Australian Minister Visits 1,000th Cultural Orientation Class for Australia-Bound Refugees in Thailand

Mae La, Thailand (26/4) – At the Mae La temporary shelter in Thailand’s Tak Province, Australian Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Andrew Giles, took part in the 1,000th cultural orientation class for Australia-bound refugees and humanitarian entrants in the country. 

Since 2006, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been implementing the Australian Cultural Orientation (AUSCO) program in Thailand, equipping participants with information and tools to adapt with more ease culturally, socially and economically in their new communities.

Usually delivered over five days, the course’s content includes travel to Australia, education, employment, health, housing, law and services, among others, and is tailored to meet the specific needs of participants, considering age, gender, literacy and education levels.

At the class of 14 people, Minister Giles joined a series of activities in which beneficiaries displayed their newly gained knowledge, demonstrating their skills in introducing themselves and greeting others in English and the importance of body language, such as eye contact and handshakes, in interaction.

“I am incredibly proud that we will soon be welcoming you with open arms,” expressed Minister Giles to the participants. “I do not want you to feel nervous or anxious. This class is providing you good preparation to start your new lives in Australia.” He congratulated participants on their achievements by presenting certificates of course completion, and in turn received tokens of appreciation from attendees: drawings symbolizing their vision of what life in Australia might be like.

“We were truly honoured that Minister Giles could join us today for this remarkable milestone for AUSCO in Thailand, while gaining insight into the hopes and fears of Australia-bound beneficiaries,” reflected Constanze Voelkel-Hutchison, AUSCO Global Coordinator. “The successful completion of 1,000 classes would not have been possible without our dedicated trainers. Their commitment and care to support each participant in line with their personal needs has been the foundation of AUSCO.”

Minister Giles was accompanied by a delegation from the Australian Embassy and the Department of Home Affairs during his visit to Mae La – the largest of nine temporary shelters along the Thailand-Myanmar border which currently hosts roughly 34,000 refugees, predominantly of the Karen ethnicity. Since 2004, IOM Thailand has supported the resettlement of over 16,000 refugees to Australia, making it the second top resettlement destination from Thailand.

Established in 2003, AUSCO has now reached over 125,000 individuals through classes in 16 permanent and over 50 mobile locations across South-East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Central and South America.

For more information, please contact: 

Constanze Voelkel-Hutchison, AUSCO Global Coordinator (

Miko Alazas, Media and Communications Officer (