Building a New Life in Australia:
The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants

Building a New Life in Australia is a long-term research project about how humanitarian migrants settle into a new life in Australia.

  • This longitudinal study will be conducted over 5 years.
  • It is the first comprehensive study of its kind in more than a decade.
  • Data collection commenced in 2013 and will run until 2018.

The study has been commissioned by the Department of Social Services.

Purpose of the study

The study findings will

  • highlight what helps successful settlement of humanitarian migrants
  • assist in improving program delivery and policies

In the longer term, key findings from the research will be made publicly available and researchers will be able to access the data, upon request, for further analysis. Personal details that could identify participants, or their family, will be removed before researchers have access to the data.

People taking part

More than 1500 families who are building a new life in rural and urban communities around Australia are being asked to take part in the research.

These families (or "migrating units") will have had their status as humanitarian migrants resolved before being invited to take part in the study.

Humanitarian migrants will have experienced trauma and persecution. Many will have spent time in refugee camps or detention centres pending resolution of their status. They will be establishing new lives in unfamiliar surroundings, often with limited support and resources. Their experiences and circumstances will inevitably shape how readily they adapt to their new life in Australia.

Data collection


Recruitment to the Building a New Life in Australia study commenced in 2013 and will continue until February 2014.

The study will follow these individuals and families over five years through their journey to eligibility for citizenship, to understand how their experiences and views change over time.


The survey instrument and participant materials have been translated from English into 14 languages. The survey is administered via a computer tablet (Surface Pro). Participants have the choice to complete a computer assisted self-interview (CASI) with the option of audio support, or a computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) with a bilingual interviewer if required.


Participants are asked questions covering a range of key domains, including demographic information, housing, language proficiency, education, employment and income, pre-migration experiences, health, self-sufficiency, community support, life satisfaction and life in Australia.


Support from organisations who assist newly arrived humanitarian migrants is essential to the success of the research.

As part of the project development, AIFS consulted with key representatives from peak agencies, settlement service providers and community groups. Consultations took place in 2012 and in the lead up to the commencement of data collection in 2013.

The main purposes of this community consultation was to

  • help inform key aspects of the study design and survey content;
  • promote the study to other relevant community groups and organisations; and
  • encourage and support the participation and on-going involvement of families and individuals who are eligible for the study.

Advisory group

An Advisory Group has been established to provide advice and recommendations on the research methodology, survey design and recruitment of participants.

The Advisory Group comprises Commonwealth government officials and experts in refugee resettlement and longitudinal survey research methods and analysis.