Position Statement

The aim of this statement is to provide an overview of concerns related to refugee mental health and wellbeing within the Australian context, and to position psychologists' responses to these issues. The statement is derived from consultation with psychologists working with refugee communities, a review of current refugee research and practice, and a comprehensive literature review released by the APS titled: Psychological Wellbeing of Refugees Resettling in Australia (APS 2008).

The APS recognises the vulnerability of people seeking asylum and the potential for mental health problems amongst refugees. While diplomatic engagement to stop persecution and ensure a safe route for refugees seeking protection is preferable, there is broad acknowledgement that this is not always possible in practice. Given the global political and climate change contexts, the APS recognises therefore that there will continue to be a need to resettle refugees in Australia. Also acknowledged is the need for laws and policies that uphold the rights of refugees, for provision of adequate support upon resettlement, and for recognition of the potential contribution that refugee communities can make to Australian community life.

A key goal of the APS is to actively contribute psychological knowledge for the promotion and enhancement of community wellbeing. The APS therefore takes a stand against the destructive consequences of racism and xenophobia, both for populations and for individuals. It expresses deep concern over the adverse public health and mental health consequences of such prejudices. Because of these significant adverse consequences, the APS calls for any national debates (e.g., on policies such as immigration and population, border control and response to terrorism) involving people of diverse ethnic, backgrounds to be based on objective data, and not on prejudices, ideology or political expedience.

The position statement provides recommendations that encourage and support psychologists to engage with issues impacting on asylum seekers and refugees, including advocacy for change where policies and practices cause harm to mental health and wellbeing. The statement also urges governments to adopt policies which uphold the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and identifies ways in which the Australian community can best be supported to provide a welcome and inclusive response to asylum seekers and refugees.

Psychological wellbeing of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia (PDF, 182KB) - Acrobat icon - small

Literature Review

This literature review was developed as background for the formulation of an Australian Psychological Society position on the mental health and wellbeing of refugees resettling in Australia. The major aim is to provide a broad overview of the concerns related to refugee mental health and wellbeing within the Australian context. To begin, a brief overview of the definition of a refugee and the scope of refugee movement is provided. Next, the review examines the pre-displacement, post-displacement, systemic and socio-political factors that influence the process of adaptation in refugee resettlement. It then reviews documented approaches to psychological assessment and therapeutic interventions with refugees; and finally it summarises suggestions for assessment and intervention in these practice
contexts.

Psychological wellbeing of refugees resettling in Australia (PDF, 353KB) - Acrobat icon - small