e-Bulletin March 2011

News and Events

1. Network activity highlight.In 2010/11 four Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Innovative Project Grants have been funded by the Department of Health for project focused on improving maternity services to women of refugee backgrounds. The four projects include:

  • EACH – consulting with women of refugee backgrounds to inform recommendations about the antenatal and postnatal service model in the East.
  • Ballarat – consulting with women from the Sudanese and Togolese communities, developing and running workshops to train peer educators in these communities.
  • Western Region Health Centre – providing pregnancy and early parenting support to young women from refugee backgrounds that access the River Nile Learning Centre.
  • Southern Health – service mapping growth regions in Casey to improve care coordination for women of refugee backgrounds and their families.

VRHN has a secondary support role to these projects through regular meeting for information sharing. We hope to disseminate finding from these project later in the year.

2. New Refugee Health Fellow – The Department of Health recently announced ongoing funding for two part-time positions in refugee health. This year we welcome Dr Mel Thompson as the paediatric Refugee Health Fellow, based at the Royal Children’s Hospital. Dr Tom Schulz, an Infectious Diseases Physician, will be continuing as the adult Refugee Health Fellow and is based at the Victorian Infectious Diseases Service at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. The Refugee Health Fellows provide education and secondary consultation around refugee health issues.

3. Australian Human Rights Commission – statement on mandatory detention. Commission President and Human Rights Commissioner Catherine Branson QC highlighted the health and well-being impacts of Australia’s system of mandatory and indefinite immigration detention, “People are being held in detention for long periods of time, without any certainty about when they might be released. We know from past history in Australia, that this can have devastating impacts on people’s mental health and general wellbeing.” Click here to read the full statement.

4. Refugee Health Presentations at the 2011 Refugee Conference. This years conference from 14 – 17 June in Syndney marks the 60th anniversity of the Refugee Convention and will provide a timely opportunity to reflect on the strengths and achievements of the Convention and refugee protection system and consider further action needed to secure the rights of refugees. The conference will include presentations on a range of refugee health topics such as improving primary health care delivery to refugees, settlement and mental health and supporting refugees with a disability in Australia. Further information including key dates and registration details can be found at refugeeconf2011.arts.unsw.edu.au


5. Refugee Health Nurses – updated contact details February 2011. Revised contact information for Refugee Health Nurses is now available on the Victorian Refugee Health Network website. The Refugee Health Nurse Program was established in 2005 to support the early health assessment of newly arrived refugees and to assist and refer them to other primary and specialist health services. The nurses also work with local GPs and health services to help them better respond to the health and wellbeing needs of refugees.

6. New CALD resource on sexual health & viral hepatitis. Multicultural Health and Support Service (MHSS) has released the third edition of its resource manual “CALD communities, sexually transmissible infections and viral hepatitis.” This resource for health and community service workers includes information on working with diverse health beliefs and levels of health literacy, explaining sexual health terms and useful support services and resources. Community brochures on HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections are also available from the MHSS in community languages including Amharic, Arabic, Burmese, Chin, Karen, Khmer, Lao, Somali and Vietnamese.

7. Download refugee health information for free on YouTube. Extracts from the NSW Refugee Health Improvement Network’s Health Check DVD: “Health information for recently arrived African communities in Australia” are now available free online in seven languages. See www.youtube.com/user/refugeehealth

Professional Development

8. Professional Development for Nurses – Intensive Introduction: Including Refugee Health Assessment and Care This two day introductory course is part of Foundation House’s Refugee Health Nurses two year professional development program and will provide an overview of refugee health and wellbeing to inform community based practice. 
The Intensive Introduction is a prerequisite for other modules available in the Refugee Health Nurse professional development program and is free to attend. On Monday 9 and Tuesday 10 May from 9.15am – 4.00pm at Foundation House, 6 Gardiner Street, Brunswick. For registration enquiries phone Georgia (03) 9389 8914 or email 

Research / Reports

9. O’Mahony, J. & Donnelly, T. (2010). Immigrant and refugee women’s post-partum depression help-seeking experiences and access to care: a review and analysis of the literature. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 17 (10), 917-928. This article presents the positive and negative factors which may influence immigrant and refugee women’s health seeking behaviour and decision making about post-partum care. The authors highlight the need for more research on immigrant and refugee women’s ideas about their social support needs, the difficulties they experience and their preferred ways of getting help with post-partum depression.