victorian refugee health network

~ January - February e-Bulletin ~

Image: NRAAG Steering Committee members at inaugural Australian Refugee Dialogue

National Refugee-Led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG) launches

The new National Refugee-Led Advisory and Advocacy Group (NRAAG) held its inaugural Australian Refugee Dialogue on in Brisbane on 15 February 2020. The event, which was open only to people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum, included sessions aimed at defining a practical structure for NRAAG and identifying emerging issues and strategic priorities for the group’s work in the next year.

NRAAG is led by a steering committee comprised of a group of former refugees, refugees and people seeking asylum that hold expertise and perspective in law, policy, services and initiatives that affect their lives. The aim of NRAAG is to enhance refugee leadership and to inform the development of laws, policies and programs which affect the lives of people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum in Australia.


For more information about the work of NRAAG visit their website, Facebook, or Twitter

The Vision Initiative online training for health professionals

In some culturally and linguistically diverse communities up to 58% of the population have never had an eye test.  People from CALD backgrounds including refugees and asylum seekers encounter many barriers to accessing services which results in a higher risk of vision loss.

The Vision Initiative has a range of online CPD approved training courses for health professionals.  These courses aim to improve the knowledge of health professionals in relation to common eye diseases, available services and identifying patients at risk of vision loss.  We also have an extensive range of translated eye health resources.  For more information visit the Heath Professional page on our website:

Workshops: How can we improve mental health services in north western Melbourne?

North Western Melbourne PHN (NWMPHN) is holding a series of workshops for mental health consumers, carers and workers to share their views on improving mental health services in the region. Workshops for health workers, consumers, family and carers will be held on 5 March in Melton and 19 March in Hoppers Crossing. Workshops for consumers, family and carers only will be held on 6 March in Broadmeadows and 12 March in Carlton. For more information about the workshops visit the website, or for further information or to discuss accessibility requirements (including need for interpreters) contact Lauren Marshall on 03 9347 1188 at

Applications for Cancer Council Victoria’s Multicultural Communities Grants are now open

Cancer Council Victoria is offering funding of up to 5000AUD to community-led initiatives which increase bowel or cervical cancer screening awareness and participation through their Multicultural Communities Grants.

This year, they are looking for projects that focus on Arabic-, Mandarin-, Hindi-, Punjabi-, Urdu-, Sinhalese- and/or Tamil- speaking communities.

Applications close on Monday 9 March 2020 at 9:00 am. To find out more about the grants and the application process, visit:

Rural and Regional News - Introducing the new torture and trauma counselling team at Primary Care Connect in Shepparton

We recently caught up with Sonali, Rebecca and Ethan, members of the new Torture and Trauma Counselling team for people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum at Primary Care Connect in Shepparton.

The team provides individual counselling and support work, connects with local services and schools to help build stronger support networks around the people we work with, and works to improve the capacity of other sectors to understand the specific needs of our newly arrived and settled communities. The team also facilitates the Seasons for Growth program for children experiencing grief and loss and the Through the Looking Glass program for parents from refugee backgrounds in partnership with local agencies and schools. Primary Care Connect also has Refugee Health Nurses on staff who can support clients with health needs.

Referrals can be made to the Primary Care Connect torture and trauma counselling team via the Primary Care Connect website, by phoning the service on (03) 5823 3200, or facilitated referrals through existing programs. For more information regarding services for people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum at Primary Care Connect in Shepparton visit the website


Tell us about your professional backgrounds before taking this role
: I have my Masters in Social Work and have previously  worked as a case manager for refugee settlement and in a program with refugee youth prior to my this role. As an immigrant myself I understand the challenges faced with settlement. I got into social work because on my arrival in Shepparton I did many volunteer roles to get to know the community and feel a part of it. The love for the community continued to be a career. 
Rebecca: I moved to Shepparton in 2017 and for the past two and a half years, I have been managing a food rescue organization here in Shepparton/Mooroopna with 25 volunteers, servicing 100 local community organisations with emergency food relief. I have a diverse professional background, including nursing and Environmental Management and community engagement roles.  Following the 2009 Victorian bushfires I worked in community engagement roles in the community recovery context for the Victorian government. Working with individuals and communities affected by disaster piqued my curiosity about the efficacy of services’ responses to trauma. I went on to do a Master of Social work program at RMIT which gave me great frameworks for understanding the disaster response and opened up other fields of interest for future roles.
Ethan: I have previously worked as a case manager in refugee field.


