victorian refugee health network

~ June 2018 e-Bulletin ~

Photo: Keynote speaker Alex Neve at North American Refugee Health Conference (brief report about the conference below)

Photo: Keynote at North American Refugee Health Conference by Alex Neve

Reduction in services for people seeking asylum: Status Resolution Support Services cuts

The Refugee Council of Australia have been advised that the Status Resolution Support Services (SRSS) cuts are going ahead after originally being postponed for some weeks. Over the next month it is anticipated that 1500 single adults nationally who are currently receiving SRSS Band 6 will be the first to experience cuts to their income and services. This group has been assessed by SRSS providers according to the new program criteria and the Commonwealth Department of Human Services will be advising individuals by letter of the withdrawal of services.
Key dates for this group:

  • 27 June – people will begin to receive notice of their exclusion from the SRSS program
  • 25 July – income support will cease
  • 1 August - other SRSS support will cease

Over the next few months the Commonwealth Department of Home Affairs will review whether those single adults who have been assessed by SRSS providers as having vulnerabilities meet the new SRSS criteria.


During this period families (around 5500 people across Australia) will also be assessed as to their ongoing entitlement to SRSS. Key dates for this group have not been confirmed. Clients that transitioned from the Australian Red Cross SRSS program to new providers will begin to be assessed around August, commencing with single adults.


The Refugee Council of Australia's press release contains further detail.


Service capacity mapping for people seeking asylum

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre along with the Network of Asylum Seeker Agencies of Victoria are undertaking a mapping exercise to explore the capacity of social and community services within Victoria to respond to needs that will emerge due to the changes to SRSS. Agencies are asked to complete a brief survey to assist with planning a response to the anticipated need. 

News from the North American Refugee Health Conference, Portland, 7-9 June

The North American Refugee Health Conference provided a forum for health providers, advocates, community members and settlement support services to meet over three days to discuss a large range of topics.


The Victorian Refugee Health Network attended to present a poster about the Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide and the update of the Refugee Health Assessment template, as well as to tweet a lot of the action. Other Australian academics and practitioners who presented work included:

  • Leaving No-one Behind: Implementing Evidence-based Screening and Support for Mental Health in Pregnancy for Women of Refugee Background: Boyle, Monash University/Monash Health, Willey, Monash University, Blackmore, Monash University
  • ‘I think we’ve had a Health Screen’: New Offshore Screening, New Refugee Health Guidelines, New Syrian and Iraqi Paediatric Cohort Settling in Melbourne, Australia – New Recommendations, Reality, Results and Review: Volkman, Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne
  • Providing Access to Immunisation for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Victoria, Australia: Taylor, Department of Health and Human Services, Victoria
  • Co-location in Primary Care for Newly Arrived Refugees in Brisbane, Australia: Weatherford, Mater Brisbane 

The next North American Refugee Health Conference will be in Toronto, 14-16 June 2019.

Introducing Dr Yoko Asakawa, Refugee Health Fellow

Dr Yoko Asakawa, Refugee Health Fellow at the Royal Children's Hospital

Three new Paediatric Refugee Health Fellows started at the Royal Children's Hospital Immigrant Health Service at the beginning of 2018. The Victorian Refugee Health Network welcomes Dr Yoko Asakawa, Dr Ingrid Laemmle-Ruff and Dr Dan Mason to the roles. We caught up with Dr Yoko Asakawa for the following profile:


Background in brief before taking this position
Yoko is an advanced trainee in general paediatrics and completing her final year of training this year. She has always tried to take positions working with the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community. She has done quite a bit of her training in the western suburbs and also worked at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service in Melbourne. She spent 3 months studying a Diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in East Africa through the London School and would love the opportunity to get back overseas again in the future.

Reasons for choosing refugee health as a specialty
Yoko is passionate about working with the CALD community and people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum are an important subgroup with their own unique health needs. She enjoys the diversity of the patient group, the huge variety of health/medical issues, and the challenging complexity of policy and advocacy in this space. She is really interested in how culture influences health and health seeking behaviours and is studying medical anthropology through a Masters of Culture, Health and Medicine.

Responsibilities in the Refugee Health Fellow role
Yoko works alongside two other fellows, Dr Ingrid Laemmle-Ruff and Dr Dan Mason, in the Immigrant Health Service at The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne. Her own clinical work includes seeing patients in the Immigrant Health Clinic and the Tuberculosis Clinic at RCH as well as seeing children at the Immigrant Health Outreach Clinic at cohealth in Footscray. The role also includes education and advocacy regarding refugee health issues, support of early intervention, schools, allied health and maternal child health nurses, and development of guidelines and research on refugee health topics.

Interests / hobbies outside of work
When Yoko’s not travelling or planning her next adventure, she loves seeing live music, making sourdough bread, practising ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) or getting out of town to reconnect with mother nature.

Availability and contact details
Yoko is available at RCH on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, however there is always someone available via email or phone during the rest of the week.
Telephone: 03 9345 5522, pager 7142.

Funding to improve conditions for interpreters

Earlier this week the Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott announced increased funding ($21.8 million over four years and $8.4 million per year ongoing) to improve the pay and working conditions of contractor and casually employed interpreters. Interpreter remuneration has been static for over 15 years. This decrease in real terms has seen many experienced interpreters leave the sector due to concerns about job security, remuneration and working conditions. To redress this decline, and support a high quality and professional interpreter workforce in Victoria, the government is reforming its procurement of language services. See the State Government media release for further information.


