Despite the introduction of restrictive policies, Australia benefits from its well-developed comprehensive approach to integration. It is one of the leading countries in the MIPEX ‘Top Ten’, scoring 65 on the MIPEX 100-point scale. In the Top Ten MIPEX countries, integration works well as a two-way process, as citizens and newcomers generally enjoy equal rights, opportunities and security. Australia scores below the traditional destination countries (Canada, New Zealand and US) but above Western European/OECD countries.
To improve Australia should invest in access to basic rights, as it scores slightly below the average MIPEX country, and in labour market policies, which are still slightly unfavorable.
Australia’s comprehensive approach to integration matters because the way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact with and think of each other. Drawing on 130 independent scientific studies using MIPEX, integration policies emerge as one of the strongest factors shaping this two-way process: not only the public’s willingness to accept and interact with immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes and integration outcomes.
For public opinion, granting equal rights, opportunities and security encourages the public to see integration as an opportunity and to treat immigrants as their equals, neighbours and potential citizens. Under inclusive policies like Australia's, immigrants and the public are more likely to interact and feel comfortable with each other as equals.
For immigrants, a country’s approach to integration also shapes how well they think and feel about their new home. Integration policies are integral to the shaping of immigrants’ own attitudes, sense of belonging, political participation and even their health in their new home country.
- Labour market mobility: slightly unfavourable: While most temporary and permanent residents can work in most sectors under the same conditions as Australian citizens, policies delay newcomers from investing in the right jobs and skills with little general and no targeted support.
- Family reunification: slightly favourable: Most immigrant residents have favourable chances to secure their family life as the starting point for their integration in Australia. With few exceptions, temporary and permanent migrants who meet an ‘average’ set of conditions can reunite with their full family who then enjoy equal and slightly secure rights. However, family members can be denied or lose their permit based on a few discretionary grounds depending on their sponsor's status.
- Education: slightly favourable: Ranked in the top 5, all children in Australia have the implicit right to access education. Children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) benefit from specific support to access early childhood education and care (IPSP). Children in Australia also benefit from strong targeted support similar to that of top MIPEX countries.
- Health: slightly favourable: Ranked in the top 10, immigrants in Australia are entitled and able to access healthcare benefits from a system well-adapted to their specific needs. However, immigrants still face some obstacles in accessing healthcare in Australia depending on their legal status.
- Political participation: slightly favourable: Immigrants are encouraged to become civically active through civic information and multiculturalism funds in almost all states and major cities, and at federal level (Diversity and Social Cohesion Program, DSCP). However, major obstacles restrict immigrants from being able to fully participate in the democratic process. For example, immigrants have no right to - or face major restrictions in attempting to - vote in both national and local elections.
- Permanent residence: halfway favourable: Ranked in the bottom 10, Australia's permanent residence policies are less favourable for settlement and integration than most countries. Due to changes introduced in 2018, the required period of continued residence is longer, and the economic requirements are stricter. Permanent residents do not enjoy equal access to social security and assistance.
- Access to nationality: slightly favourable: Permanent residents and spouses of nationals can naturalise after 4 years. Immigrants are encouraged to become citizens through ceremonies (since 1949) and more favourable conditions and procedures than in most countries, where citizenship policy is an area of weakness for integration.
- Anti-discrimination: slightly favourable: Australia’s current federal law only partially covers residents from all forms of racial, ethnic, religious and nationality discrimination, which is prominent in a country of immigration. Victims of discrimination enjoy strong enforcement mechanisms and equality bodies.