Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) Media release

The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) welcomes the Federal Government’s package of reforms announced on Monday designed to address migrant worker exploitation.

The Minister of Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, Andrew Giles committed to introducing three important protections for migrant workers: protection against visa cancellation; flexible visa requirements for future sponsorship visas; and a short-term visa to bring claims for wages they are owed and hold exploitative employers to account.

SCOA has long been advocating for reforms to migrant worker exploitation and visa protections. Led by the Human Rights Law Centre, Migrant Justice Institute and academics at UNSW and UTS, SCOA joined a nationwide coalition of 40 organisations to urge the Federal Government to implement whistleblower safeguards that would empower migrant workers to report instances of exploitation without jeopardising their visa status.

SCOA Chair Melissa Monteiro said: “Adequate safeguards and protections to stamp out exploitation of migrant workers are long overdue and these reforms will empower migrant workers and hold non-compliant employers to account.”

SCOA CEO Sandra Elhelw Wright said: “We are thrilled with this outcome and commend the Government for taking measures to improve conditions for migrant workers. This is an incredible achievement that has been made possible thanks to the tireless campaigning by organisations and individuals dedicated to addressing exploitation.” 

“Settlement services play a crucial role in protecting against migrant worker exploitation. Migrant workers may face language barriers and cultural differences that make it challenging to navigate their rights and seek help. Our network of services provides essential information to migrant workers about their rights, labour laws, and available resources,” Ms Elhelw Wright added.

The new measures will:

  • Make it a criminal offense to coerce someone into breaching their visa condition;
  • Introduce prohibition notices to stop employers from further hiring people on temporary visas where they have exploited migrants;
  • Increase penalties and new compliance tools to deter exploitation; and
  • Repeal section 235 of the Migration Act which actively undermines people reporting exploitative behaviour.

SCOA looks forward to working with the Government on these reforms to ensure all migrants and refugees are free from exploitation. 

About The Settlement Council of Australia 

The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA) is the peak body representing services across Australia supporting new migrants and refugees. We are committed to building an Australia where every migrant and refugee feels at home, together with our membership which is over 115 members strong and counting. We are a trusted source of policy advice, and a thought leader on enhancing the economic and social inclusion of migrants and refugees. The services of our members range from greeting new arrivals at the airport, through to assisting them to secure housing, learn English, make social connections, access services and find their first job. Australia’s settlement services are recognised as being among the best in the world.