November 13, 2018

Making healthcare better for refugees and asylum seekers

Over the past few years, we have welcomed a large influx of refugees and asylum seekers to Melbourne’s north.

In 2017 alone, we welcomed approximately 3,500 new refugee arrivals in the Hume/Whittlesea area.

We know the tragedy, disruption, trauma and torture that underpin the experiences of these people before they arrive in Australia.

Many start life here with a range of health concerns, including mental illness and chronic diseases. Our health system is difficult to navigate, and without knowledge and confidence of health services, many people come to the place they are most familiar with for health care – the hospital.

The Northern Health Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health Study Day in September outlined the latest refugee and asylum settlement data in Whittlesea and Hume catchment areas. It also showcased the support services available and focussed on clinical issues such as the mental health of young refugees, paediatric, general health and infectious diseases.

This included a very personal and moving presentation by an Azari refugee, Pouya. He captivated the audience with his heart-rending story of fleeing Iran following episodes of torture.

Participants commented favourably on his story – “hearing a refugee speak about his experience was absolutely amazing,” and “the refugee guest speaker was great – eloquent and articulate, funny, open and honest.”

Organised by the Northern Health Refugee and Asylum Seeker Working Group, the study day has contributed to making our services more responsive to the needs of this vulnerable community group.

With nearly 100 attendees, the day proved a great success and will now become an annual event.


Photograph left to right: Jason Cirone, Director Transformation, People & Culture, with refugee speaker Pouya.