Global study to track the educational experiences of resettling refugees

A leading Western Sydney University education researcher will contribute to a global study that is set to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of Government resettlement policies for refugees.

Professor Carol Reid, from the School of Education at Western Sydney University, will work with Professor Jock Collins from the University of Technology Sydney and Dr Dimitria Groutsis from the University of Sydney on the 'Settlement outcomes of Syrian-conflict refugee families' project.

The project has been announced as a recipient of a prestigious Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project grant, valued at $450,000 over three years.

250 refugee families will be interviewed each year for the duration of the study – with the aim of tracking their experiences with education, employment, social inclusion and integration in Australia.

Professor Reid says the NSW Government has responded to the post-Syrian conflict refugee crisis by investing $146 million dollars into refugee resettlement programs.

"Families are moving into areas of the state that are already equipped with refugee support services; community hubs are being established to support refugee women and their children; and schools are being equipped with refugee health screening, intensive English language classes and transition support programs," says Professor Reid.

Professor Reid says it is important to evaluate these kinds of policies and interventions, as they all have a direct impact on the lived experience of refugees – including how supported they feel, and how quickly they come to feel a sense of belonging in Australia.

"Multicultural Education has always focused on a two-way process of preparing local schools as well as providing programs for new arrivals. We hope to document the new ways in which this is being achieved," says Professor Reid.

"We need to look at what schools are doing to create a supportive and open environment for refugee students, and we need to consider – irrespective of all of the support systems that are put in place – how the arrival of refugee families will provide opportunities, as well as challenges, that lead to innovation."

In Australia, study participants will be recruited from regions with high refugee populations, including Auburn, Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool in Western Sydney; regional areas of NSW such as the Illawarra and Newcastle; Dandenong, Sunshine, Broadmeadows and St Albans in Victoria; and Logan and Inala in Queensland.

The Western Sydney University component of the study will focus on education – from the opportunities that refugees are afforded in schools and TAFE, to their individual experiences in classrooms.

This will involve meeting with key stakeholders from schools, including English-language teachers and special assistant principals assigned to liaise between schools and refugee communities. With the permission of parents, Professor Reid will also speak directly to children in their homes about their experiences and sense of belonging within their schools.

The global nature of the project comes into play when the researchers compare the domestic outcomes of the study with the social, educational and employment experiences of refugee families in the UK, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Germany and New Zealand.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with community organisations Settlement Services International (SSI) in NSW, Access Community Services (Qld), AMES Australia (Vic) and MDA Ltd (Qld).

The international collaborators are the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Germany; Massey University, New Zealand; the Malmo Institute for Studies of Diversity and Welfare, Sweden; the Canadian department of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship; and the Migration Institute of Finland, and the Home Office in the UK.