The Immigration Advice and Rights Centre employed our first worker in March 1985. At that time, we were operating as the Interagency Migration Group (IAMG) and for two years before that we had been meeting as an immigration advice centre steering group and information exchange/provision and policy group. The IAMG consisted of community workers, lawyers, and others, most of whom had had some involvement with immigration casework. The IAMG began out of a need felt by isolated caseworkers to develop a more informed and holistic perspective on immigration issues.
In March 1985, we employed a solicitor jointly funded by the Federal Attorney General’s Department and the NSW Legal Aid Commission, and we set up as an autonomous unit at Macquarie Legal Centre, Parramatta.
The next year, we were able to employ an additional community education worker under 12-month project funding from the Law Foundation of NSW. The grant was used to finalise the contents of the first edition of The Immigration Kit, organise its production and distribution, and apply it to training community workers and lawyers.
In June 1986, we changed our name to the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, and in September 1987 the Centre was incorporated under the NSW Associations Incorporation Act.
We started publishing Immigration News, a newsletter which shared information with the community about everything from changes in immigration law to upcoming community legal education or campaigns and policy work we were involved with. Articles included explainers about the Migration Legislation Amendment Act 1989 and the special benefits and Medicare entitlements available for change-of-status applicants.
Since those early days, we have continued to grow and assist more people every year, but Australia’s immigration system is still difficult to navigate and working to build a fairer immigration system is no easy task.
Throughout the years, we have run drop-in advisory services, given thousands of talks and seminars, worked closely with other community organisations, advocated for policy and law reform, and most importantly, advised and represented hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world.
What has stayed consistent through all these years is the dedication and commitment of our staff and volunteers to creating a fairer immigration system.
As our work has expanded and changed, we’ve divided our organisation into three practice areas – Immigration and Domestic Violence, Visas and Citizenship, and Visa Assist – all of which experience greater demand every year.