An issue of access: delivering equitable health care for newly arrived refugee children in Australia

J Paediatr Child Health. 2004 Sep-Oct;40(9-10):569-75. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2004.00466.x.


Newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers are faced with many difficulties in accessing effective health care when settling in Australia. Cultural, language and financial constraints, lack of awareness of available services, and lack of health provider understanding of the complex health concerns of refugees can all contribute to limiting access to health care. Understanding the complexities of a new health care system under these circumstances and finding a regular health provider may be difficult. In some cases there may be a fundamental distrust of government services. The different levels of health entitlements by visa category and (for some) detention on arrival in Australia may further complicate the provision and use of health services for providers and patients. Children are particularly at risk of suboptimal health care due to the impact of these factors combined with the effect of resettlement stresses on parents' ability to care for their children. Unaccompanied and separated children, and those in detention experience additional challenges in accessing care. This article aims to increase awareness among health professionals caring for refugee children of the challenges faced by this group in accessing and receiving effective health care in Australia. Particular consideration is given to the issues of equity, rights of asylum seekers, communication and cultural sensitivities in health care provision, and addressing barriers to health care. The aim of the paper is to alert practitioners to the complex issues surrounding the delivery of health care to refugee children and provide realistic recommendations to guide practice.

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Child
  • Delivery of Health Care / methods*
  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration
  • Delivery of Health Care / standards
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Government Programs
  • Humans
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Refugees*