Illawarra-Shoalhaven believes it benefits from its refugee community

18 June 2019

A recent IRIS Research survey of Illawarra and Shoalhaven residents found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents believe that the region benefits from accepting refugees into the community.

The main benefits of refugees in our community that respondents identified included: cultural diversity; workplace skills; different perspectives and life experience. Respondents who believe the Illawarra-Shaolhaven benefits from accept refugees also believe that it makes the area a more vibrant place to live. The costs of welcoming refugees were pressure on housing supply; assimilation; initial settlement costs; social cohesion and welfare costs.

Despite perceived costs and benefits, nine in ten respondents also welcome refugees into their local community.

Respondents were slightly less likely to agree when asked to consider the capacity of the region to accept more refugees compared to the nation. Fifty five percent (55%) of respondents answered either negatively or neutrally towards this question, with males aged 55-64 and LNP voters more likely to have this view. Women aged 24-44 and Green voters were more likely to answer that the Illawarra had capacity to accept more refugees.

Peter Watts, Chief Executive, IRIS Research said: “The survey results show we are welcoming of refugees in our community in the main and want refugee settlement to be successful for the whole community. But we also have concerns about the region’s capacity to settle more refugees at this time.”

When it comes to knowing our refugee facts though, we are on less solid ground. Almost one-third (32%) of respondents believe that refugees are economic migrants – they are not. A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence (UNHCR).

We are split in our knowledge of whether Australia meets its international humanitarian obligations in refugee settlement; only half of all respondents correctly stated that we do. The research also demonstrated that we are not clear on the proportion of refugees we took last year (2018/19) as a proportion of our total immigration program – only 28% correctly answered this question (answer: around 10%), with most (58%) believing it was 5% or less, while one in ten (11%) believing it was one in four immigrants and 3% believing it was 65% of our total annual immigration intake last year.

This #IRISVoxpop coincides with Refugee Week Australia (16-22 June 2019) to encourage community discussion about our perceptions and attitudes towards refugees this week and beyond. To read more detailed findings, click here…

We thank the 210 local residents who completed the survey for their participation and encourage residents to join our local online survey community panel to participate in other surveys in future. https://www.iris.org.au/online-panel/