Guardianship - The Role of the Refugee Minor Program

The Immigration Guardianship of Children Act 1946 Cth (IGOC Act) governs the legal status of unaccompanied humanitarian minors (UHM). Under the IGOC Act, Department of Immigration and Border Protection determines whether or not an unaccompanied humanitarian minor falls under the legal guardianship of the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection.

Unaccompanied humanitarian minors who are deemed to fall under the guardianship of the Minister of Immigration and Border Protection are regarded as wards. The Minister delegates his function as guardian of wards to officers in the Department of Immigration and Border Protection and relevant child welfare authorities in each state and territory, and relevant child welfare authorities in each state and territory. In Victoria, the relevant child welfare authority is the Department of Human Services; and the department's Secretary has delegated guardianship function (departmental officers are identified in the instrument of ‘Immigration Guardianship of Children’ Delegation).

In Victoria, there are three different types of unaccompanied clients:

1. UHM Non-wards

Non-wards are young people who have a close relative in Australia over the age of 21, who is able to accept care and responsibility for them.

2. UHM Wards

Wards are young people who do not have a close relative (over 21 years of age) living in Australia that is able to accept care and responsibility for them.

3. Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors

Unaccompanied asylum seeking minors are children and young people under the age of 18, who enter Australia without parents and without having been granted a visa before their arrival in Australia.

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