Improving health literacy through bicultural workers

In evaluation

30 June 2018

Funding Amount:






Melbourne Macedon Ranges Yarra Moonee Valley Darebin Maribyrnong Hobsons Bay Wyndham Brimbank Moorabool Melton Hume Merri-bek


NWMPHN will soon pilot a program to improve the health literacy of refugees and build the capacity of bicultural workers. This program aims to assist communities to better understand their health needs and actively seek out primary care services that they may not be receiving.

Australia currently accepts 13,750 people from a refugee or similar background yearly and, because of the Syrian conflict, an additional one-off cohort of 12,000 will be accepted in the 2016-18 period. Refugees and asylum seekers have been identified as a vulnerable population in the NWMPHN region, with data revealing approximately 18 per cent of the country’s humanitarian arrivals settled in North Western Melbourne last year.

This program will concentrate on three LGAs, Hume, Melton and Brimbank, which in 2016 received mainly Arabic speaking arrivals: Hume (1810 Arabic, 438 Assyrian), Melton (317 Arabic, 39 Assyrian) and Brimbank (245 Arabic, 30 Assyrian).

The approach to this project has been heavily informed by two recent reports that give voice to the experiences of people from refugee backgrounds using the health system in Melbourne. The reports confirmed the need for accessible information about the Australian healthcare system in a community setting.

This initiative will provide professional development and support to bicultural workers to identify and respond to local priorities in our region, improve quality of care for vulnerable groups, and remove barriers to access. A focus on building the capacity of bicultural workers in our region is supported by a Victorian Refugee Health Network report, which highlights the value of bringing together this group and their ongoing need for professional development opportunities.


NWMPHN intends that the program will meet the following objectives:

  • It will target the Arabic-speaking refugee and asylum seeker population of Hume, Brimbank and Melton.
  • Individuals will be able to access the program in a face-to-face, culturally sensitive community setting. Education provided will meet the identified health literacy needs of the community, including information about navigating the Australian healthcare system (refugee health assessment, immunisation and after-hours care, in particular), mental health, healthy eating and exercise, and other topics of importance for the target audience.
  • Delivery of the program will establish culturally appropriate, self-sustaining health and wellbeing (mental health) peer support groups in the community.
  • It will build the capacity of the community by empowering bicultural health workers and providing them with opportunities for ongoing learning and support.
  • The program will involve partnerships with Arabic speaking and other community groups. The partnerships developed will enable engagement of the target audience, and support organisational capacity building in the community.
  • The program will create links with local primary care services, such as general practitioners and immunisation services, and act as a pathway for attendees to access the primary care they need.
  • The model is supported by shared accountabilities, governance structures, internal evaluation and ways of working to support the needs of individuals.