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2.2.18 Unaccompanied Humanitarian Minors

Last Modified: 24-Mar-2022 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation


An unaccompanied humanitarian minor (UHM) is a child under 18 years of age who enters Australia without a family member to care for them.  Upon arrival in Australia the UHM is placed under the guardianship of the Minister for Home Affairs.

In some cases, the Minister for Home Affairs may delegate the guardianship of an UHM to the Department of Communities (the Department) through an 'Australian Government delegation' under the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) (IGOC) Act 1946.  The Minister contacts the CEO to request that they accept delegated guardianship. 

This normally occurs when a 'nominated custodian' (or carer) has offered or has been nominated by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) to care for the UHM.  The Department must assess this person and the potential care arrangement and determine whether to accept guardianship.

A UHM is not a child in the CEO's care as defined in the Children and Community Services Act 2004

When an 'Australian Government delegation' is agreed and the Department accepts delegated guardianship, we provide the same level of case management and support to the UHM as is provided to children in the CEO's care on behalf of the DHA.

Note:  CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

  • You must assist nominated UHM custodians and others living in the home to undergo Department record checks, criminal record checks and Working With Children (WWC) checks. These checks must be cleared before delegated guardianship is accepted.  Refer to Chapter 4.1 Record checks and the Working with Children Check for specific information.

  • You must provide the same level of case management and support to the UHM as is provided to children in the CEO's care.

  • If any significant issues or changes arise in the UHM's circumstances, you must notify the:

    • UHM Network Officer (UHM Officer) and the

    • Principal Policy and Planning Officer Cultural Diversity, Professional Practice Unit. 

Information and Instructions

  • Referral and allocation process
  • Assessment of UHM custodians
  • Support to custodians and UHMs
  • Recording a UHM on Assist
  • Obtaining identity documentation for unaccompanied humanitarian minors
  • Planning and reporting requirements
  • Submitting a request for a service extension under the UHM programme
  • Notification of case closure
  • Referral and allocation process

    Requests from DHA in relation to UHMs are made in writing to the CEO.  Requests may be one of three types:

    • a UHM who arrived in Australia with a carer identified by DHA and that carer has previously signed a care undertaking with DHA

    • a request for assessment of a nominated custodian identified by DHA as willing to care for an UHM who is already in Australia, or

    • a request that the Department identify an appropriate care arrangement for a UHM.

    UHM requests are processed in the following manner:

    Initially, DHA contacts the prospective custodian and undertakes a preliminary assessment interview.

    1. DHA sends a request for carer assessment or delegation of guardianship of a UHM to the CEO.

    2. The request is directed to the Principal Policy and Planning Officer Cultural Diversity (PPPO) based in the Specialist Child Protection Practice Unit (SCPU).  The PPPO processes the request and refers it to the relevant district office for allocation.

    3. The district office conducts the carer assessment, and forwards it to the PPPO.

    4. The PPPO determines the cost sharing arrangements in line with the current costing model and prepares a recommendation for the CEO's approval.

    5. Where the CEO accepts guardianship of an UHM, the PPPO notifies the relevant district, and forwards copies of correspondence to DHA confirming acceptance of guardianship.

    Although the CEO has the delegated guardianship of the UHM, the Minister for Home Affairs retains guardianship and ultimate responsibility for the UHM.


    Assessment of UHM custodians

    Nominated UHM custodians must undergo Department record checks, WWC checks and an assessment. Refer to Chapter 4.1. Record checks and the Working with Children Check for details.

    For UHMs up to and including 15 years of age at the time of the DHA delegation request, the assessment should be undertaken according to practice set out in Chapter 3.1 Family or significant other care.

    For UHMs who are 16 or 17 years old at the time of the DHA delegation request, the assessment should be undertaken as a 'Private Living Arrangement' assessment—a streamlined assessment process focusing on the needs of the young person for support toward independence and settlement in Australia.  For more information about this process refer to Guidelines for UHM Private Living Arrangement Assessment (16 and 17 years old).

    If a nominated custodian has not formally signed for their appointment as custodian with DHA when referred to Department:

    • the PPPO, by phone and in writing, should contact and remind them of the assessment and custodianship appointment processes

    • you must provide the relevant DHA information forms to the nominated custodian, and

    • you must request that they sign their appointment as custodians.

    If the nominated custodian declines their appointment the assessment must not proceed. 

    You must advise the PPPO, who in turn, must advise DHA.

    Where the Department is requested to identify an appropriate care arrangement, you must apply the Child Placement Principle when placing children from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds. For details refer to Chapter 3.4 Child placement principle.


    Support to custodians and UHMs

    Approved custodians of UHMs aged 15 years and under at the time of the DHA delegation request are eligible for a foster care subsidy to support the care arrangement.  Information on the subsidy application process is available in Chapter 3.5 Case management costs - basic subsidy provisions.  UHM custodians are also entitled to a Maintenance Allowance (MA) that is provided by the Commonwealth.  This MA is paid concurrently with the foster care subsidy until the child reaches 16 years of age.

