Women's Health Week - Refugee Health

11/Sep/2020     Health

Women’s Health Week is a nation-wide campaign of events centred on improving women's health, this week we will hear from female clinicians at Mater speaking about female health issues they are passionate about.

Dr Rebecca Farley works in the Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic with refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia and spoke about some of the complex health issues facing women from a refugee background.

“One of the challenges is bridging cultural gaps in the healthcare systems. Many women have had limited access to health care and in particular preventative health care overseas, so understanding and navigating the Australian health care system can be challenging,” Rebecca said.

“Many women have experienced trauma leaving their home countries, living in refugee camps and traveling to Australia, so taking a gradual, person-centred and trauma informed approach is so important in building trusting therapeutic relationships that will allow us to provide high quality care.

“In addition to treating pre-existing health conditions we also provide preventative health care, focusing on health literacy and education, recommended screening activities and immunisations. We see many pregnant women so ensuring they are offered high quality antenatal care and connected with appropriate services is an important part of our work.”

Rebecca noted Lawrence Summers Chief Economist of the World Bank once wrote ‘Educating girls yields a higher rate of return than any other investment in the developing world.’

“He spoke of the idea that when you educate a woman, you educate a family and in turn educate a community. More educated women tend to be healthier and are often able to access better health care for their children,” Rebecca said.

“I think you see this around the world and I think it is equally true here. We can see how women build on the health information and resources they receive to ultimately empower their families and the wider community.

“I believe there is commonality in the human experience and I enjoy working with people from diverse backgrounds. I learn so much from the communities we work with the joy of discovering that commonality and how it can inform clinical care is one of the greatest privileges of my work.”

Samira Ali is originally from Eritrea and is a mother of three children, she has lived in Australia for over 10 years and is a cultural support worker for newly arrived single mothers in Australia and a member of the Mater Refugee Health Network G11 group.

“For newly arrived women in Australia it’s extremely important they start preventative health care measures which could include their first ever pap smear or mammogram depending on their age,” Samira said.

“It’s important for health providers to understand some newly arrived people in Australia would never have had access to quality health care or may have spent long periods of time without seeing a doctor so it’s important to check everything.

“Asking questions about family history of illness is sometimes not always valid as there are no screening processes in some countries and people may not fully be aware of very strong links to diseases in their family.”

Additional Information

Mater Refugee Complex Care Clinic (MRCCC) provides clinical case management for patients from a refugee background with complex health needs, and a primary care service for people seeking asylum. Mater Integrated Refugee Health Service (MIRHS) outreaches in Brisbane’s community GPs.

The clinic provides specialised primary health care to any person with a refugee experience with complex health needs, including permanent visa holders, asylum seekers and those without access to Medicare.

For further information contact the MRCCC on 07 3163 2880 or visit https://www.materonline.org.au/services/refugee-services/mater-refugee-complex-care-clinic.

Public relations contacts

07 3163 6142