What are the experiences and needs of older refugees living in Victoria? Currently in Australia, there is a focus on “ageing in place” and an emphasis on supporting older people to remain in their homes and communities for as long as possible. However, the reality for many older people who have come to Australia as refugees is that they face “ageing out of place”. For recently arrived older refugees in particular, the experiences of forced displacement, torture and trauma, are layered on top of the challenges of growing old in a new country.
The state of Victoria receives approximately 30% of Australia’s refugee intake. Between 1996 and 2005, 85,604 people arrived in Australia on Humanitarian visas. They came from more than 50 different countries and ranged in age from less than a year to over 80 years of age (see Appendix 1). Since 1996, the proportion of refugees from different regions has varied (see Figure 4.1) with fewer coming from Europe and an increasing number coming from Africa. It is estimated that there are currently at least 4,241 people from refugee backgrounds living in Victoria over the age of 40 years, who have arrived since 1996. While these numbers are small compared to other migrant groups and to refugees from other age groups, the needs of this group are large. Their small
numbers and high levels of need pose a challenge to health and community services because many of these refugee communities have neither the capacity nor the resources to support their elderly, or to lobby for appropriate care services.
This research project was undertaken with the aim of scoping the health and wellbeing needs of Victorian Seniors from refugee backgrounds, and reviewing their access to community health and support services. The focus is on smaller and more recently arrived communities as these are the groups on which there is the least information and which are likely to be the most vulnerable. Research has previously been done into the needs of older refugees from the Polish and Jewish communities who arrived in Australia after the Second World War (Joffe,
1996; 2000; 2003; Drozd et al. 2004), and into the needs of the Vietnamese and Cambodian communities (Silove et al., 1995; Steel et al., 2002; Tran, 1990; Thomas, 1999b)1. However, although these communities share some of the experiences of torture, trauma, displacement, and the subsequent complications of ageing with more recently arrived refugee communities, their experiences of resettlement will have been different.