Local case study – Murrumbidgee Local Health District

Refugee Health Assessment Centre

1 Oct 2022 Reading time approximately

A co-located service where the nurse-led refugee health team is housed with the settlement service provider within the Multicultural Council office.

Location of servicesWagga Wagga
Patient demographicsAfghanistan, Congo, Iraq (Yazidi majority), Myanmar, South Sudan and Tibetan asylum seeker communities.

Governance structureThe chief executive of the Multicultural Council manages the Refugee Health Assessment Centre. The council chief executive reports to the director of public health, Murrumbidgee Local Health District.


The Refugee Health Assessment Centre is run from the Multicultural Council office. It provides quality, coordinated, primary healthcare to meet the needs of people from a refugee background before they transition to local general practitioners. This includes:

  • holistic health assessments by the dedicated refugee health nurse
  • immunisation catch ups
  • referrals to specialists such as optometry, allied health services, counselling and  other supports.

The refugee health nurse accesses all the overseas medical records, compiles a health file on the patient and assesses the family before a local general practitioner does a medical assessment.

Connecting community

Co-locating the clinic with the broader refugee health team and settlement service providers creates a one-stop-shop for clients. It allows the coordination of supports and easy access for clients.

The refugee health team created a safe space that is warm, culturally inviting and open to everyone to attend for an appointment or to connect. It includes a baby change table, a swing set and tea and coffee facilities so people can relax and chat. The facilities have helped staff develop good relationships with clients.

The nurse-led service provides readily available access to healthcare for clients upon arrival. Newly arrived people have their initial health assessment and pathology ordered at the clinic. The dental team also see clients in the clinic.

Information sessions are regularly held on subject such as:

  • cancer prevention and screening
  • women’s health
  • child and maternal health
  • nutrition
  • healthy lifestyles and wellbeing.

Events are co-hosted with specific services, such as Child and Maternal Health, to educate the community particular health topics.

The refugee health team regularly hosts barbeques. These events enable communities to:

  • connect and learn about the refugee health service
  • meet the team members
  • see the clinic.

Making a difference

Building relationships with clients is important because every client has unique health needs. Clients are told there is always someone at the clinic to help them, so they don’t feel isolated. Having dental and pathology services included in the initial health assessment has helped foster those relationships and provide comprehensive care to the patient.

Top tips

  • Clients depend on us. Sharing common values with all stakeholders, including the settlement service providers, is critical to ensure mutual benefits are understood and clients’ needs are met.
  • Patient consent is critical. It is challenging for clients to understand the consent process. It is important that staff work with interpreters so they can ensure clients understand.
  • Encourage clients to ask questions and seek advice. It is important that clients understand their healthcare rights and know they have the right to say no.
  • Be proactive in seeking opportunities to access NSW grants and funding. This has enabled us to meet operational requirements of the service.
  • Staff need to be:
    • authentic
    • accepting
    • supportive
    • able to build trust
    • accountable for what they do and say.
  • Hold network meetings
    • Include representatives from the settlement service, medical staff, primary health, child and family health and allied health. This helps everyone to understand common goals, cultural needs and potential issues for the arriving communities.
    • The meeting is an opportunity to share practical tips on how to keep costs down for clients. For example, the bulk billing of ultrasounds and accessing contracted optometrists enables care to be affordable.
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