Training, Innovation and Exchanges Keep Australian Pre-Departure Programme on Track

AUSCO classes aim to help Australia-bound migrants to become independent and self-sufficient as soon as possible. Photo: IOM 

Bangkok - For over 15 years the Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) programme has played a key role in preparing Australia-bound refugees and humanitarian entrants for a new life down under.

A pre-departure orientation programme delivered by IOM trainers and administered from Bangkok, AUSCO is a 5-day cultural orientation course that prepares people mainly from the Middle East, Southeast Asia, South Asia and Africa, for life in Australia.

It aims to empower those being resettled with essential information about life in their new country, while equipping them with the basic skills and tools needed to deal with initial settlement concerns and challenges that they might face when moving to Australia. The goal is to help beneficiaries achieve independence and self-sufficiency as soon as possible after they arrive.

Since its inception in 2003, over 95,000 beneficiaries have participated in the programme, which is funded by Australia’s Department of Social Services.

The Australian Government remains committed to offering refuge to people displaced by war, conflict and persecution and future generations of refugees will probably also benefit from cost-effective pre-departure orientation.

To ensure high standards in service provision and professionalism, AUSCO teams from across the globe gather to meet once a year to discuss best practices, develop standard operating procedures and improve teaching practices.

The most recent get together took place in Istanbul, Turkey in December 2018 and was IOM’s largest ever pre-departure orientation staff gathering. Participants were given intensive training on improving their interpersonal skills and knowledge of key cultural orientation issues.

Monica Noriega, an IOM specialist in gender-based violence, joined the group to facilitate a half-day workshop on how to integrate gender-based and domestic violence-related topics into class discussions. Other sensitive topics such hygiene and LGBTI issues were also addressed.

AUSCO trainers rely on an innovative curriculum, regular meetings and exchanges with onshore counterparts to ensure relevance. Photo: IOM

AUSCO’s client-centered approach aims to ensure continuous innovation, enabling staff to explore new topics and introduction of the latest teaching methodologies. Effective service delivery is paramount for its success and the trainings provide an opportunity for staff to challenge personal viewpoints, discover new perspectives and explore ways of relating to clients and colleagues with diverse backgrounds.

“Education not only nourishes our minds, but enables us to expand our capabilities, adjust to change, including in our work and personal lives and in the global community, and to take on challenges with more ease and confidence. The more we learn, the more we understand the various aspects any situation, assisting us to analyze it more deeply and to deal with it holistically. Intellectual growth not only benefits ourselves, but also the beneficiaries we are supporting,” says AUSCO Global Coordinator Constanze Voelkel-Hutchison.

AUSCO periodically conducts joint workshops with Australian onshore programme counterparts to exchange ideas and best practices to ensure a seamless transition to life in Australia.  There is also an exchange program between trainers and Australian settlement services caseworkers.

The programme is constantly expanding its range of class resources. To cater to the needs of beneficiaries with difficulties in reading and writing, a new set of training materials - ‘Easy Read’ Student Folders - were recently developed by the Department of Social Services. The materials include information booklets and an activity book that uses visual aids rather than text to help students better understand the curriculum.

The Department of Social Services also produced a DVD in October 2018. Available in 11 languages, An Australian Settlement Journey covers 16 key topics and complements the AUSCO curriculum by introducing the services available to new arrivals in the initial settlement period. Each topic features the real-life experiences of refugees prior to and after their arrival in Australia.

For further information, please contact Constanze Voelkel-Hutchison at IOM Thailand. Email: