"The group is fantastic. I keep getting tears from thinking what they’re doing for us, it’s something unbelievable, it keeps making me cry… From the bottom of my heart, I thank Australia and I thank the group. I’ve never experienced such kindness, such human love, such a humanitarian way. The feeling is fantastic… It’s like, if someone has a new baby, how much they are happy, that’s how happy we are… We used to live in a very dangerous place in Syria. But thanks to God we are in Australia now and we are safe. You are all such good people. I would like to go up on the roof of the highest building and scream in a loud voice - you are all the best people."
The project in brief
The project is implemented by Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia, supported by the Australian Department of Home Affairs. It began in July 2022 and the pilot is due to conclude at the end of June 2025.
CRSA and the Australian government are partnering in designing and delivering CRISP, an innovative community sponsorship program that harnesses the knowledge, networks, and resources of groups of everyday Australians and local communities to welcome refugees to Australia. Refugees are matched with Community Supporter Groups based on their individual characteristics and aspirations.
Launched in mid-2022 as a four-year pilot, CRISP provides a dedicated settlement pathway for up to 1,500 UNHCR-referred refugees with no known family links to settle in Australia.
The overarching program goal of CRISP is to create a successful community-led settlement program that delivers optimal settlement outcomes for refugee newcomers and the communities in which they settle.
Other key goals of CRISP include:
- Drive optimal social and integration outcomes for refugees in Australia.
- Empower local communities to become local knowledge holders and leaders in providing settlement support to refugees.
- Provide opportunities for communities across Australia to settle refugees in their local area, and ensure they are supported to build capacity and agency to do this.
- Ensure support that refugees receive is informed by and empowers them to achieve their individual and family aspirations and encourages independence from those providing the support.
- Enable refugees to experience a sense of welcome, belonging, and rich social connection with established members of their local community, leading to strong social capital.
- Facilitate refugees to readily participate fully in the Australian economy.
©Bass Coast Refugee Supporter Group
Main activities of the Good Practice
Five or more adult volunteers come together to form a CSG and apply to be part of CRISP. CSGs undertake fundraising and develop a settlement plan. They provide 12 months of practical, hands-on, and holistic support to a newly arrived refugee household from their date of arrival in Australia.
CSGs are mobilised, screened, trained, supported, and monitored by CRSA.vCRSA match each CSG with a refugee household. CRSA also provides training and ongoing support to CSGs. This includes organising Community of Practice forums, the facilitation of peer networks, additional training forums where relevant, and ad hoc settlement coaching and advice. CRSA also runs a digital knowledge hub to support ongoing learning among CSGs.
Ongoing data collection, monitoring, and analysis, led by independent evaluators. Findings are discussed at bi-annual findings workshops to support ongoing learning and continuous improvement throughout the duration of the pilot.
Elements that have facilitated the implementation of CRISP included:
- Strong and genuine partnership between CRSA and the Australian government’s Department of Home Affairs in co-designing and implementing CRISP, including problem solving to address emerging challenges, and a commitment to continuous learning and improvement.
- A strengths-based approach, through which refugee agency, capacity, autonomy, and ability are respected and supported.
- The ability of CRISP to harness the skills, resources and generosity of everyday Australians and their local communities.
- A placed-based approach, allowing any local community to ‘opt in’ and an emphasis on leveraging local knowledge, services, and networks.
- An intentionally tailored and individualised approach to each refugee newcomer and Community Supporter Group (CSG). This is informed by: (i) a pre-matching assessment CRSA conducts with each refugee household before they travel to Australia to optimise robust matching between refugee participants and CSGs (ii) pre-arrival contact between refugee households and CSGs, allowing CSGs to tailor their pre-arrival planning to the individual household's needs, priorities, aspirations, and strengths and providing an opportunity for expectations of both parties to be discussed.
- An intentional approach to incorporating age, gender, diversity, and disability approaches in matching as well as ongoing training and support to CSGs.
- An emphasis on refugee agency and dignity in the design and implementation of CRISP which allows the newcomers to share and enrich local communities in Australia with their culture, food, stories, strengths, and skills as opposed to being positioned as passive beneficiaries of support.
- Dedicated government funding to build the systems, processes and tools required for a new community sponsorship program in Australia as well as ‘safety net’ support.
