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21st of June, 2021

Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health at DPV Health

At DPV Health, we recognise that many refugees and asylum seekers struggle with multiple and complex physical and psychological health issues, resulting from trauma and torture, deprivation and prolonged poverty, periods in immigration detention and poor access to healthcare.

It is important to address health problems early in their settlement. Refugees and asylum seekers are more likely to settle successfully – including actively participating in family, schooling, working and community life – when their health and wellbeing improve.

From June 20th to 26th 2021, we are celebrating Refugee week!  This is an annual national event that aims to raise awareness and celebrate the positive contributions refugees and asylum seekers make to Australian society.

The theme for Refugee Week this year is ‘Unity’, inviting us to reflect on the powerful potential we have when we work together as a diverse community.

“I feel very strongly about equality and social justice, and the theme of ‘unity’ means all of us standing together, accepting and celebrating our similarities as well as our differences. It is our diversity that makes us stronger. When everyone is able to recognise and value this, then we will really be united and unstoppable!” – Caitlin Anderson, DPV Refugee Health Nurse.

Who are refugees and asylum seekers?

Asylum Seekers are people who have fled their home country and are seeking international protection. Once the country they have fled to officially approves their request for protection, they become a Refugee. Refugees are people who have fled their home country due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, social position or political opinion.

Did you know that the City of Hume, one of DPV Health’s catchment areas, had the highest intake of refugees and asylum seekers in Victoria in 2018?

This means that we’re focused on providing exceptional care to this part of the community. Through our Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health program ALL newly arrived refugees in the City of Whittlesea and City of Hume can access culturally sensitive health care support with FREE interpreter access.

The program provides comprehensive health assessments, health education, and referrals to other health services such as physiotherapy, nutrition, dental, emotional wellness counselling, baby and child health and NDIS disability access, among many others.

Have you heard about our team of Bi-Cultural workers that are ready to help?

All our refugee clients have access to our empathetic Bi-Cultural workers who share a similar experiences and cultural backgrounds. They act as an essential communication link between refugee communities and health workers ensuring that we provide the best possible care.

“A refugee’s journey would not have been an easy one. Leaving family and friends behind, leaving their homes to flee from their war-torn countries is a difficult and sometimes traumatic experience. By being helpful in any way that I can, by listening to them and by offering them the respect they deserve makes a big impact on the client.” – Sousan Hawalla, Refugee Health Access Worker/Bicultural Worker

Did you know that the COVID-19 vaccine is free for all people in Australia?

This includes refugees, people who seek asylum, and those with temporary or cancelled visas. You DO NOT need Medicare to receive a vaccination or COVID test! Find more information about our locations here.

For more information about DPV Health Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health services, visit: https://www.dpvhealth.org.au/all-services/community-support/refugee-asylum-seeker-health-program/.

Hala’s Story

Meet Hala, a Refugee Health Services client at DPV Health.

Hala was born in Iraq, speaks speak Arabic, and now a little English. She has a degree in Software Engineering and used to teach IT at a University in Iraq. Then war broke out, the Iraqi government toppled, and everything changed.

“During that time my husband went missing, and we presumed that he was dead. I decided to flee Iraq with my girls and went to Syria where I lived for 7 years. I then moved to Lebanon and lived there for 2 years.”

Finally, in 2016 the UN accepted Hala’s application and she arrived in Australia with her three daughters on a ‘Woman at Risk Visa. Settling in and building a life in a new country wasn’t easy though.

“I was sick physically and mentally. Not being able to communicate and speak English made it very hard to navigate services and appointments. Being a single mother and the big responsibilities that came with that did not help my mental health.”

Luckily, Hala and her daughters found DPV Health and things started to improve.

“After a few months of arriving to Australia, I was offered an appointment with a refugee health nurse at DPV Health. The nurse was a godsend and she has helped me tremendously. My children and I were referred to DPV Health dental where we all received free treatments. I was also referred to the women’s health nurse where I obtained the information I needed, and a Cervical Screening test was completed. The nurse followed up on my health issues and helped me to book a much-needed surgery. She has also helped me to understand the Australian health system better.”

Hala was then introduced to a bi-cultural worker to support her transition.

“When the refugee health nurse first came to visit me, she had with her a bi-cultural worker. I found it so helpful to have someone that speaks my language and someone that I can trust and communicate with. Through the bi-cultural worker, I was referred to a Refugee Women’s Social Group where I still attend more than 4 years later.”

At the time, Hala’s daughter was dealing with poor mental health and was suffering because she missed her dad. DPV Health’s Refugee Health nurse referred her to Foundation House where she received the support she needed. “My daughter then started to be more engaged and started to attend school.”

Things have since been looking up for Hala and her daughters, and they have now decided to make Australia their home.

“A couple of years ago we found out that my husband is still alive. We are now in touch with each other, and I am now in the process of applying through the Dept. of Immigration to grant him a visa… I often ask my daughters if they would like to go back to Iraq to see what they would say. They tell me no mum, Australia is now our home. What I like about living in Australia is that as a person you feel respected no matter what cultural background or religion you are. The Medicare system is fantastic. Only someone from a different country will appreciate how accessible health services are in Australia.”

“For the future, I am hoping that the Dept. of Immigration would grant my husband a visa so we can finally be united as a family. I know my children will be fine in this country. They are getting a good education and I’m sure they will have a bright future. As for myself, I wish to continue to better my English and to find a job that will bring me self-satisfaction and happiness.”

COVID-19 Lockdown Update

All DPV Health sites will remain open for emergency and medical treatments, however, some services will be affected.

Clients with existing appointments will be contacted to reschedule or convert their appointment to Telehealth.

Please call 1300 234 263 for more information.

For mental health support during these difficult times, our Head to Help service is available on 1800 595 212.

If you have an appointment with DPV Health, please click below to check the current COVID-19 exposure sites prior to attending.