In particular, it says more government funding is required to tailor settlement services to individual refugees and their families, and to bring together multiple services in central locations where there are high concentrations of refugees.
The review is significant because most of the 18,750 refugees who come to Australia each year under the United Nations-assisted humanitarian resettlement program will require some form of assistance to learn English, find a job, receive welfare payments and obtain a Medicare card.
Refugees generally struggle to find work once they arrive in Australia. A recent paper by Deloitte Access Economics found the unemployment rate in the five years post-arrival was 31.9 per cent, but this improved to 18 per cent after 10-15 years.
Outcomes were also much better for second generation refugees: children of refugee parents had employment and workforce participation rates similar to the general population.
Sources with knowledge of the final report said it advocated a place-based approach to providing services, because refugees so often settled in particular districts or postcodes.
It was not clear how that would square with the Morrison government’s preferred approach of encouraging more migrants and refugees to settle in regional areas, as part of a bid to ease congestion in the major cities.
The Centre for Policy Development, which contributed to the Shergold review, pointed out large numbers of refugees settled in a handful of council areas such as Fairfield and Liverpool in Sydney, and Hume and Greater Dandenong in Melbourne.
It argued for devolving power away from Canberra to local agencies, while consolidating bureaucratic oversight of refugee resettlement into a single independent agency attached to the Department of Social Services.
The Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age made multiple requests for the review over several months, but the government has refused to release it.
Professor Shergold was once Australia’s most senior public servant as secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in the 2000s. He is now chancellor of Western Sydney University and has advised governments on numerous refugee issues including the settlement of 12,000 Syrian refugees in a special intake.
He was joined on the review panel by veteran refugee consultant Margaret Piper and the chief executive of Multicultural Development Australia, Kerrin Benson.
Last week Labor’s assistant spokesman for immigration Andrew Giles accused the Morrison government of “treating the public with contempt, as well as letting down refugees and our communities” by keeping the review a secret.
Michael Koziol is a political correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.