Rural and Regional - 'Working With Us - For Us'

Photo: 'Working with us - for us' story board

The G21 ‘Working With Us - For Us’ Refugee and Asylum Seeker Mental Health Project (RAS MH) implemented an Experience Based Co Design (EBCD) framework to assist service providers to gain an understanding of the barriers people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds face accessing mental health services in the Geelong Region. The G21 Health & Wellbeing Pillar have been working collaboratively with Diversitat, Western Vic Primary Health Network, Catholic Care, Barwon Child Youth and Family, and Barwon Health to identify challenges in the mental health system regarding access, care and outcomes for people from refugee backgrounds and people seeking asylum in the Geelong region. This project was funded by Give Where You Live Foundation Health and Wellbeing grant.


Nine mental health service users from a refugee and asylum seeker background and eight managers working in service provision worked together on the project. It was found that communities from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds living in the Geelong region face numerous and varied barriers and issues when accessing mental health services. Five of these barriers and issues were prioritised by the working group and recommendations were developed using a story board technique. Notable themes included new arrivals not being given the information they need about mental health services in Australia, communities needing more information about mental health to help reduce stigma, and language barriers and the need to rely on interpreters. The group presented the findings and recommendations to those key to mental health service delivery in the Geelong region. 


The people with big voices need to take this to the people with big ears!” (RAS participant)


It is intended that the recommendations developed with the EBCD framework will inform service provision changes to address these barriers in the Geelong region. More information about the project HERE.

Rural and Regional - That Girl Wodonga: Bhutanese and Indian communities team up to tackle violence against women

That girl Wodonga planning committee

Photo: That Girl Wodonga planning committee

That Girl Wodonga is a music video produced in collaboration between Gateway Health, Community Music Victoria, singer/songwriter Sarah Mandie, and the Indian and Bhutanese communities of Albury Wodonga. The project aims to raise awareness about gendered violence and to start conversations within communities about how to keep women and girls safe from violence.


Around 60 women and girls from the Indian and Bhutanese communities of Albury Wodonga participated in all stages of the project from planning stages to decisions about what would make the final cut for the video. The video clip was filmed over a weekend in February and since its launch on Friday 1 June it has had over 700 views on YouTube.


That Girl Wodonga is part of a broader music video project that aims to empower girls and work towards keeping all women and girls safe from violence. Singer/songwriter Sarah Mandie is interested to hear from people about bringing the project to other refugee and migrant communities in Victoria.  More information about the That Girl project, including how to get in touch HEREWatch the video HERE

Resources and reports

In Poor Health: Health care in Australian immigration detention
Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd.
This report, launched on 13 June 2018, closely examines the health care that is provided to people seeking asylum in on-shore immigration detention. 

UNHCR Global Appeal 2018-2019

UNHCR: The UN Refugee Agency
UNHCR’s Global Appeal is a guide for general readers to UNHCR’s worldwide operations. It presents the financial resources that will be required in 2018 (and indicative amounts for 2019) for UNHCR’s programmes to protect and improve the lives of tens of millions of people of concern: refugees, internally displaced people, returnees, stateless people and others. It highlights the challenges faced by the organisation and its partners in attempting to respond to multiple life-threatening crises and ever-growing humanitarian needs. 


‘Falling through the cracks’: Community perspectives on asylum seeker and refugee mental health
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria (ECCV)
The ECCV consulted with people from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds to find out what facilitates and hinders mental health and wellbeing for them and their communities. The aims of this paper are to examine:

  • Predictors of mental health and wellbeing;
  • Barriers and facilitators to access and engage with health and mental health services;
  • Satisfaction with these services; and
  • Community recommendations


'7 Good Reasons to Test for HIV Now' translated resources

Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service

The new multilingual resource 7 Good Reasons to Test for HIV Now features everyday people using everyday language to explain the many benefits of regular HIV testing. The resource is available in a number of languages including Arabic, Spanish and plain English.


Abuse is not ok.

Migrant Resource Centre North West Region Inc and the Office of the Public Advocate

New resource to help people identify behaviours that may constitute abuse. Currently available as a pictorial and plain English resource with plans to translate into community languages in the future. Developed by the Diversity and Disability (DnD) Consumer Reference Group at the North West Migrant Resource Centre in conjunction with the Office of the Public Advocate. For further information or to order a hardcopy contact Christian Astourian at

Training and events

General practice refugee mental health forum
The Victorian Refugee Health Network in partnership with North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network and South Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network are working together to produce a one day forum of professional learning for general practice staff. The forum’s aim is to support general practice staff to respond to the mental health needs of people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum. More information HERE and registrations HERE
When: Saturday, 4 August 2018
Where: Woodward Centre, University of Melbourne
Cost: Early Bird Rate $60.00 +gst (Applied at check out, closes Friday 13 July 2018) | Standard Rate $70 +gst (After Friday 13 July 2018)

Leadership for better liver health in Melbourne’s south east

Hepatitis Victoria
This free event will bring together community members, experts, clinicians, healthcare providers, local government and organisations to discuss the eradication of viral hepatitis and how to build leadership for better liver health in this region. More information and registrations HERE
When: Thursday, 19 July 2018, 9am – 1pm
Where: Civic centre level 2, City Council of Dandenong, 225 Lonsdale Street, Dandenong


Overcoming Stigma: Engaging with communities about mental health

Foundation House
One day workshop exploring barriers preventing people from refugee backgrounds from accessing for mental health issues and examines ways of engaging with communities around these issues. Suitable for people interested in working with communities whose members may be from refugee backgrounds. More information and registrations HERE 
When: Thursday, 26 July 2018, 9.30am – 4.30pm
Where: Foundation House, 4 Gardiner Street, Brunswick
Cost: $250 per person

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.