Refugees and asylum seekers

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

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 $34.5 million initiative by the NSW Government, managed by the NSW Department of Education. RESP addresses the challenges that are experienced by refugees in finding long term skilled employment opportunities.

It will assist up to 10,000 refugees across Western Sydney and Illawarra, the areas where a majority of refugees settle in NSW.

Recently the RESP program was extended to 31 December 2023.

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* 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.


Level 2, 45-47 Scott Street, LIVERPOOL NSW 2170
Phone: 02 9600 3100

Ground Floor, 7 William Street, Fairfield, NSW 2165
Phone: 02 8111 7000

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).

^ Where the refugee is under the age of 18 years, they must additionally provide evidence of a certified copy of a signed Certificate of Exemption from school.

Asylum Seeker Employment Skills Support (ASESS)

The Asylum Seeker Employment Skills Support program is an $11.65 million initiative to assist asylum seekers to find employment.

Asylum Seekers face a number of barriers particularly in relation to language and identifying long-term, skilled employment opportunities. As a result, Asylum Seekers experience higher unemployment and lower workforce participation.

This program aims to break down barriers to employment, by providing practical support and assistance to help get a job, securing a brighter future for asylum seekers and their families.

The ASESS program offers a range of initiatives to help participants develop suitable career paths and provide them with the tools required to gain sustainable and skilled employment.

Southern and South Western Sydney Region

Settlement Services International
Phone: +61 (0)2 8799 6700
Street Address: 2/158 Liverpool Road Ashfield NSW Australia 2131

Western Sydney and Blue Mountains Region

Due to unforeseen circumstances HOST International is not able to continue providing services in Western Sydney/Blue Mountains region and Regional NSW.

For clients living in the Sydney Metropolitan area you can seek support from the listed provider above.

The NSW Government is in the process of identifying a suitable Service Provider(s). We will keep you informed of any changes on this website.

The NSW Government's priority is to support the clients in the ASESS program ensuring you can continue your journey in learning new skills and to gain employment.

Support and contact

For any questions about the Asylum Seeker Employment Skills Support (ASESS) program eligibility, please contact your service provider above.

For any enquiries about Asylum Seeker Employment Skills Support (ASESS) please contact


  • Skills
  • VET


  • VET

Business Unit:

  • Training Services NSW
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