Australian Rotary Health is funding the first study to investigate the mental health of immigrant, refugee and asylum seeker families settling with children in Australia.

Professor Zachary Steel from the University of New South Wales was offered a Mental Health Research Grant this year to look at the mental health trajectories of asylum seeking children and parents facing insecure residency and immigration restrictions.

“The area of asylum and humanitarian protection is one where there has been great tension with government placing restrictions on asylum seekers rights to a range of services and protections,” Professor Steel said.

“It is important as mental health professionals that we document the effects of these policies on vulnerable populations and also create evidence to better inform policy about strategies to improve health outcomes.”

Professor Steel’s project will undertake mental health assessments of 120 asylum seeker children aged 5-17 and their caregivers, as well as 80 community matched refugee immigrants and their children who have arrived since 2010 at six monthly intervals across 2.5 years.

“The study will identify the mental health trajectories of children and parents and examine the association of the observed mental health trajectories with key resettlement stressors and changes in those stressors.”

While results from a recent national study of refugees with permanent residency showed evidence of positive mental health and psychosocial wellbeing for children, Professor Steel said there is emerging evidence that this is different for children in asylum seeking families with insecure residency and restrictive immigration processing.

Professor Steel plans to compare the results from his study to the results obtained with the sample of refugees with permanent residency.

“This information will be of enormous policy importance in better understanding the effect of asylum processing on children.”

We wish Professor Steel and his team all the best with this research.


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