- A robust monitoring and evaluation framework, commissioned by the Australian government and led by an independent team at the University of Queensland, which feeds into continuous improvement by CRSA and the Department.
- Australian Department of Home Affairs
- Community Support Groups
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
Some of the key challenges include:
- Complexities faced by some refugee newcomers due to pre-existing physical and psychosocial health issues, including trauma from prolonged displacement. These can sometimes test the confidence, skills, and willingness of local CSGs to navigate such challenges.
- Differing expectations between refugee participants and CSG pre-arrival. For example, many refugee participants express a strong preference to be settled in a major city, and some CSGs express a preference to welcome a household with a specific faith background. This has posed challenges for matching refugee groups with CSGs.
- In some regional locations, settlement has been more of a challenge, particularly with fewer public services, transportation challenges, and lack of proximity to diaspora communities.
- Secondary migration – while relocation of refugees to a different location is generally accepted in Australia and globally as a normal expression of refugee self-determination, the impact on receiving CSGs and their broader communities has the potential to involve significant upset and judgment.
How they were overcome
Although these challenges are ongoing, the strong and genuine partnerships between CRSA, the Australian government, as well as with each CSG has been instrumental as all parties work collaboratively towards finding solutions. This was particularly important in the early days of CRISP, as everyone worked together to test a new model of settlement that had never been implemented before in Australia. There is also a commitment to continuous reflection and improvement, supported by early investment in independent evaluation and monitoring of the pilot.
Recognising that local communities are local knowledge holders and are best placed to leverage available resources to support to refugee newcomers, CRSA has also prioritised fostering peer-to-peer connections between CSGs around Australia. This has enabled them to share experiences, successes, challenges, and tips/lessons learned as they support refugee newcomers. Additionally, CRSA has also continued to provide ongoing coaching and training to CSGs where needed, with emphasis on the self-reliance of refugee newcomers and intersectional approaches in responding to settlement needs.
© Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia (CRSA)
Results of the Good Practice
- More than 320 refugees have arrived in Australia, welcomed by CSGs across Australia
- High level of satisfaction among refugee newcomers about the support being received
- High level of satisfaction from CSGs about their experience
- Refugee newcomers forming positive social connections with the CSG and with broader community members
- Strong settlement and employment outcomes
- Settlement 'clusters' forming around the country
- New CSGs being created, inspired by the example of other households getting involved in welcoming others
An independent evaluation by the University of Queensland of CRISP outcomes so far show that:
- 98% of refugees have reported that their culture is valued by others
- 88% of refugees reported that they find it easy to get help from their community
- 92% of community volunteers saying that supporting a refugee household has provided them with a sense of purpose
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
A key goal of CRISP is to ensure that the support refugee newcomers receive is informed by and empowers them to achieve their individual and family aspirations. Integral to the design and implementation of CRISP is that the program encourages the independence of refugee newcomers from those providing the support.
Objective 3: Expand access to third-country solutions
As a community sponsorship initiative, CRISP is an important and welcome step towards more fully engaging the broader Australian community in contributing to Australia’s resettlement efforts.
Age, gender, disability, and diversity considerations feature heavily in the implementation of CRISP – specifically in the matching of refugee newcomers to CSGs, as well as in the training and ongoing support and coaching provided by CRSA to CSGs. Through these processes, the CRSA team supports CSGs to understand and identify the barriers that refugee newcomers can face because of their intersectional identities. CSGs are supported to work with refugee newcomers to identify and leverage resources to address these challenges. For example, CRSA has also drawn upon the skills and support of CSG members with lived or professional experience of disability, or who are from the LGBTIQA+ communities. CRSA has also partnered with the Forcibly Displaced People’s Network to introduce additional training that specifically addresses the needs of LGBTIQA+ refugees.
The CRISP will conclude on 30 June 2025, and the Australian Government, supported by an evaluation from the University of Queensland, will consider options going forward.
Are there areas in which support would be required to continue and/or scale up your good practice?
The CRISP is a genuine partnership between civil society and the Australian government.
The Australian government and CRSA will continue to learn from international colleagues working with similar programs and contribute its knowledge to expand the international knowledge base. Particular areas of focus will include:
- Ensuring appropriate support for individuals and families with complex needs, including LGBTIQA+ refugees
- Refining best practice with respect to matching refugee participants with local groups
- Managing sponsor expectations and secondary migration.