The Refugee Health & General Practice Development Program

A collaboration of the
 Western Melbourne, Dandenong, Monash and North West Melbourne Divisions of General Practice 
in association with
Australian Red Cross Victoria,
The Asylum Seeker Assistance Scheme,
Department of Human Services General and Integrated Care Unit and Disease Control & Surveillance Section,
General Practice Divisions Victoria, 
The Transcultural Psychiatry Unit, 
 The Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture.

The Refugee Health and General Practice Development Program was implemented between March 2000 and September 2001 to enhance the role of general practice in providing health care to Humanitarian entrants and other patients from refugee-like situations. It was an inter-divisional initiative carried out in collaboration with infectious disease and mental health experts, allied health care providers and general practice organisations.

Its emphasis was on supporting GPs to contribute to the early identification and management of physical and psychological health problems in new arrivals.

A range of activities was undertaken by the program including:

  • Establishment and support of a program base to link GPs, allied health care workers and others interested in refugee health and to coordinate initiatives to support GPs.
  • Development of a network of GPs with a particular interest in refugee health care to serve as forum for information exchange, peer support and case discussion.
  • Development of clinical guidelines to support GPs caring for people from refugee backgrounds.
  • Piloting the guidelines in 18 general practice settings for the purposes of evaluation, identifying strategies to optimise their application at the practice level and documenting barriers requiring attention in government policy and program development.
  • Development and piloting of professional development programs tailored to the needs of GPs with different levels of interest in, and contact with, people from refugee backgrounds. These are currently being documented in a resource so that they can be published and replicated beyond the life of the program.
  • Advocacy to address constraints faced by GPs in providing care to refugee patients (eg interpreter access).
  • Formal program evaluation and documentation to enable national dissemination of lessons learned.

The Program was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care through the General Practice Innovations Pool (2000-2001).
It was based at the VFST with the lead agency being the Western Melbourne Division of General Practice (David Hobby 03 9365 1736).

Please contact health@survivorsvic.org.au for further details.