivered by service providers on behalf of the Australian Government.
HSS providers work with clients to assess and identify their needs and deliver a tailored package of services to meet those needs. Services provided under the HSS program may include:
- arrival reception and assistance
- help with finding accommodation (short-term and long-term)
- property induction
- providing an initial food package and start-up pack of household goods
- orientation information and training
- help to register with Medicare, health services, Centrelink, banks and schools
- links with community and recreational programs.
Services are provided to clients based on need; therefore, not all clients will require or receive all services available under the HSS program. HSS providers also work with other settlement and mainstream services to help clients with their settlement needs beyond the HSS program.
Case management plans are developed for each single client and family based on a complete needs assessment.
Case management coordinates the delivery of services to clients including:
- meeting them at the airport
- help with transport
- property induction
- some food to start
- helping clients register with Centrelink, Medicare, banks, schools and an Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) provider
- help with health needs and assessments.
Case management plans also connect clients with other settlement, community and youth programs. Clients are helped to participate in their local communities through connection to local social, recreational and sporting organisations.
The accommodation service arranges when clients arrive in Australia, either long-term accommodation, or short-term housing arrangements before finding long-term accommodation. Accommodation services may also include the provision of a basic household goods package to help clients to start their new residence in Australia.
Structured onshore orientation program
The onshore orientation program is open to all clients aged 15 and over. Orientation sessions are tailored to individual client needs and learning capacities. The focus is on critical skills and knowledge clients need to live and function independently in Australian society, and to continue their settlement journey beyond the HSS program.
Humanitarian Settlement Services – Onshore Orientation Program booklet – 2011 (
B PDF file)
Humanitarian Settlement Services – Onshore Orientation Program brochure – 2011 (
B PDF file)
Completion of services
The HSS program is focused on humanitarian clients reaching sustainable and measurable settlement outcomes that will stand them in good stead for their settlement journey.
Exit from the HSS program is based on clients achieving clearly defined settlement outcomes. These include:
- residing in long-term accommodation (generally a lease of at least six months in length)
- links to the required services identified in their case management plan
- school age children are enrolled and attending school
- ensuring clients have understood the messages of the orientation program and have the skills and knowledge to independently access services.
These settlement outcomes will generally be reached between six to 12 months of the client's arrival.
Other settlement programs
Clients may have other needs that are not met by the HSS program. These may be met by other settlement programs or general services available to the broader Australian community. Clients can access more than one settlement service at the same time as long as there is no duplication of service type.
Fact sheet 91 – Translating and Interpreting Service
Fact sheet 92 – Settlement Grants Program
Fact sheet 94 – English Courses for Eligible Migrants and Humanitarian Entrants in Australia
Fact sheet 96 – Eligibility for Settlement Services
Fact sheet 97 – Humanitarian Settlement in Regional Australia
Fact sheet 98 – Settlement Services for Refugees
Fact Sheet 66. Produced by the National Communications Branch, Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Canberra.
Last reviewed August 2013.