ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurs in private and social enterprises: (2015-2017)


Professor J. Collins (UTS), Associate Professor Branka Krivokapic-Skoko, Charles Sturt Uni


ARC Discovery grant, $200,124.

Research Theme

Rural and Regional Communities


This project is led by University of Technology, Sydney.

The humanitarian program is the most controversial aspect of Australian immigration. Humanitarian immigrants are the most disadvantaged cohort of immigrant arrivals and face the greatest settlement difficulties in Australia with one-third of humanitarian entrant settlers remaining unemployed after three years of settlement in Australia.

One pathway to increase humanitarian immigrant employment, reduce socio-economic disadvantage and generate more successful settlement outcomes in humanitarian immigrant communities is the establishment of private and social business enterprises that are owned and/or controlled by humanitarian immigrants. Up to date there has been little contemporary research into 'humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurship' in Australia.

For this project the researchers conducted interviews with key officials of government, NGOs and community organisations whose activities impact on refugee entrepreneurship; and in-depth semi-structured interviews with refugee and humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurs in the private sector and social enterprises run by humanitarian immigrants, in urban and regional areas of all Australian states.

One hundred and fifteen people (83 males and 32 females) refugees  in total who are running their own businesses were interviewed during 15 field trips between April 2016 and October 2017to Adelaide, SA; Wagga Wagga, NSW; Brisbane, Ipswich, Rockhampton, and Logan, Qld; Melbourne, Geelong, and Shepparton, Victoria. The refugees interviewed came from countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Their various businesses are very diverse and include cafĂ©/restaurant/food; child care; clothing; hair/beauty salon; mixed retail; mechanic; accounting; and car wrecking businesses. The researchers found that the type of business run varied from state to state and whether or not the refugees were settled in urban or regional. The researchers also looked at why businesses were set up, their success or otherwise, and cultural networks.

One of the groups interviewed were Hazara refugee entrepreneurs in Adelaide, most of whom were born in Afghanistan and arrived in Australia by boat.

The key findings, detailed in the report From Boats to Businesses: the Remarkable Journey of Hazara Refugee Entrepreneurs in Adelaide, from that group were:

  • Enterprise was embedded within their family, as in other immigrant enterprises in Australia
  • One in three had prior entrepreneurship experience before arriving in Australia
  • The move to entrepreneurship was a new experience driven by necessity
  • They were innovative in attaining business knowledge
  • Finance and lack of social capital a barrier: but years of work and partnership with others (including those they met in detention) overcame this barrier.
  • Entrepreneurship is embedded in the Hazara Community in Adelaide
  • Entrepreneurship is embedded in and contributes to the broader Adelaide community

This research project has provided information for the first time on:

  • the pathways to, and dynamics of, male and female humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurship in SMEs and social enterprises in Australia, including the barriers that they face and strategies used to overcome these barriers;
  • the ways that humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurship is embedded within family and Diasporic [the dispersion or spread of any people from their original homeland] social and business networks at local, national and international levels in private and social enterprises in urban and rural Australia.


Book chapter

Krivokapic-Skoko, B. & Collins, J. (2018) From ‘Attraction Points’ Towards Retention: What do we Know about International Immigrants Who Come to Stay in Non-Metropolitan Australia? In D. Radford,  R. Wilding, A.  Moran and  M. Boese (eds) Rural and Regional Mobilities Report: Exploring the Impact of (Im) Mobilities in Rural and Regional Communities, Hawke EU Centre, University of South Australia, Adelaide, 17-19

Journal Article

Krivokapic-Skoko, B., Reid, C., & Collins, J. (2018). Rural cosmopolitism in Australia. Journal of Rural Studies. 64, November 2018, 153-163

DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2018.01.014


Collins, J., Watson, K. and Krivokapic-Skoko, B. (2017) From Boats to Businesses: the Remarkable Journey of Hazara Refugee Entrepreneurs in Adelaide: Full Report, Centre for Business and Social Innovation, UTS Business School: Sydney.

Collins, J., Watson, K. and Krivokapic-Skoko, B. (2017) From Boats to Businesses: the Remarkable Journey of Hazara Refugee Entrepreneurs in Adelaide: Translated in Dari, Centre for Business and Social innovation, UTS Business School: Sydney

A draft report on the project has been prepared for the ARC.

Conference presentations

J. Collins and B. Krivokapic-Skoko (2018) The (Apparent) Refugee Entrepreneurship Paradox in Australia: Regional and Rural Experiences. XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, 15-21 July 2018

B. Krivokapic-Skoko, J. Collins  and K. Watson (2019) Being Global and Being Regional: African female refugees setting up and running an enterprise in non-metropolitan Australia. XXVIII European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, Trondheim, Norway, 25-28 June 2019

B. Krivokapic-Skoko, D. Radford, H. Soong, R. Roberts and H. Hetz (2019) Exploring the positive impact of refugees in society: Social, cultural and economic contributions of Hazara Afghan humanitarian immigrants in the suburban and regional South Australia. XXVIII European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, Trondheim, Norway, 25-28 June 2019


By providing a detailed understanding of contemporary entrepreneurship involving refugees and humanitarian entrants in private and social enterprises in urban and regional Australia, the project has contributed to the development of theory of Diasporic immigrant entrepreneurship. The project has also identified policy, programs and projects that can assist in the expansion of humanitarian immigrant entrepreneurship in Australia.

This information may lead to:

  • an improvement in existing humanitarian immigrant enterprises
  • the creation of new humanitarian immigrant enterprises in Australia.


A/Prof Branka Krivokapic-Skoko
Charles Sturt University – Bathurst

May 2019