victorian refugee health network

~ March-April 2017 e-Bulletin ~

Photo: Google images with permission

Latest news - DHHS Language Services

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) released its updated language services policy on 31 January 2017. The policy and accompanying guidelines, How to work with interpreting and translating services, are aimed at supporting departmental staff and funded organisations in the planning and provision of language services for migrants, refugees and asylum seekers and those who use sign language. They provide guidance on identifying when language services should be offered to clients based on legislative requirements and best practice service delivery.


DHHS recently launched a Refugee Health Programs (RHP) language services credit line. Eligible organisations can access this credit line for the provision of interpreting services when delivering funded RHP-related services. Organisations should note they are required to exhaust any direct RHP language services allocations prior to accessing the credit line. Further information is available in the guidelines for use of the Language Services Credit Line - Health programs. PIN queries should be directed to


DHHS recently announced the opening of the first round of the Language Services Innovation Grants Program. The Innovation Grants aim to improve the capacity of public hospitals to provide effective and responsive language services in acute settings in Victoria. Submissions closed on 7 April 2017. Further information can be found at the above link. It is anticipated there will be opportunities for learnings from funded projects to be shared with interested parties.

New Paediatric Refugee Health Fellow

In the last edition of the eBulletin, we featured a Q&A with new Paediatric Refugee Health Fellow Tom Volkman. Last month Rachel Heenan joined Tom as the second Paediatric Refugee Health Fellow at the Royal Children's Hospital Immigrant Health Service. We caught up with Rachel for the following profile:


Background in brief before taking this position:
Rachel is a dual trainee in General Paediatrics and Public Health Medicine. While most of her paediatric training has been in Melbourne, she has also spent time volunteering in India and Pakistan, and has done additional tropical medicine training in East Africa. She enjoys research, and has studied the economic burden of rheumatic heart disease in the Pacific and undertaken policy work with the World Health Organisation in the field of HIV.


Reasons for choosing refugee health as a specialty:

Rachel has had a strong interest in improving the lives of disadvantaged children since medical school, when she did electives working with children in Kolkata, India and in Alice Springs. Her work is grounded in the strong belief that society as a whole benefits from equality of opportunity for all. She hopes that working in refugee health will allow her to combine her interests in policy and research with clinical medicine, within a team who have a strong record of providing excellent care for children of refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds.


Responsibilities in the Refugee Health Fellow role:
Rachel works in the Monday afternoon Immigrant Health Clinic at the Royal Children’s Hospital, and also at cohealth Footscray on fortnightly Thursdays. The Paediatric Fellows (Tom Volkman and Rachel) provide a phone and email consultation service for GPs or refugee health nurses and are happy to be contacted with any clinical or related questions. They are also available to provide education sessions within general practice, community health and hospital settings, as well as at community and academic forums.


Interests/hobbies outside of work:

Rachel loves hiking, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in 2013 (with her Dad!) Having suffered caffeine withdrawal last year while studying in the United States for her Master of Public Health, she’s glad to be back drinking lots of Melbourne coffee and riding her bike to work.


Availability and best contact details:
Rachel is available Monday to Friday, until August 2017.
Telephone: (03) 9345 5522 pager 7142

Health examination requests for people seeking asylum

People who arrived in Australia by boat from 13 August 2012 to 1 January 2014, and who are eligible to apply for a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa (SHEV), are currently subject to a health examination request from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP). Since 2012, the migration health requirements have included Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV and Syphilis testing. Where it has been identified that DIBP has no record of people having completed these tests, they are being sent a letter outlining the requirement to undergo these health examinations with an approved migration medical services provider, currently Bupa Medical Visa Services. Contracted Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) providers can assist SRSS clients by making an appointment on their client's behalf and providing the client with a supporting letter for their scheduled appointment. The Department will reimburse the SRSS provider for visa related health checks where the client is unable to pay. People who are not SRSS clients are required to pay for the health checks.


DIBP has advised the Network that health examination requests are not linked to the outcome of a person’s visa application. The letters from DIBP outline that the health examinations are mandatory and ‘required…as part of the processing for a TPV (subclass 785) or SHEV (subclass 790)’. Victorian health service providers and asylum seeker support agencies have reported that the wording of the letters is confusing and may provide clients with false hope that the request to undergo health examinations is indicative of a positive visa outcome, or that their application is still under consideration. Letters have been sent to people at all stages of the visa application process – from those who are yet to apply for a visa, to those who have already had their visa application denied. Service providers supporting people seeking asylum should be aware of this, and may need to provide this information to their clients. Victorian health service providers seeking to support this process by arranging the test locally and sending the results have been informed by Bupa that only Bupa may conduct the required testing.

Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference

Photo: Dr Alison Strang, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh


The 1st Australia and New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference was held in Sydney from 29-31 March 2017. The conference was dedicated to exploring the most innovative and successful ways to support people from refugee backgrounds as they recover from trauma and resettle. The conference was organised by the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and received an overwhelming response with over 600 people in attendance. The impressive program included plenary sessions and panel discussions featuring international and Australian and New Zealand experts in refugee trauma and resettlement, and a diverse range of oral paper presentations in streams including neuroscience, clinical assessment and screening, working with children and young people, working with asylum seekers, community interventions and service delivery. The Victorian Refugee Health Network was represented by Samantha Furneaux, who presented about the General Practice Engagement project, Lauren Tyrrell, who presented about the Talking About Health project and Assunta Hunter who spoke about the Network’s emerging work in the area of disability. It was announced at the conclusion of the conference that the next Australia and New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference will be held in Brisbane in 2019, organised by Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT).

New Refugee Nurses Australia membership form

The recently formed Refugee Nurses Australia (RNA) network has a national focus and provides an opportunity for nurses working with people from refugee background to share resources, be advocates, contribute to clinical guidelines and be involved in community of practice opportunities. The objectives of the RNA are to:

  • Provide a forum for exchange of information and resources between refugee health nurses and other relevant stakeholders across Australia
  • Promote best practice in refugee health nursing through quality improvements  and evidenced based research
  • Provide leadership in the development of a national refugee health nurse clinical practice framework including scope of practice, credentialing and models of care
  • Advocate for refugee and asylum seeker issues

Nurses working with people from refugee backgrounds are invited to apply to join the RNA via their new membership application & survey form. Email the completed form to noting your state or territory in the subject.

RURAL & REGIONAL NEWS: Gateway Health Work Ready Program

Photo courtesy of Gateway Health.

In late 2015, Gateway Health received funding from the Scanlon Foundation to run a ‘work ready program’ for clients from a refugee or migrant background in Wodonga. The program aims to increase participants’ work readiness and employment prospects through a series of workshops. The Clinic identified a need for such a program amongst their multicultural community, in recognition of the fact that employment can improve people’s social connectedness, financial situation, level of English language proficiency and mental wellbeing.


Workshop topics include job search skills, such as writing a resume, responding to key selection criteria, writing cover letters and conducting mock interviews; starting your own business; volunteering; hearing from a panel of employers; use of employment agencies; and work place tours. Participants had the opportunity to increase their understanding of the local job market and the expectations of employers, receive feedback on the mock interviews and advice on how to strengthen their job applications. The program also offered opportunities for networking with the other participants, the ability to receive mentoring from the ‘Work Ready’ team, and helped to increase participants’ confidence.


The program has proven to be very successful with about 80% of the participants gaining employment in their preferred field after completing the program. Gateway Health was invited to put in a submission for a second round of funding and are subsequently running another ‘work ready program’ commencing at the end of April 2017. The ‘work ready program’ contributed to Gateway Health receiving a Business Innovation Award by the Victorian Multicultural Commission in 2016.


Translated information for families with young children
Health promotion and safety information for families with young children has been translated into 10 key languages to ensure it is accessible to Victoria’s newest arrivals. Nurses and health professionals can use the information with families, which is available in Arabic, Burmese, Chin (Hakha), Chinese (Mandarin) Dari, Persian, Karen, Khmer, Punjabi and Vietnamese. The translated resources focus on child development, the 'Slip, Slop, Slap' message, RACV guide on safe car restraints and practices, water and outdoor safety, and safe sleeping. The resources are available in printed hard copy from maternal child health centres and online HERE


Using ‘Teach-Back’ via an interpreter
Centre for Culture Eth
nicity & Health & North Western Primary Healthcare Network

This information sheet focuses on “teach-back” and how it can be an effective method for health practitioners in general and when used via an interpreter. Access the resource HERE


Our stories, our voices: culturally diverse consumer perspectives on the role of accredited interpreters in Victoria’s health services
Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria (ECCV)

