victorian refugee health network

~ July 2016 e-Bulletin ~

               Click on the links to the right to scroll down =>


Photo: Shutterstock

Humanitarian Arrivals in Melbourne: A Spatial Analysis of Population Distribution and Health Service Needs

A new report maps demographic data of humanitarian entrants in Victoria against the locations of health service provision.
This report describes the spatial distribution of recent humanitarian arrivals across metropolitan Melbourne, provides detailed information on visa categories within locations, countries of birth, languages spoken and changes to settlement patterns over time, and provides spatial analysis of the availability of bilingual GPs. 


The Humanitarian Arrivals and Health Services (HAHS) research project was developed in response to a lack of available evidence and demographic data on humanitarian entrants within Victoria. Population movements are creating demands that have not been quantified or assessed, and evidence is needed to better inform future service planning.


The HAHS project was conducted by a research team at the McCaughey VicHealth Community Wellbeing Unit, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne, in partnership with the Department of Health and Human Services. A Research Advisory Group contributed insights, guidance and expertise towards the project.


Data was drawn from the ABS Australian Census and Migrants Integrated Dataset (2011); DIBP Settlement Database (2010-2015); the AMES Australia Humanitarian Entrants Management System (2013-2015); and the National Health Services Directory for General Practitioner listings. Researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with key stakeholders providing health services to humanitarian arrivals to further understand key issues identified in the spatial data analysis.

The report documents spatial and qualitative research, key findings and provides 12 recommendations for future policy and practice.


Read the report HERE

Early Childhood Access and Participation Project: Talking with Chin Families from Burma about Early Childhood Services - updated resource now available

Access to maternal and child health services, kindergartens and other programs such as playgroups all play a role in a good start to a child’s life, and simultaneously enhance family participation in communities. However there are significant barriers faced by newly arrived families from refugee backgrounds in accessing early childhood services, and many professionals are searching for practical strategies and resources to promote inclusion. Useful simple ideas to support dialogue with refugee families and to promote inclusion are now available in an updated resource Early Childhood Access and Participation Project: Talking with Chin Families from Burma about Early Childhood Services, available HERE


The resource documents a 2011 Foundation House project that facilitated a dialogue between local early years service providers and community advisors from the Chin community living in the City of Brimbank in 2011 to understand the barriers perceived by the community, and to propose strategies to overcome them. Service providers made simple effective changes to their practices such as creating translated leaflets, changing appointment systems, supporting enrolment sessions with interpreters and employing bi-cultural workers. Five years on, the gains that began in 2011 have been built upon and the Chin community is very actively accessing early childhood services in this area. One Kindergarten Director who was involved in the project said recently, “I now approach everything differently and I am a much better teacher, having developed the trust of the families and also of the communities”.


“When we started the project, I didn’t understand what it was about.  By the end I understand that parents have a role in helping children to learn before they go to kindergarten.  I also know how to manage the system to make sure my child can succeed in this country” - Chin Parent Advisor

Making a mental health complaint - information in 16 languages

The Mental Health Complaints Commission (MHCC) was created by the Mental Health Act 2014 to be a specialist independent mental health complaints body that is accessible, supportive and responsive. The MHCC:

  • Helps people speak up about their concerns by supporting them to make a complaint directly to their public mental health service or to the MHCC
  • Works to address people’s concerns and complaints through informal and formal resolution approaches
  • Assists Victorian public mental health services develop accessible and responsive resolution approaches to deal with concerns and complaints.

The MHCC’s Making a complaint information sheet is now available online in 16 languages, including English, Amharic, Arabic, Dari, Persian, and Vietnamese. The information sheet informs consumers and carers about their right to make a complaint, the process to follow, and the role of the MHCC. Access the multilingual information sheets HERE

Boosting Language Services for All Victorians

The Victorian Government has announced it will undertake an independent review of its interpreters and translators to ensure Victorians have the support they need when accessing government services.  The review will examine:

  • The procurement of interpreting services
  • The current state of the interpreting sector, including demand for and quality of interpreters
  • Whether new technology can be used to improve the efficiency of language services
  • Professional development, training, workplace relationships and other conditions to ensure a sustainable, high quality interpreter workforce.

