Refugee minor program

Refugees under 18 years old and without a parent or guardian are provided with services to help them settle into a new life in Victoria.

Young people who have recently arrived in Victoria as refugees can receive assistance from community service organisations or the refugee minor program delivered by the department.

Children and young people that arrive as refugees without a parent are referred by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to the program. Workers provide support in settling into life in Victoria for both the young person and their carer (until the young person turns 18 years of age).

The refugee minor program supports unaccompanied refugee children and young people from the time they are accepted into the program until:

  • They turn 18
  • They become an Australian citizen
  • They are adopted in an Australian family court, or
  • One or both of their parents arrive in Australia to look after them.

Children and young people in the program come from diverse backgrounds, with more than 30 countries of origin represented and over 15 language groups.

The program assists children and young people with their settlement and establishment into life in their new community.

A Victorian statewide service

Staff are based at department offices in Footscray and Dandenong. Contracted agencies provide case management support throughout regional and rural Victoria.

Program partnerships

Partnerships have been developed with key organisations in the community, allowing them to assist young people and their carers/custodians by linking them to services which seek to develop their settlement skills.

What the program provides for unaccompanied refugee minors

  • Case management services
  • Group work and advocacy
  • Referral pathways.

Case management services assist clients (and their relatives or carers/custodian) to settle in Australia successfully. This includes helping prevent breakdown in care arrangements through early intervention. Services also implement proactive measures to assist families who are caring for these young people. Clients receive care and support from their case manager, who helps them to access services and programs, such as:

  • Supporting family and care arrangements
  • Helping young people access health services and counselling
  • Locating missing relatives through the use of tracing services
  • Negotiating Centrelink payments and assistance with managing finances
  • Linking young people to education, training and/or employment pathways
  • Linking the client with appropriate services to provide assistance with sponsoring relatives overseas to enter and stay in Australia (where appropriate/possible)
  • Assisting clients to access sporting, recreational, cultural, religious and social activities
  • For unaccompanied humanitarian minor wards with no close family members able to take responsibility and care for them, the department, through the program, can act on behalf of their guardian, the Commonwealth Minister
  • Mentoring and support at school.

Brief history of the Refugee minor program

The Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946 (IGOC Act) was enacted to provide support for unaccompanied refugee children entering Australia through the Federal Government’s humanitarian program. It was introduced to provide a legal status for children who would otherwise have had no legal guardian.

In 1972, the Commonwealth Government began delegating the guardianship responsibilities of unattached refugee minors under the IGOC Act to State welfare authorities. This function was then performed by the Victorian refugee child care program.

In 2006, the refugee minor program became a statewide program under Family records and intercountry services within the department.