Woman reading a picture book with 2 young children
Programs to support refugee students and families begin with early childhood education. © NSW Department of Education and Communities

supporting refugees


In general, refugee students have greater educational and support needs than most other newly arrived migrant students. Most refugee children and young people have had disrupted or no education prior to arrival in Australia. Many have no literacy skills in their first language and in addition may have complex health problems, including mental health issues as a result of their experiences.


School-aged refugee students, in particular high school students, generally require high levels of support to enable them to settle successfully in school, learn English and acquire literacy in order to access the full curriculum.

Schools can provide a safe environment for refugee children and young people and help them settle in their new community. Teachers are often very important in helping young people to recover from refugee experiences.

Many schools have worked hard to raise awareness about refugee issues and develop programs to support refugee children and their families, particularly around Refugee Week in June, annually.

For examples of school-based programs refer to Getting involved: Schools or visit the NSW Department of Education Multicultural Programs Unit.

NSW Department of Education and Communities

The Equity and Multicultural Education team provides a range of programs and initiatives to support the education of refugee students:

  • English as a Second Language (ESL) programs
    • Intensive English Centres (IECs)
    • Rural and regional support for refugees
  • targeted refugee student support in primary and secondary schools
  • homework and tutorial support
  • mentoring support
  • bilingual support
    • School Learning Support Officers (Ethnic)
    • Interpreting and translation services
  • counselling support
  • orientation programs
  • financial support
    • Refugee Student Assistance Scheme
  • professional support for schools
  • professional learning for school based staff
    • Promoting Positive Behaviour and Learning: Assisting Refugee Students at School
    • Teaching Refugees in My Classroom
  • support through community partnerships