Law students helping refugees in Australia with immigration and citizenship

by Ray Clancy on May 15, 2017

in Australia Immigration, Education in Australia

Law students in Australia are being paired up with refugee families to help them complete key administrative tasks involved as part of the immigration process.

Filling in forms and checking documents can be hard for people who have left fled their home and when they arrive in Australia there can also be language as well as legal and administrative difficulties.


The students from the University of Wollongong in New South Wales are being paired with refugee families in a pilot project to help them complete important paperwork such as visa and citizenship applications.

They are also helping them with more immediate needs like housing, education and health to make sure their applications are in place.

‘Refugees need greater support navigating the complex immigration process. Once in Australia, refugees need legal advice and legal applications are often interrupted by more immediate needs,’ said Emily Glen of Illawarra Multicultural Services (IMS) which is co-ordinating the project along with Wollongong council.

It is hoped that the programme, Supporting the Unification of Refugee Families (SURF), will also be beneficial for the students who will learn about other cultures, how to work with interpreters and helping people who have often gone through the trauma of conflict in their homeland.

‘Family unification and citizenship are pivotal aspects of the settlement process and that’s the focus of the SURF process,’ added Glen.

One of the university’s law lecturers, Niamh Kinchin, explained that 20 student volunteers will be assisting refugee families, spending one evening a week providing clerical assistance with the completion of forms for family reunification and citizenship.

‘It’s a fantastic opportunity for our students to make a difference to the community and gain valuable skills and experience in the meantime,’ she said.

The Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said it is important to encourage refugees to settle as they bring skills, talents and strength to the city. ‘We have a strong tradition of welcoming refugees into our city and partnering with the University of Wollongong and Illawarra Multicultural Services for the SURF program is our newest contribution to this tradition of welcome,’ he said.

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