This discussion paper was written in response increasing concerns by health services and multicultural advocates regarding the low levels of awareness among culturally diverse communities about the role and engagement of accredited interpreters. The paper examines whether culturally diverse consumers are aware of, know how to access and recognise the importance of interpreting services when using health services. Read the paper HERE


Game Plan Resources
Centre for Multicultural Youth

Game Plan is a suite of resources to support sports clubs and associations to increase their cultural diversity and to attract and retain young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds in sport and sports clubs – as members, players, coaches, trainers and leaders. Access the resources HERE


Settling better: reforming refugee employment and settlement services
Centre for Policy Development

If there is a weak link in Australia’s settlement record, it is getting refugees into jobs soon after they arrive. There is overwhelming evidence about the importance of employment in successful settlement. This report identifies five principal barriers to newly arrived refugees finding jobs: limited English, a lack of work experience, poor health, a lack of opportunities for women, and having only been in Australia for a short amount time. Read the report HERE 


Humanitarian Youth Arrivals to Victoria July 2015 – June 2016
Centre for Multicultural Youth

This information sheet provides indicative numbers on humanitarian youth arrivals to Victoria, including top local government areas where young humanitarian arrivals settle in Melbourne; average age and more. Access the information sheet HERE


Asylum seekers, refugees and human rights: snapshot report
Australian Human Rights Commission

The second edition of this report provides an update on legal and policy developments related to refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia since 2013. The report is not intended to address all the issues facing refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. Instead, it focuses on developments which place Australia at risk of breaching its international human rights obligations. Read the report HERE


Refugee & Asylum Seeker Referral Guidance for GPs
South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network

This resource has been developed to assist GPs to understand which services refugee and asylum seeker patients are eligible for, and how to refer them. The resource contains information on healthcare eligibility by visa status, key information about refugee and asylum seeker health, and a list of providers in the South Eastern Melbourne catchment who support these patients. Access the resource HERE


Easing the Pain with Amber Gray

Foundation House
Amber Gray is an internationally known expert on somatic approaches to working with survivors of torture and trauma in cross-cultural contexts of displacement and settlement. This experiential workshop is suitable for both physical and psychosocial practitioners working with survivors of torture and trauma eg. counsellors, physiotherapists, nurses, psychologists, GPs, or others.
Date: Thursday 4 and Friday 5 May 2017
Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Venue: Foundation House – 4 Gardiner Street, Brunswick
Cost: $380 per person. Morning tea, lunch & afternoon tea provided
Further Details & Registration: HERE 
General Enquiries:
 or 03 9389 8965


NEW Amber Gray workshop: Somatic and Mindfulness Approaches to Self Care and Self Compassion
Foundation House

Date: Saturday 6 May 2017

Time: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Venue: Foundation House, 4 Gardiner St. Brunswick
Cost: $250
Enquiries: 03 9389 8965
More information and register: HERE 


Mental Health Interpreting short course
Monash University

This short course examines the principles and practices associated with interpreting in mental health settings. Topics covered include common mental illnesses, how clinical psychologists work with clients, an overview of the mental health system, neuropsychology, working with survivors of trauma, and what constitutes best interpreting practice in these settings. The short course is composed of presentations from expert professionals in the mental health field and experienced interpreters, and practical interpreting exercises to establish best practice when working in this field. Please feel free to share this with your employees, colleagues, and contacts who may be interested in attending.
Dates: Friday 12 May and Friday 19 May
Time: 10am - 5pm
Venue: Monash University Law Chambers, 555 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
Cost: $433
Further details and registration: HERE 


North American Refugee Health Conference

Dates: 16-18 June, 2017

Venue: Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Toronto Canada

Further details and registration: HERE


  • Access the Foundation House 2017 Training Calendar HERE 
  • Access the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health 2017 Training Calendar HERE
  • Access the 2017 Victorian Transcultural Mental Health Training and Events Calendar HERE


The Victorian Refugee Health Network eBulletin no longer compiles a list of the latest refugee health research. The Immigrant Health Service at the Royal Children’s Hospital maintains a clearing house for refugee health research in Australia on their webpage HERE

About Us

The Victorian Refugee Health Network brings together health, settlement and community services to be more accessible and responsive to the needs of people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum. The eBulletin provides a regular forum to share news, resources and information to support practitioners and services in providing health care to people from refugee backgrounds.