Supporting refugee students

There are more than 11,000 students from refugee backgrounds in NSW public schools. Approximately 1,800 newly arrived refugee students enrol each year.

The number of refugee students enrolling in NSW schools reflects Australia's humanitarian program intake. During recent years this number has increased significantly as a result of Australia’s commitment to resettling 12,000 additional refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Ukraine.

Students from refugee backgrounds are mainly enrolled in metropolitan schools but there are also significant numbers in schools in Albury, Armidale, Coffs Harbour, Newcastle, Wagga Wagga and Wollongong,

Refugees in Australia

People seeking Australia’s protection can apply from offshore through Australia's Refugee and Humanitarian Program as refugees or under the Special Humanitarian Program.

People can apply for protection as asylum seekers, if already in Australia, under our obligations as a signatory to the United Nations 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its amendment, the United Nations 1967 Protocol. They may have arrived in Australia on another type of visa, or without valid travel documents.

Some people who have had refugee-like experiences enter Australia as permanent residents through the Family Migration Program. They are not recognised as refugees and are therefore not eligible for the same level of resettlement support.

Additionally, some people may have entered Australia as refugees or asylum seekers in the past and subsequently become Australian citizens.

Find out more about refugees, their journeys and their experiences of resettlement in Australia on the website Roads to Refuge.

Impact of refugee experiences

Refugees are people who have fled their homelands due to persecution, threat or danger in their country of origin, usually as a result of civil unrest or war. They may have experienced trauma, torture, loss of family members, or have been confined in refugee camps or urban areas on their journey to asylum.

Resettlement in Australia, and the difficulties associated with settling into a new community, learning a new language, finding permanent accommodation and stable employment, can be challenging.

The impact of refugee experiences on students and families is significant.

They may have:

  • experienced danger, uncertainty and trauma
  • disrupted or limited formal education and therefore low literacy skills in their first language
  • complex emotional, mental or physical health problems.

As a result, students from refugee backgrounds may have greater educational and support needs than other newly arrived students.

Further information about the impact of refugee trauma on children and young people can be found at STARTTS, a non-profit organisation that provides specialist trauma counselling for survivors of torture and trauma and professional support and advice for organisations working with them.


  • DoE

Business Unit:

  • Educational Standards
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