> The initiative
People from a refugee background living in Australia, especially those on temporary or bridging visas, find it extremely difficult to access higher education and obtain employment opportunities commensurate with their skills. Presently in Australia, legislation does not entitle refugees on bridging or temporary protection visas to access higher education through Commonwealth supported places. Instead, they are grouped with international students, and must pay full course fees. In addition, employers are reluctant to employ people from a refugee background. According to the best available evidence, only 17 per cent of refugees were in paid work after being in Australia for 18 months.
In order to assist those from a refugee background to access education and obtain employment and overcome the barriers they face, Deakin CREATE was launched in 2019 and is based in the Faculty of Business and Law at Deakin University. To support the work of Deakin CREATE, Deakin provide funding for a postdoctoral research fellow on a yearly basis and a budget of $50,000 per year. It has been running now for just over two years and brought in around $300,000 of income. Researchers from CREATE have developed guides for individuals looking to access higher education and for higher education institutions on how to support them once at university. The production of such guides were supported by a grant from the Bennelong Foundation. CREATE also runs information sessions for university providers on how to support students from a refugee background and for people from a refugee background on how to access higher education. Researchers from CREATE have also recently published an employment guide for organizations looking to employee people from a refugee background that is presently used by over 30 community sector organizations. In addition, we are working with Host International to have the employment guide customised for New Zealand.
To date Deakin CREATE has supported over 70 students from a refugee background to access vocational and tertiary education in Australia, and has organized numerous workshops across different states on how to access higher education. In addition to philanthropic funding, Deakin CREATE has obtained funding from the Department of Home Affairs to develop a video course and associated workbook to help culturally and linguistically diverse graduates, including those from a refugee background, to find work in regional areas of Australia, and funding from the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education to examine the career support provided to university students from a refugee background. In 2019 CREATE obtained philanthropic funding to run career clinics for 450 people from a refugee background over a three year period in Victoria. Out of the participants completing the career clinics in 2020, over 60 percent found meaningful employment. In 2021 further philanthropic funding was obtained to support the launch of a graduate career clinic for over 60 participants per year.
CREATE has obtained significant external recognition for its work. CREATE was the winner of the Equity and Opportunity category at the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Awards in 2020. It was also the winner of the Emerald Interdisciplinary Research Social Impact Award and obtained an AACSB Innovations that Inspire Award in 2021. It is also a finalist in the Championing Diversity category of the Pioneer International Education Awards 2021.