Hume Whittlesea Primary Care Partnership
About this project
People of refugee backgrounds who arrive in Australia have often experienced extended periods of hardship. For those who have fled war, torture or trauma, arrival within the community in Australia can provide the welcome beginning of a new life. However, settlement is only the start of this journey. The ways in which people are welcomed and supported within their first three to five years after arrival can have a profound effect on their health, wellbeing and inclusion.
Coordinating system responses
The Outer Northern Refugee Health Network was formed in 2015. One of the prompts for the formation of the Network was the Australian government’s announcement of an additional 12,000 humanitarian places for people displaced by the conflict in Syria and Iraq. A substantial number of these arrivals were to settle in the Local Government Areas of Hume and Whittlesea, in Melbourne’s north. The Network guided local system improvements to better meet the complex health and wellbeing needs of people from refugee backgrounds in the Hume and Whittlesea local government areas.
While some agencies are specifically funded to work with people of refugee background, providing effective support and healthcare to new arrivals requires a whole-of-service-system response. These networks understand that many people of refugee backgrounds face specific health inequalities arising from their disrupted access to healthcare, deprivation, and experiences of trauma and loss. They often face significant barriers to service access, including the challenges of navigating an unfamiliar service system with sometimes low English proficiency. Networks of supportive agencies can play a vital role in improving access to services and quality of care.
The ways in which people are welcomed and supported within their first three to five years after arrival can have a profound effect on their health, wellbeing and inclusion.
In 2018 Lirata assisted the Network to develop its inaugural strategic plan. The planning process commenced with a review of current policy directions and catchment data. We assisted the Network to undertake two stakeholder surveys: one of people from refugee backgrounds, and one of service providers. Both surveys provided important insights into needs and priorities in the catchment. Lirata then facilitated a planning workshop with a diverse group of Network members to identify strategic priority areas and actions. We worked closely with the Network Coordinator and Reference Group to refine and finalise the plan, and to present it back to members.
The Strategic Plan set out four main priority areas for the Network:
- Improve service access & navigation – To improve access to and navigation of health and community services for refugees and asylum seekers.
- Build service system capacity – To build the collaborative capacity of health and community services to effectively assist refugees and asylum seekers.
- Support social inclusion – To develop social inclusion approaches that improve refugee and asylum seeker community participation and acceptance.
- Strengthen the Network – To strengthen the Network through enhancing its governance, membership and profile.
The Plan also identified Activities and Success Measures associated with each priority area.
Agreeing on clear priorities and activities helped to focus the work of the Network on the most effective ways to improve outcomes for refugees in Melbourne’s north.