Qualitative data was collected through 23 focus group discussions and 14 in-depth interviews involving a total of 142 participants. All participants had refugee backgrounds and were aged between 16-25 years. Participants were purposively selected to reflect the ethnic composition of the humanitarian entrants to Victoria over the past 3 years. Their countries of origin include Iraq, Afghanistan, Burma, Sudan, Liberia, and Horn of Africa countries. The participants had been living in Australia for between 1 to 5 years. The majority had sufficient skills to participate in group discussions and interviews in English. Interpreters were used in two group discussions with newly arrived Burmese young people. The sample included young people from diverse situations, including those who were homeless, living with family, living independently, attending school, and not attending school.
15 in-depth interviews were also conducted with health professionals and case workers who are involved in refugee specific programs or who engage regularly with communities from refugee backgrounds.
The findings of this study highlight young people’s knowledge and attitudes in relation to sexual health issues, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS, STIs, contraception, unplanned pregnancy, initiation of sexual relationships, sources of information, and use of health services. The group discussions did not seek to identify personal experiences in relation to sexual activity, but to discuss expectations and attitudes associated with relationships and sexual activity. The in-depth interviews with young people provide richer data around experiences of sexual health issues.
The study identifies issues that are specific to young people with refugee backgrounds, due to their experiences of forced migration and displacement and to the challenges of the post-migration context in Australia. It also indicates that a range of other factors, including gender, socio-cultural frameworks and socio-economic status, influence the ways in which newly arrived young people learn about sex, their experience of relationships and sexual activity, and their attitudes towards risk and protective behaviours.