Refugees and asylum seekers

Initiatives to support refugees and asylum seekers are available to help them achieve long-term skilled employment in NSW.

Young student getting her hair cut by an apprentice Hairdresser. Young student getting her hair cut by an apprentice Hairdresser.

The refugee support initiatives are designed to support refugees through access to fee-free training under Smart and Skilled and provide employment support aimed at maximising their contribution to our State through achieving long-term skilled employment.

The refugee support initiatives consist of these elements:

Fee-free training

Fee-free training is available under Smart and Skilled for full qualification courses up to Certificate IV level, including Foundation Skills courses that focus on language, literacy, numeracy and employability skills development. Short courses comprising skills-sets or single units of competency can be accessed under the part qualifications program.

Refugee Employment Support Program

The Refugee Employment Support Program (RESP) is a five-year $27.5 million initiative by the NSW Government, managed by the NSW Department of Education. RESP addresses the challenges that are experienced by refugees and asylum seekers in finding long term skilled employment opportunities.

The RESP will assist up to 8,000 refugees and 2,000 asylum seekers across Western Sydney and Illawarra, the areas where a majority of refugees settle in NSW.

Outcomes-focused and innovative in its delivery models, RESP helps participants to develop career plans and links them to the employers, and VET training as required.

The RESP will support participants to:

  • Gain sustainable and skilled employment - Participants receive assistance in obtaining suitable employment that uses their skills.
  • Improve English language skills - Participants may be enrolled in a relevant language training course.
  • Benefit from relevant education and training courses - Participants may be enrolled in Smart and Skilled training or in higher education.
  • Access mentoring - An appropriate mentor may be identified and a meeting plan implemented.
  • Gain recognition of overseas skills/qualifications - Participants may be assisted to gain recognition of their qualifications and/or skills in Australia with associated costs subsidised by the NSW Government.
  • Become work ready - Participants may receive assistance relating to basic employability skills, such as interview preparation and understanding Australian workplace culture and norms.
  • Business Skills Development - Participants who wish to start a business may receive direct support and access to advisory services.
  • Benefit from work experience placements - Participants may be offered relevant work experience with one or more employers.
  • Overcome transport barriers - Participants may be supported to overcome significant transport barriers such as assistance obtaining a NSW driver licence.

If you are:
  • aged 16^-66 (see definitions)
  • a refugee* or an asylum seeker** based in Illawara or Western Sydney (see definitions)
  • entered Australia from 1 December 2011
  • not enrolled in Career Pathways Pilot Programs
  • have an exemption from attending school if you are under 18.

If you answered 'Yes' to the above, you may be eligible to register for RESP.

Individuals can only be registered in the RESP where their Visa provides work and/or study rights and their participation in the RESP will fully comply with their Visa conditions.

The RESP is being delivered by Settlement Services International on behalf of the NSW Government. Settlement Services International is a community-based not-for-profit organisation which provides a range of services in the areas of refugee settlement, migrant support services, asylum seeker assistance, and multicultural foster care in NSW.

Contact Settlement Services International to enquire or to register with the RESP:

For refugees and asylum seekers in Western Sydney
Level 2, 45-47 Scott Street, LIVERPOOL NSW 2170
Phone: 02 9600 3100

For refugees only in Illawarra
89 Market Street, WOLLONGONG NSW 2500
Phone: 02 8713 9366

Corporate supporters of RESP include:

  • Allianz
  • The AMP Foundation
  • Australia Post
  • Clayton Utz
  • ClubsNSW
  • Crescent Foundation
  • Crescent Wealth
  • First State Super
  • Harvey Norman
  • Henry Davis York
  • NRMA
  • Telstra
  • Transurban
  • Westpac
  • Woolworths


*A Refugee is an individual who holds one of the following permanent visas:

  • Protection Visa (Class XA) (Subclass 866)
  • Refugee Visa (Class XB) (Subclass 200)
  • In-country Special Humanitarian Visa (Class XB) (Subclass 201)
  • Global Special Humanitarian (Class XB) (Subclass 202)
  • Emergency Rescue Visa (Class XB) (Subclass 203)
  • Woman at Risk Visa (Class XB) (Subclass 204)

or has been granted a permanent visa of any subclass by the Minister for Immigration following an application under s.417 of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth).

**An Asylum Seeker is an individual who:

  • has applied to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for one of the visas listed under the definition of Refugee which is yet to be determined; or
  • has applied to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection for one of the following temporary visas:
    • Temporary Protection Visa (Class XD) (Subclass 785)
    • Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (Class XE) (Subclass 790)

which is yet to be determined; or

  • holds one of the following temporary visas:
    • Temporary Protection Visa (Class XD) (Subclass 785)
    • Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (Class XE) (Subclass 790); or
  • has made an application under s.417 or s.48b of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) which is yet to be determined and holds a bridging visa which grants permission to work.
^ Where the refugee or asylum seeker is under the age of 18 years, they must additionally provide evidence of a certified copy of a signed Certificate of Exemption from school.
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