    Custodians of UHMs who are 16 and 17 years of age at the time of the DHA delegation request should not receive a foster care subsidy, as the young person is entitled to Centrelink benefits, and financial arrangements must be negotiated between the UHM and the custodian for their living costs. 

    A UHM and their custodian may be entitled to services under the Humanitarian Settlement Program or the Settlement Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program (SGP) 

    You should liaise with the HSP or SGP provider located in your district to check which services are available.

    UHMs requiring immigration-related legal information should be referred to their allocated HSP or SGP worker; they will direct them to the most appropriate community or legal organisation.


    Recording a UHM on Assist

    Record UHM cases on Assist as follows:

    Upon intake:

    Primary issue: “Child Protection”

    • Child of Concern - Issue: “Transfer of Guardianship”
    • Detail: “Unaccompanied Minor”

    Upon acceptance of guardianship:

    • Period of Care – Reason: “No Guardian”
    • Order type - “Australian Gov’t Delegation”

    Relevant identity information:

    Details tab

    You must record available Identity Types, for example, Medicare or Health Care Card numbers, passport number, etc.

     Immigration tab           

    You must record the child's Immigration and Visa details.           

    Refer to Assist User Guide – Update a Person's Information


    Obtaining identity documentation for unaccompanied humanitarian minors

    Refugee children, including UHMs, may have arrived in Australia without identification documents other than a travel document issued by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) overseas mission.

    If the child is in the CEO's care under a Children's Court order or under an Australian Government Delegation (UHM) where the CEO is the delegated guardian, the DIBP can release identity documents directly to the Department on request. A request should be sent on Department letterhead with a copy of the supporting documentation.

    In some instances, you may have to pursue the following options to obtain identity documents:

    Seek the release of any existing identification documents, or copies thereof, via Freedom of Information to the DIBP.  Download the DIBP Form 424A Request for access to documents or information (link also in related resources). The request should include a copy of any documents provided at the time of the child or parent's overseas application.

    Request identification documents from the child's country of origin through the country's diplomatic representation.  Information about embassies can be accessed through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Foreign Embassies and Consulates page. 

    Before you use this option, consult with the child and family concerned as contact with their country of origin, even through diplomatic channels, may place any relatives who remain in the country in danger due to ongoing civil war and/or conflict.



    Planning and reporting requirements

    You must develop care plans and cultural support plans for UHMs aged 15 years and under, and provide copies of the Quarterly Care Reports to the UHM Contact Officer via email:  The UHM Contact Officer can also be contacted via:

    UHM and Guardian Section

    Child Wellbeing Branch

    Health Services Policy and Child Wellbeing Division

    Department of Home Affairs

    Ph:  02 6122 5523 


    When developing a health care plan, be aware that children entering Australia under the humanitarian program are generally required to attend an assessment with the Humanitarian Entrant Health Service (HEHS).  You should inform the relevant community or school health nurse of the HEHS assessment. 

    Contact the HEHS to notify them that you are the contact person for all necessary HEHS correspondence for the period the UHM's guardianship is delegated to the Department.

    Under the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Regulations 2001, custodians must notify the Department about any serious incidents involving a UHM in their care.  

    This information must be passed on to the Department's PPPO.

    The PPPO must advise DHA by email: immediately.



    Submitting a request for a service extension under the UHM programme

    In order to improve settlement outcomes, the Department may request an extension of case management arrangements for those UHMs whom it considers will benefit from continued support after meeting a requirement to exit — for example, turning 18 years of age, becoming an Australian citizen, or having a parent arrive in Australia.

    There is no set format for extension requests; an email outlining the reasons is sufficient.  If the need for an extension of case management for a particular UHM is identified, you must email the UHM Contact Officer for WA  to outline the rationale for the request at least one month before the UHM’s scheduled exit date. 

    For more information about this process refer to Tip Sheet: How to submit a request for a service extension under the UHM programme

    UHMs are also entitled to financial assistance through the Federal Government’s Transition to Independent Living Allowance (TILA).  The TILA is managed by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and enables eligible young people to buy material goods or access opportunities that support their transition to independent living.  TILA is generally accessed through our funded leaving care services on behalf of young people leaving care.   More information about this process is available on the TILA website.


    Notification of case closure

    UHMs cease to be wards of the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection upon:

    • reaching 18 years of age
    • becoming Australian citizens
    • leaving Australia permanently, or
    • being reunited with their parents or placed in the care of a relative as defined under the Migration Act 1958. 

    In these cases, the Department should consider closing its involvement with the UHM.

    The PPPO must be notified of allocation and case closure dates for all UHMs.