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Refugee patients in primary care

Key points People from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, come from a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. People from refugee backgrounds will have similar health concerns to their Australian-born counterparts, but may also have health issues specific to their country of origin and their migration and settlement experience. People from refugee backgrounds have higher […]

Identifying patients from refugee backgrounds

Key points Identification of people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, is important so that healthcare providers can tailor their approach. There are a number of indicators that a person may be from a refugee background. These include: country of birth year of arrival in Australia need for interpreter preferred language visa type referral […]

Whole of practice approaches

Overview An empathetic, person-centred, culturally responsive approach is highly valued by people from refugee backgrounds.1 It requires a whole-of-practice approach. Consider the following at reception: welcoming reception staff, bilingual if available waiting spaces with information in local refugee community languages clear signage about the availability of interpreters flexible waiting spaces for children’s play as well as […]

Communication and interpreters

Overview The majority of newly arrived people from refugee backgrounds do not speak English or do not speak English well,1 yet research shows that credentialed, professional interpreters are only engaged for a small percentage of consultations in primary care.2 Healthcare providers have a professional obligation to understand their patients’ needs and patients have the right to […]

Approach to consultation and management

 “The way the doctor treats you personally is half the medicine…” Community consultation participant, QLD Key points Person-centred care principles are useful to understand each individual’s background and current needs. A universal precautions approach to pre-migration trauma is recommended when caring for people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum. Consider health literacy and cultural factors […]

Refugee health assessment

Overview Offer a comprehensive post-arrival health assessment to every child, adolescent and adult from a refugee background who is new to your care, preferably within one month of arrival. Always use person-centred care principles that consider the impact of past trauma. Use language and gender appropriate interpreters. See Approach to consultation and management, Communication and […]

Prescribing tips

Overview Taking medications correctly requires the use of effective communication techniques to reduce non-adherence, adverse events or failure to take medication as prescribed. Failure to do this increases the risk of medication errors.1 Many people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, come from areas where pharmaceuticals are poorly regulated and understood. Approach to care […]

Tips for making referrals

Key points Further investigations and specialist referrals may present significant additional challenges for people from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, who may require additional practical support. Consider seeking the specialist’s advice about whether a referral is appropriate prior to making the referral. Include information about the need for an interpreter and preferred language in […]

Management of psychological effects of torture or other traumatic events

Overview People from refugee backgrounds, including people seeking asylum, vary in their readiness to disclose previous trauma, and much depends on context, and the empathy, warmth and skill of the clinician. Talking about past experiences can may be psychologically beneficial in the right circumstances. However, the knowledge that the patient may have endured certain experiences […]

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Produced by

in consultation with

                  Refugee Health Network of Australia

Endorsed by

Funded by

The Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide was produced with funds from the Australian Government Department of Health.


The information set out in the Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide (“the Guide”) is current at the date of first publication and is intended for use as a guide of a general nature only and may or may not be relevant to particular patients or circumstances. Nor is the Guide exhaustive of the subject matter. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in the Guide must exercise their own independent skill or judgement or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular circumstances when so doing. The statements or opinions that are expressed in the Guide reflect the views of the contributing authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or Foundation House. Compliance with any recommendations cannot of itself guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional and the premises from which the health professional operates.

Whilst the information is directed to health professionals possessing appropriate qualifications and skills in ascertaining and discharging their professional (including legal) duties, it is not to be regarded as clinical advice and, in particular, is no substitute for a full examination and consideration of medical history in reaching a diagnosis and treatment based on accepted clinical practices.

Accordingly, Foundation House and its employees and agents shall have no liability (including without limitation liability by reason of negligence) to any users of the information contained in the Guide for any loss or damage (consequential or otherwise), cost or expense incurred or arising by reason of any person using or relying on the information contained in the Guide and whether caused by reason of any error, negligent act, omission or misrepresentation in the information. Although every effort has been made to ensure that drug doses and other information are presented accurately in the Guide, the ultimate responsibility rests with the prescribing clinician. For detailed prescribing information or instructions on the use of any product described herein, please consult the prescribing information issued by the manufacturer.