Journal article

Human rights trauma and the mental health of West Papuan refugees resettled in Australia

15 Aug 2013
Description

This article finds that West Papuan refugees resettled in Australia report a wide range of premigration potentially traumatic events (PTEs) including human rights violations as well as symptoms of PTSD and distress.

Abstract

Objectives: To document the extent and nature of human rights violations and other traumatic events reported by West Papuan refugees resettled in Australia and to assess trauma-related psychological disorders, distress and disability.

Design and setting: Australian-based sample, mixed-methods design with 44 participants, conducted in Australia between October 2007 and November 2010 in communities in North Queensland and Melbourne.

Participants: West Papuan refugees aged 18 years and over (88% response rate).

Main outcome measures: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire) and premigration potentially traumatic events (PTEs), psychological distress (Kessler Psychological Distress Scale [K10]), post-migration living difficulties, days out of role.

Results: Of the 44 West Papuan refugees, 40 reported one or more PTE, including inability to access medical care for family (40), lack of food and water (39) and lack of access to medical treatment (38). The most frequent postmigration stressors were separation from and worries about family members remaining in West Papua (43) and being unable to return home in an emergency because of ongoing conflict (41). Twenty-six participants reached a lower threshold for PTSD symptoms of 2.0, and 13 reached the clinical threshold of 2.5. Fourteen reported severe psychological distress.

Conclusions: West Papuan refugees resettled in Australia report a wide range of premigration PTEs including human rights violations, as well as symptoms of PTSD and distress. The data add to concerns about the state of human rights and mental health among West Papuans.

Authored by Susan Rees, Derrick M Silove, Kuowei Tay and Moses Kareth.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2013
121
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