Settlement Grants Program focus more on core community services

Date: Dec 20, 2011

New arrivals to Australia are often assisted by independent organisation that help them become self-reliant members of the community.

In the past these official groups have been able to gain financial assistance from the federal government through the Settlement Grants Program (SGP), which delivered funding based on a number of pre-determined criteria.

In turn this monetary assistance was used to help provide a range of services - including access to lawyers for immigration - in order to ensure that they could begin contributing to their new society as soon as practicable.

Recently, a number of changes have been introduced to the SGP which will help to broaden the scope of organisations covered by the program.

Speaking on the delivery of the revision, minister for immigration and citizenship Chris Bowen stated that the scheme could be "strengthened" to supply community groups with the assistance they need to effectively drive newcomers' contribution to Australian society "as soon as possible".

Bowen said: "In recognition of the ongoing nature of settlement services, SGP grants in 2012–13 will primarily focus on the delivery of refugee and migrant settlement services, and providing support for ethno-specific communities."

The revised program will be able to provide assistance to a wider range of recipients - including youth settlement groups, community development projects and ethno-specific organisations - in addition to the services already covered.

The previous version of the SGP was aimed at delivering financial support to non-profit organisations, local government initiatives and regional service delivery agencies - usually with a focus on funding ad-hoc developments and once-off projects.

The parliamentary secretary for immigration and multicultural affairs - Kate Lundy - said this would no longer be the case and that the new system could instead help grow the capacity of organisations by assisting "core community services".

Lundy said: "Australia has a proud history of investing in settlement services and these changes will ensure the outcomes of settlement services are aligned with social participation and connection to the Australian community.

"The changes announced today (December 15) reflect a decision by the government to reinvest in long term programs that will help new Australians adapt to life in Australia."

The SGP will begin making funds available in the new financial year - with eligible organisations able to apply for grants of one, three and five years before submissions close on February 1 2012.

In addition to consulting with a migration lawyer, community leaders and non-profit groups can attend a number of information sessions put on by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to be held over the following weeks.