Settling in Australia

The first 5 years of permanent residence in Australia after arrival is generally considered the settlement period. This is a time of adjustment as migrants and new arrivals seek to become oriented, established, integrated and independent in their communities (Home Affairs 2016b). 

The Australian Government funds services to help humanitarian entrants settle in Australia and become participating members of Australian society (Home Affairs 2016a). See Box 1.2. The focus of these services is for the first 5 years of settlement.

Box 1.2: Settlement services

Settlement services available to humanitarian entrants and eligible migrants include:

  • Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program is offered to refugees and humanitarian entrants over the age of 5 years prior to their departure for Australia. AUSCO gives practical advice about the journey to Australia, focusing on travel, on-arrival assistance, practical information on post-arrival settlement services and managing cultural, social and economic expectations. 
  • The Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) supports humanitarian entrants during their initial settlement to integrate into Australian life by helping them build the skills and knowledge they need to become self-reliant and active members of the community.

In recognition of the importance of physical and mental wellbeing to successful settlement, HSP service providers support humanitarian entrants to: 

  • register with Medicare
  • arrange and attend a post-arrival health assessment with a refugee health clinic or general practitioner (GP)
  • register Health Undertakings with the Department of Home Affair's migration medical services provider
  • access physical and mental health services, including the Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (PASTT)
  • complete a health topic as part of the HSP's orientation program to develop the skills and knowledge needed to manage their own health needs beyond the HSP.

In addition to HSP, the following services are also provided to support the settlement of humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants:

  • The Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) providers work to improve clients' understanding of the Australian health system, assisting clients with mental health issues, accessing appropriate counselling services, including torture and trauma and psychological services and providing targeted education on health issues for specific groups (particularly women and young people). Activities also support women in situations of family violence and activities that advance refugee and women’s social and economic inclusion.  
  • Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) is a free service to help refugees, humanitarian entrants and other eligible migrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills and settle in Australia.
  • Free Interpreting Service provides equitable access to key services for people with limited or no English language proficiency. Using interpreters can enable better access to essential services for refugees and humanitarian entrants and is particularly important for conversations about health. 

Humanitarian entrants who arrive with permanent residency visas are immediately eligible to access health care under Medicare, Australia’s universal health insurance scheme. Medicare is a national scheme providing free or subsidised health care services and programs in Australia, including primary health care through bulk-billed GP appointments, as well as public hospital care and subsidised medicines. 

Some additional humanitarian entrant specific services are offered Australia-wide, such as the PASTT. PASTT provides counselling and other specialised support services to help refugees and humanitarian entrants cope with psychological or psychosocial issues arising from their trauma (DHAC 2023). This service is provided free of cost and is funded directly by the Australian Government. The use of this service is not captured by Medicare Benefits Schedule data.

Other services and programs available to humanitarian entrants in Australia may differ by state or territory. Some hospitals and large health centres in states and territories provide services including counselling, advice, referral and health information for local humanitarian communities (Home Affairs 2016a).


Home Affairs (Department of Home Affairs) (2016a) Beginning a Life in Australia: Welcome to Australia, Home Affairs website, accessed 9 June 2023.

Home Affairs (2016b) The National Settlement Framework, Home Affairs website, accessed 27 June 2023.

DHAC (Department of Health and Aged Care) (2023) Program of Assistance for Survivors of Torture and Trauma, DHAC website, accessed 9 June 2023.