Read more HERE


(Photo courtesy of BCHS)


Winter camp for Bendigo refugee youth
A group of 30 young Karen and Afghan refugees aged 15-20 recently spent three days at Camp Getaway in Axedale as part of an orientation program run by the Bendigo Community Health Services (BCHS) settlement team.

The young people enjoyed activities including kite making classes, billiards, foosball and soccer, as well as educational sessions on various topics.  “In our meetings with community leaders and young people, they identified a number of areas they would like more information on,” said settlement services manager Martine Street. “This included things like vocation, school experiences, healthy eating, social media, drugs and alcohol, healthy relationships and sport and recreation. We use these camps as a vehicle for increasing their health literacy and connectedness, as well as an opportunity for the young people to develop friendships and new skills. It is really all about increasing their knowledge in a safe, warm, welcoming environment.” Facilitators and interpreters were available for the educational sessions.

Participants were treated to traditional meals from cooks within their community. The young campers also made a video of their experiences, learning interviewing and filming techniques and growing in confidence along the way. The camp was held from Tuesday to Thursday during the first week of the school holidays, staffed by BCHS employees and volunteers. This was the fourth camp BCHS had held for young refugees, most of whom have been here less than three years.


See more photos from the camp and learn more about BCHS HERE


(Photo courtesy of VICSEG New Futures. Left: Ajak Kwai; Right: Bicultural Worker Ashay Baget with mums) 


Musical performance for South Sudanese families in Melton
As part of Refugee Week, Melton City Council’s Maternal and Child Health Service and VICSEG New Futures organised a special musical event for South Sudanese families in Melton.


Multi-talented South Sudanese singer, song writer, and story teller Ajak Kwai came to Melton Library to perform for South Sudanese women and their children. Families sang lullabies in English and Dinka, practised Dinka dancing, and had an opportunity learn about a number of local services including Maternal and Child Health, Family Wellbeing Service, and Children and Parenting Support Services. Parents were able to make appointment times with the services and ask practical questions. Some of the babies were weighed.


The event was organised as part of a regular weekly bicultural Maternal and Child Health group that has been operating in Melton for the last three months. Each week a bicultural worker convenes a group of South Sudanese mums and their young children in the Maternal and Child Health offices in Melton Library. The group will  continue until the end of 2016.


For further information about the regular bicultural MCH sessions for South Sudanese families contact Colleen Turner from VICSEG on 0427 437 324 or Christene Maistry from Melton MCH on 9747 7200. 

Listen to Ajak Kwai’s music HERE


Catch-up immunisation for refugees and asylum seekers: Information sheet for immunisation providers
Victorian Refugee Health Network Immunisation Working Group

This information sheet has been prepared for GPs and other immunisation providers. It provides clinical advice, links to resources, and information about the impact of recent immunisation policy changes on families from refugee backgrounds. Download the information sheet HERE


Catch up vaccinations for refugees and asylum seekers in Victoria – multilingual brochure for clients
Centre for Culture Ethnicity and Health

This resource was designed with input from the Victorian Refugee Health Network Immunisation Working Group. The resource underwent extensive community focus group testing, and is available in Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chin, Dari, Farsi (Persian), Karen, and Tamil HERE


Working with patients who do not speak English

North West Melbourne Primary Health Network
A guide to accessing and using the Translating and Interpreting Service for health professionals working in private practice. Access the guide HERE


Be Free From Hep C multilingual brochure

Hepatitis Victoria
Hepatitis C treatments have changed. Hepatitis Victoria has produced a new brochure explaining the new treatments that is available in English, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Chinese HERE


Digital Access and Equity for Multicultural Communities
Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia

The Australian Government is increasingly moving towards digital government service delivery. This report considers accessibility issues for Australia’s culturally and linguistically diverse communities, with a view to overcoming barriers to accessing online information provision and service and achieving equity of outcomes. Read the report HERE


Reuniting Refugee Families
Refugee Council of Australia

This briefing paper highlights the psychological, economic and social impacts of refugee family separation. The paper includes recommendations to ease these barriers, including a dedicated humanitarian allocation in the family stream of the Migration Program, concession rates or waivers to requirements that pose barriers, and prioritised processing for family members at immediate risk. Read the paper HERE


Recent changes in Australian refugee policy
Refugee Council of Australia

Recent years have seen numerous changes to Australia’s refugee and asylum seeker policies, largely as a political response to previous increases in the number of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. This document summarises some of the more recent policy changes. Read the document HERE


Precarious Lives: Working with Uncertainty

Foundation House

Explores the psycho-social realities of asylum seekers and refugees living with long-term uncertainty. Migration status and issues of safety for refugees and asylum seekers, and their loved ones, means that uncertainty dominates the client experience and their relationships with workers.

