victorian refugee health network

~ July 2019 e-Bulletin ~

Photo: Victorian Refugee Health Network participants at a statewide meeting in November 2018. Photo credit: Annette Ruzicka Photography

Happy Mothers: Group Pregnancy Care launches at Craigieburn Health Service

Happy Mothers: Group Pregnancy Care with Assyrian Chaldean women in Melbourne’s north celebrated the launch of a new program running at Craigieburn Health Service on Friday 28 June.

The program is delivered through a partnership between Northern Health, Hume City Council Maternal and Child Health and early childhood services, and VICSEG New Futures, with Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Foundation House. The program aims to increase engagement of families from refugee backgrounds in pregnancy and postnatal care, early childhood health and health literacy, as well as to reduce social isolation.

Evidence shows that women from refugee backgrounds experience barriers to accessing pregnancy care and are at risk of poorer maternal and perinatal outcomes compared to the general population.

For more information about group pregnancy care

Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

The formal submission process for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System (the Commission) has now closed. The Victorian Refugee Health Network provided a submission to the Commission, informed by consultations with Network members through a sector roundtable and a survey, existing data sources including reports and meeting minutes, and with significant input from our Executive Group. A number of our member agencies also provided submissions to the Commission.

Public hearings were conducted between 2 July – 26 July. On Thursday 18 July, Kylie Scoullar, General Manager Direct Services, at the Victorian Refugee Health Network’s auspicing agency Foundation House gave evidence to the Commission at a public hearing. Kylie’s evidence included the importance of trauma-informed mental health care for people from refugee backgrounds, the impact on mental health of the process of seeking asylum, and the importance of effective cross-cultural communication including through the use of credentialed translators and interpreters. Kylie’s full witness statement and others can be read here.

We have compiled some of the submissions and witness statements that have a particular focus on the experiences of people from refugee backgrounds. 

Victorian Refugee Health Network submission
Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture submission
Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health submission
Adriana Mendoza, Manager, Victorian Transcultural Mental Health witness statement
Kylie Scoullar, General Manager Direct Services, Foundation House witness statement
George Yengi witness statement

Welcome to Rachael Unwin, our new Sector Development and Policy Advisor

Before moving into policy work, Rachael came from a social work background. Her direct service experience includes working with young people from refugee backgrounds, people seeking asylum, and work in community mental health. Rachael comes most recently from a policy and research role focusing on the NDIS and Victoria’s psychosocial workforce. We are very happy to welcome Rachael on board!

RURAL AND REGIONAL NEWS - “Stepping Stones” is coming to Ballarat

Ballarat Regional Multicultural Council has partnered with the Brotherhood of St Laurence to deliver the Stepping Stones program to women in Ballarat and broader North West Victoria. Stepping Stones is a microenterprise program that offers mentoring, training and support for women from refugee, migrant and asylum seeker backgrounds. The three year program builds on women’s existing strengths and helps them to increase their business skills and knowledge of business in Australia, increase financial literacy, enhance social and economic participation, and work towards starting a small business.

A 2014 evaluation of the Stepping Stones program identified outcomes of participating in the program such as improved English language skills, improved financial management and budgeting skills, and increased business networks. At the time of the evaluation 44% of participants had started a small business, 26% had gained work or ‘better jobs’ and 26% had entered further education or training.

Some small businesses that have started with the support of the Stepping Stones program include the Somali Street Food Café and Sepik Vanilla selling organic and ethically sourced vanilla beans.

The Stepping Stones program in Ballarat will begin in late August 2019 and runs for three years. Travel and accommodation costs may be reimbursed for women from regional areas. Submit an expression of interest here


Lives on hold: Refugees and asylum seekers in the “Legacy caseload”
Australian Human Rights Commission
This report details a range of issues of concern for people in the so-called “Legacy caseload”, a group of approximately 30,000 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat between 13 August 2012 and 1 January 2014. This report identifies concerns such as:

  • The lack of access to a fair and thorough process for determining their refugee claims;
  • Uncertainty about their visa status and ongoing entitlement to protection for a prolonged period of time;
  • The impact of restrictions on access to family reunion opportunities; and
  • The ongoing risk of arbitrary detention.

The report also provides recommendations for a more humane policy approach in relation to this cohort.
Read the report

Steps to Settlement Success: a toolkit for regional and rural communities
Regional Australia Institute and Scanlon Foundation
This toolkit has been developed to respond to the information needs of rural and regional communities looking to settle migrants, including humanitarian entrants.

Discussion paper: The harsh reality of onshore immigration detention in Australia
Jesuit Social Services
Drawing on the voices of visitors to Australian onshore immigration detention centres, this discussion paper sets out key facts on the current situation in Australian onshore immigration detention; the conditions and impacts of prolonged detention; the important role of visitors and the nature of restrictive rules and regulations on visiting detention centres.
Read the discussion paper

Data bulletin: Statistics for Victorian health programs
Victorian Refugee Health Network
This data bulletin has been produced by the Victorian Refugee Health Network to assist Victorian health programs to plan service provision for people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum.
Download the data bulletin


You CAN Talk About That
The NW FARREP Network and governance group present 'You CAN Talk About That'. This event is part of the Family And Reproductive Rights Education Program (NW FARREP network), which involves health promotion, community engagement and professional development. FARREP promotes culturally sensitive approaches and key health considerations when supporting women from FGC practicing communities. This forum is for health and community providers and anyone supporting women's sexual and reproductive health.
When: Thursday 8 August, 9.45am – 2pm
Where: Banyule Community Health, 21 Alamein Road, Heidelberg West
To register contact and for further information contact Samantha on 9450 2095

Ethnicity, Disability, Self-Advocacy
Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria and Diversity & Disability
This forum is to support people with disabilities from CALD backgrounds to learn about opportunities in training and employment in disability advocacy, speak for themselves and make informed decisions about their life, and encourage a network of community peer support and information exchange for people with disabilities and their carers. 
When: Wednesday 21 August, 11.30am – 2.30pm
Where: Dandenong Uniting Church, 32 Scott Street, Dandenong
Register here or contact Snm Gray for more information

Job opportunity: Research Officer, Intergenerational Health Group at MCRI – applications close 5 August
The Intergenerational Health group aims to undertake research that contributes to improvements in the health and well-being of mothers, fathers and families, especially in populations with complex social and health needs. Our group’s vision is health, wellbeing and equity for all mothers, fathers, children and families. The Refugee and Migrant Research Program is one of three major streams of activity undertaken by the group. An opportunity for a Research Officer to join these teams, working on the Group Pregnancy Care study and the Talking about Stillbirth project with people from refugee backgrounds.
More information including how to apply

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.