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Making a difference to systems for primary health care delivery to Australian refugees and asylum seekers.

Australia is one of many developed countries that resettles people fleeing from war, persecution or natural disasters. Nearly all newly arrived refugees face substantial health challenges – not only from pre-migration trauma, but also from the demands of settling in a new and unfamiliar country. These challenges are compounded by the fact that, across the nation, organisations tasked with delivering specialised health services to refugees have reached capacity. Waiting times are long, transition of care from specialised services to mainstream general practice is inconsistent, and mainstream general practice is under-equipped to provide consistently high quality care to this vulnerable population. These systemic weaknesses contribute to poor health outcomes for refugees through missed opportunities for early intervention and continuity of care, especially for the prevention and management of long term physical and psychological conditions. Refugees who fall through the gaps are increasingly turning to hospital emergency departments for health needs. These needs could be managed more effectively and at lower cost to the health system through community based primary care services such as mainstream general practice. The OPTIMISE Partnership Project OPTIMISE is a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership Project grant to improve primary health care delivery to refugees living in Australia. Our partners: Monash University, the University of NSW, Latrobe University, the University of Ottawa; Monash Health, cohealth, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Refugee Health Network, NSW Refugee Health Service, South Eastern Health Providers Association, North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network; South Western Sydney Primary Health Network, AMES, Settlement Services International, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and the Refugee Health Network of Australia. Aim: to generate a model of integrated refugee primary health care suitable for uptake throughout Australia Objectives: We will work to trial and implement a collaborative, system-oriented approach to: • increase the accessibility of refugee focused health services and mainstream primary care • optimise systems for transferring refugee clients at appropriate times between these services. • Increase the ability of mainstream primary care services to deliver high quality accessible care to refugees. • develop capacity amongst academics, clinicians and decision-makers in terms of system improvement for services appropriate for the management of refugees in the community Setting: two regions of Victoria (south eastern and north western Melbourne) and one region of New South Wales (south western Sydney) with high rates of refugee resettlement. The opportunity The successful candidate will work under the guidance of the research team and partner agencies in the South East Melbourne region to design and conduct a research project fitting with their areas of interest. Candidates will be supported to: • Gain experience in qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (surveys, de-identified patient information) data collection and analysis • Gain experience with community engagement through participation in a regional team of policy advisers, health service/program managers, clinicians and community members working to improve primary health care delivery to refugees • Develop academic writing skills by contributing to research papers, reports and conference presentations. Our Research Environment As a research student in the Department of General Practice you will have access to supervision from international and national leaders in primary care research and education in a supportive and collaborative research environment. Research students are linked with a research group working within one of our areas of research excellence and able to draw upon expertise from across the department to support quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research. You will have opportunity to develop primary care research skills and understanding of ethics through workshops and seminars while gaining exposure to a wide variety of primary care research methods and topics through attendance at a weekly Departmental academic seminar series. An active early career research group provides a structure for informal support and learning amongst peers. Visit our website ( to find out more about the opportunities and support for research students in General Practice.
Essential criteria: 
Minimum entry requirements can be found here:
refugee; asylum seeker; health equity; community engagement; primary care; health services research; mixed methods research
School of Primary and Allied Health Care
Available options 
Masters by research
Time commitment 
Top-up scholarship funding available 
Physical location 
Notting Hill Campus

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