People of refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers

Foundation House logoThe Foundation House Disability Project Community Advisory Group was made up of people living with disabilities and their carers who had settled in the northern suburbs from Iraq and Syria in the last five years. This report details themes and advice from the group to improve services and systems for people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers. A summary is available in English and Arabic.


The welcome introduction in 2012 of a waiver of visa health requirements for humanitarian visa holders has created clearer pathways for people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities to resettle in Australia. In addition to the increased numbers of people from refugee backgrounds arriving with disabilities, there have been significant changes in service arrangements for people living with disabilities.

Access to appropriate services and supports can be complex for people living with disabilities. However, these challenges are compounded for newly arrived people from refugee backgrounds who may:

  • arrive with undiagnosed, poorly managed or not formally diagnosed conditions, which may or may not be familiar to Australian practitioners
  • be an adult presenting with a condition that is typically treated in childhood
  • arrive without necessary aids and equipment (for example, a wheelchair or walking aids).

The 2018 Victorian Refugee Health Network needs assessment Service responses for people with disabilities from refugee backgrounds in northern Melbourne made a series of recommendations. These included the need to build practitioner capacity across services, and the need to better understand service access issues from the perspective of people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities.

This project ran from May 2018 to March 2019 and aimed to:

  • better understand and document the experiences and service access issues for people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers
  • build the capacity of community advisers from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers to advocate for access to appropriate services
  • build the capacity of health, settlement and disability services to provide accessible and appropriate services that meet the needs of people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers.

A Community Advisory Group of people from refugee backgrounds living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability was established. Community advisers had arrived from Iraq and Syria in the last five years and had settled in the northern suburbs. This report details the project methodology and the themes and advice from the group to improve the responses of service providers working with people from refugee backgrounds living with disabilities and their carers. Themes summarised in this report include knowledge, understanding and navigation of services; impact of previous experiences, including trauma; frustrations with workers, services and systems; complaints and feedback; language; waiting times and prioritisation; skills, knowledge and confidence to advocate; National Disability Insurance Scheme; carers; and willingness and skills to help services.

In addition, advisers reflected on the Community Advisory Group model, and the benefits for them included building practical knowledge and skills; increased knowledge and confidence to advocate for their rights; access to service providers and decision-makers; and the importance of being heard.

The summary of themes from the report is available in Arabic and English – click here

The full report is available – click here

 

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