​Pathways to active citizenship

Refugee youth and their transition from school to further education, training and employment


Why conduct this study?

Young people from refugee backgrounds have enormous potential to enhance our nation but they often face unique challenges to complete higher education or training and find employment. Improving education and employment outcomes is important for both the individuals concerned and the broader community as young people’s participation in education and employment directly affects their social, cultural and economic contribution to society


What is the study about?

The study will explore education and employment outcomes among young people from refugee backgrounds aged between 15 and 24 years. The study will also identify the facilitators and barriers to successful transition from school into further education and employment, assess the extent of youth and family awareness of education, training and employment pathways, and identify available support systems.


Who will conduct the study?

A group of researchers from the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide will conduct this study in partnership with our industry partner Multicultural Youth South Australia (MYSA) and research partner Australian Migrant Resource Centre (AMRC). 


Who will take part in the study?

600 young people aged between 15 and 24 years from the Middle East (Afghanistan Iran, Iraq), South Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar/Burma, Pakistan) and Africa (Sudan Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo) who have migrated, or whose parents had migrated, to Australia during or after 2002 will be invited to participate in the study. Parents and school teachers will also be invited to participate in the study.

How will young people be referred to the study?

Schools, community groups and organisations with extensive contact with refugee populations will refer young people to the study who in turn will refer their peers and friends to the study.
The research will also be widely promoted through ethnic community leaders, community events and community media, using brochures, flyers, letters, and a “Call for Volunteers Sheet”.

More Details
Project summary

Project duration: July 2015 - December 2019

Young refugees account for about half of Australia’s humanitarian intake. They have enormous potential to enhance our nation but they face distinctive challenges to complete higher education or training and find employment. The youths’ successful emergence as fully participating Australian citizens is desirable both for our society and for the individuals concerned as it directly affects their permanent cultural, social and economic contribution to the nation at large.

This study focuses on improving education and employment outcomes among refugee youth aged 15-24, with a view to influencing education, training and employment policy and practice. In partnership with Adelaide University and Australia’s leading refugee youth settlement agency, and in collaboration with the refugee community, this research fills a vital gap in this field while also informing policy and practice to improve long-term employment opportunities.

The project will be a mixed-methods investigation. A cross-sectional questionnaire will assess education and employment issues and outcomes and individual interviews will provide context-rich data on key issues relevant to education and employment outcomes – in particular, pathways to work and further education and youth perceptions of problems and needs. The data will be collected from three sets of informants: youth, their parents or primary caregivers and their school teachers. The study will target refugee youth from three migration regions: the Middle East (Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq), South Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar/Burma, Pakistan) and Africa (Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo).

The research is expected to bridge the gap that is often left between research, policy, and practice. While Australia’s growing cultural diversity has given rise to a range of policies and plans that recognise the importance of social inclusion and participation, research continues to trail policy and practice, particularly in relation to youth. The study findings anticipated to lead to a sustainable improvement in the employability of young refugees by providing policy analysts and decision-makers in the education, training, and employment sectors with information about a high profile yet under-researched population group.

South Australia provides a broadly representative sample of refugee youth since it takes a disproportionate share of refugee-humanitarian settlers. Basing the study in SA will allow the researchers considerable depth to investigate state and local as well as federal influences, with the findings of direct relevance to other States and Territories.

Chief Investigators

A/Professor Tahereh Ziaian

Professor Maureen Dollard

Dr Helen Barrie

Professor Adrian Esterman

Dr Helena de Anstiss 


Partner Investigator: 
Ms Tamara Stewart-Jones

Research Associate:
Dr Teresa Puvimanasinghe

Research Assistants:
Dr Ali Afsharian

PhD Candidate:
Ms Emily Miller

Partner Organisations
Multicultural Youth South Australia (MYSA)

Australian Migrant Resource Centre (AMRC)

Funding Organisations
Australian Research Council – Linkage Scheme (ARC_L)
​Multicultural Youth South Australia