Australia has undeniably one of the best refugee settlement programs in the world (Refugee Council of Australia 2002). However, in the haste of designing and implementing these programs we often seek to generalise people’s experiences in order to “get it right”. Our government devotes millions of dollars to the “settlement plan” believing that success in settlement will deliver not only economic benefits to the country but integration into society. As a result, the story of settlement has been packaged and in packaging it much of what is important to the individual and to communities is missed. This study uses a community development action research approach to understand what settlement is from the point of view of a dynamic emerging community in Launceston, Tasmania – the Sierra Leoneans.
This study suggests that success in settlement is dependent on experiences of quality and relevance in settlement services; marginalisation; racism; family conflict; gender issues; employment; and, connection to and participation with the local community. Further, that a successful settlement experience includes effective preparation before arrival in Australia; education of the local community; community capacity building; service delivery based on personal relationships; and, connection to the host community. In voicing the participants’ settlement stories we seek to add to what is known about settlement. This study invites readers to question the necessity of packaging an experience that is said to be a life long journey to a very personal space of self determination, empowerment and freedom.
Launceston, Tasmania, Australia
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