People from refugee backgrounds, including people who are seeking asylum, have a profound impact on enhancing Australia's social, cultural, and economic life. As well as their strengths, people from refugee backgrounds also have unique needs and challenges in keeping healthy.

Meeting these health needs is critical because when people are healthy, they are better able to work, study, engage and contribute to society.

NSW Health has a proud history of being a leader in providing healthcare services targeted to people from refugee backgrounds.

NSW Refugee Health Plan 2022-2027

This commitment continues with the NSW Refugee Health Plan 2022-2027, which is the statewide plan for improving the health and well-being of refugees and people with refugee-like experiences who have settled in NSW.

The Plan takes a culturally responsive, trauma-informed, and strengths-based approach to support people from refugee backgrounds to be healthy, thriving members of NSW.

It outlines a model of refugee healthcare which promotes refugee health and well-being through providing high quality specialised refugee health services and fostering the provision of high-quality, accessible mainstream care to refugees.

Together with the NSW Plan for Healthy Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Communities: 2019-2023, the Plan commits NSW Health to address priorities including:

  • Effective communication in people's preferred language
  • Timely access to culturally responsive mainstream public healthcare services, such as mental and oral healthcare, particularly for people resettled in rural and regional locations
  • Efficient service navigation and care coordination
  • Targeted health promotion and health education.

The NSW Refugee Health Plan 2022-2027 was developed with extensive and valuable contribution from people with refugee backgrounds, as well as partners across Government, NGOs and community organisations. It provides essential guidance to the NSW Health system to inform local health plans.

NSW Health services for people from refugee backgrounds

Over three decades ago, NSW was one of the first jurisdictions in the world to acknowledge the special health needs of people from refugee backgrounds.

NSW Health established the first specialised refugee health service in 1988 with the launch of the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors. In 1999, NSW Health published the first Refugee Health Plan in Australia, and in the same year, the statewide NSW Refugee Health Service was established by South Western Sydney Area Health Service.

Since then, NSW Health's commitment to providing access to health services for people from refugee backgrounds has grown substantially. NSW Health currently invests more than $20 million annually into specialised refugee health services to ensure the right services and supports are in place to help newly arrived refugees re-build their lives in NSW. This investment includes services provided by the NSW Refugee Health Service, STARTTS and the Mental Health Community Living Supports for Refugees Program, as well as refugee health services across local health districts, paediatric specialist clinics, interpreting services, vaccines and health clinics for asylum seekers living in the community.

Many of NSW Health's specialised refugee health services form a 'gateway' to appropriate healthcare, conducting on-arrival assessments and directing people to the right services for ongoing routine healthcare or to specialised services to manage particular health conditions.

For more information about NSW Health's specialised refugee health services see:

NSW Health staff may also enrol in the Health Education and Training (HETI) online course on refugee health: Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Refugees

Current as at: Thursday 1 December 2022