A snapshot of the Community Support Program
Culinary Tales wants to bring greater focus to the community support program (CSP) which is designed to help resettle refugees into Australia through private sponsorships, predominantly through businesses and religious, ethnic and community groups.
This has been seen as an effective complement to many government sanctioned programs aimed at providing refugees with a new life in Australia through enabling them greater financial security, community support and access to networks to find jobs. This has a proven success record in countries such as Canada where more than 300,000 refugees have been resettled. With an annual quota of 1,000 places, the program is intended to prioritise those with favourable English abilities, considered job ready, are willing to move to regional Australia and are from high priority resettlement countries. However, the effectiveness of this program has been challenged.
A number of potential issues arise from the program, and it is recommended that the government action steps to change.
Individual focus & financial pressure
Some have argued that the current program focuses too much on individuals and businesses as the sponsors, rather than reverberating around the idea of communities coming together. This places greater financial pressure on individuals, as the current cost to sponsor a family of five sits at around $100,000, as well as exposing both parties to the potential for relationship breakdown. (Refugee Council)
The limiting nature of the CSP is also a cause for concern, as the number of visas allowed under the CSP is part of the overall quota in Australia’s humanitarian program. This means that for each refugee privately sponsored, there is one fewer place available in the government-funded resettlement program.
Vogl and Hirsch (The Conversation) argue that this shifts the cost of resettlement away from the government. This can be demonstrated through the 2017-18 budget in its promotion of the CSP as a way for the government to raise $26.9 million.
Exclusionary selection process
A final issue lies in the exclusionary nature of the selection process, which requires for sponsored candidates to have adequate English skills and job-seeking abilities. This arguably prioritises economic priorities over genuine humanitarian need, by foregoing those most desperate for refugees.
The Community Settlement Program has the potential to dramatically transform Australia’s humanitarian migration program by expanding the possibilities for refugee resettlement. However, the government must take a closer look at the issues facing the program as it stands, and implement changes to ensure a more inclusive program with long-term financial and relational capacities.
- Culinary Tales Team