What made you choose torture and trauma counselling with people from refugee backgrounds as a specialty?
Sonali: Working for 8 years in settlement I saw the need to address the mental health needs of people from refugee backgrounds. At the time of settlement, it is not a priority for new arrivals, but I have seen the effects of not addressing issues in a timely manner impacting successful settlement.
I have a keen interest in trauma focused and informed practice and have been skilling myself in this area. I hope to further my personal interest through my work in this role and with Foundation House (The Victorian Foundation of Survivors of Torture)
Rebecca: I am aware of the complex resettlement challenges faced by Shepparton’s diverse and growing refugee and asylum seeker population, particularly against the background of traumatic experiences many now live with. During my social work Masters, I undertook placements in suicide bereavement counselling and within an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child care peak organisation. This gave me good insights into complex and intergenerational trauma, and challenged me interrogate what culturally safe practice means.  In the past few years, I have delved further into the fields of interpersonal neurobiology and the social neuroscience of trauma, and I hope to bring this understanding establish a safe space for people wishing to explore the effects of their experiences on their daily functioning and relationships.
Ethan: Personal interests working with refugees and people seeking asylum.


What are your hobbies and interests outside of work?
: I love watching movies and getting involved with community activities and meeting new people.  I am an inquisitive person, so I watch talk shows and current affair programs on T.V and keep myself informed about the world around me. 
Rebecca: Gardening (veggies and native plants), catching up with friends, walking with our two English Staffys (dogs), scuba diving and camping. Rural living generally is wonderful!
Ethan: Swimming, movies, gym, boardgames.


Statewide meeting report
The Victorian Refugee Health Network statewide meeting was held on 28 November 2019. Read the statewide meeting report for updates from the Access to health services for people seeking asylum working group, the Disability Action Group, recent settlement data, policy updates, and a snapshot of activity from a local refugee health network. We also heard a presentation on the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) program and an update from the OPTIMISE GP Capacity Building Project.

Read the report


To keep informed about upcoming Victorian Refugee Health Network statewide meetings subscribe to the mailing list


Exploratory Analysis of Barriers to Palliative Care: Issues report on refugees
Australian Healthcare Associates for the Department of Health
This report explores some of the barriers and enablers to accessing palliative care for people from refugee backgrounds in Australia.

Read the report


Forum: Beyond ‘Mainstream’: Tuning in to Young Multicultural Victoria
This forum, hosted by Centre for Multicultural Youth (CMY), will explore:
• Who’s living, studying, working and playing in Victoria?
• How does this variety of lived experience shape life in Victoria?
• What do all young Victorians need us to understand in order to respond to the challenges of the future?
• What do we need to better understand if we want to create opportunities and support young Victorians to be empowered and influential in an increasingly interconnected world?
When: Tuesday 3 March, 2020, 9.30am – 3pm
Where: Community Hub at The Dock, Level 1, 912 Collins Street Docklands
Cost: $35
For more information please contact Danielle Bero at
or call (03) 9340 3700, or purchase a ticket here


Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) 2020 Conference – preliminary program out now
The AIFS 2020 Conference will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 9-12 June 2020. The theme of the conference is “What is a good life for families? And how do we get there?”, and program includes six plenary sessions, five pre-conference workshops and 212 oral presentations all focused on the wellbeing of families, including a number focusing on the wellbeing of families from refugee backgrounds.
More information and registrations

Foundations of culturally responsive practice
Victorian Transcultural Mental Health

This foundation workshop provides practitioners with a broad overview of key principles that inform culturally responsive mental health practice, and the role of culture in mental health service delivery. Participants will be encouraged to reflect on their own cultural values, beliefs and models in delivering recovery focused interventions, and explore the relationship between policy, human rights legislation, and the manner in which we provide respectful person-centered care.
When: Wednesday, 11 March 2020, 9.30am – 4pm
Where: Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, Bolte Wing Conference Room, Level 1, 14 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy
How much: No cost. Morning tea and lunch provided.
More information and registrations

Approaching work with interpreters in mental health settings
Victorian Transcultural Mental Health

This workshop is designed for all practitioners working with interpreters, or new to working with interpreters in mental health settings.The workshop will support exploration of challenges and realities in the interpreting environment, and strategies for adapting practice with interpreters in a variety of mental health settings. Participants will receive hard copies of resources developed in the project Approaching work with interpreters in mental health settings (VTMH, 2019) including a Practice Tips Poster for their workplace.
When: Monday, 30 March 2020, 9.30am – 4pm
Where: Victorian Transcultural Mental Health, Bolte Wing Conference Room, Level 1, 14 Nicholson Street, Fitzroy
How much: No cost. Morning tea and lunch provided.
More information and registrations

Fostering multiculturally inclusive workplaces
Brotherhood of St Laurence

Recognising that diversity brings great benefits and challenges in workplaces, this training will provide an understanding of the refugee experience, how this may manifest in the workplace, our own cultural biases and tips to overcome common misunderstandings as well as navigating cross-cultural communication.
When: Wednesday 15 April, 9.30am – 12.30pm
Where: Brotherhood of St Laurence, Father Tucker’s Room, 67 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria
Cost: $138.24 - $204.70
Register 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.