Date: 21 July 2016

Time: 9.30am - 4.30pm

Location: Foundation House, 4 Gardiner St. Brunswick

Cost: $230

Register: HERE 


Spotlight on Hepatitis B Forum

Hepatitis Victoria
This Victorian Hepatitis B Alliance Forum is for community and health workers and explores ways to improve treatment, management and care of people living with chronic hepatitis B.
Date: Wednesday 27 July 2016
Time: 9.30am – 4.00pm
Location: Department of Health and Human Services, Room 1.10, 50 Lonsdale St, Melbourne.
Cost: FREE
Register: HERE


Practitioner self-care in the refugee and asylum seeking space

Foundation House

This one-day course provides professionals with the opportunity to increase their understanding of the impact of their work and ways to sustain themselves. Suitable for: professionals who work in a range of roles, including case workers, health professionals, counsellors, and teachers.
Date: Thurs 11 August 2016
Time: 9:30am – 4:30pm
Venue: Foundation House 4 Gardiner Street, Brunswick
Cost: $230 including lunch
Register: HERE


Interpreted Encounters - Engaging with Language and Culture in a mental health context

Victorian Transcultural Mental Health

This workshop is designed for all practitioners engaging with interpreters and will explore meaning making and language, reflect on the challenges and realities in the interpreting environment, explore the role of the interpreter and the practitioner, discuss engagement strategies prior to, during and after the interpreted encounter and explore institutional and individual responsibilities.

Date: Thursday 11 August
Time: Registration at 9.15am.  Commencement 9.30am sharp - 3.30pm
Location: VTMH Seminar Room, Level 1, Bolte Wing, St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne.
Cost: $40 for those currently working in a Specialist Mental Health Service; $50 for those not currently working in a Specialist Mental Health Service.

Register: HERE


Cognitive & Psychosocial Assessment of Refugee Children

Foundation House
A half-day workshop for Psychologists & Education Professionals with a focus on effects of trauma and family functioning on cognitive and emotional processes, linguistic factors affecting cognitive performance and academic achievement, and implications for testing and interpretation of results.
Date: Friday 19 August 2016
Time: 9:30am – 12:30pm
Venue: Foundation House 4 Gardiner Street, Brunswick
Cost: $90
Register: HERE


Cultural Competency and Disability Training
VICSEG New Futures

Develop understanding of how culture influences perceptions of disability.  Run by experienced facilitators from the education, disability and multicultural fields.  Relevant to schools, service providers of organisations preparing for NDIS.
Dates: Full day sessions on Tuesday 30 August and Wednesday 28 September 
For details and to register contact Ebony Simon on 9353 5811 or


Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference
FASSTT - the Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma is pleased to announce the 1st Australia and New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference. Abstract submissions for paper presentations are now open and will close on 12 September 2016. Abstracts are welcomed from across the sector.
Dates: 29-31 March 2017.
Venue: Wesley Conference Centre, 220 Pitt St Sydney
Register and more info: HERE


Online Training - Introduction to Cultural Competence
Centre for Culture, Ethnicity, and Health

An interactive online training module which will help you be culturally responsive to your diverse clients. Suitable for: Health, community and government workers working with clients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. This training can be accessed from any computer with internet access and can be completed at the user’s own pace.
Cost: $40 per user
Duration: 30-40 minutes.
More info: HERE 
To purchase this module, please contact Anni Tillack-Benton on or call 03 9418 9928. For special rates for not-for-profit organisations, please contact Anni on the details above.



The Victorian Refugee Health Network brings together health, settlement and community services to be more accessible and responsive to the needs of refugees and asylum seekers. The e-Bulletin provides a regular forum to share news and information to support practitioners and services in providing health care to people of a refugee background.