Building networks and partnerships

Engaging with consumers and stakeholders, developing partnerships and building networks will create a strong foundation to deliver appropriate and holistic care to people from refugee backgrounds.

      Here you can find a list of potential stakeholders to connect with to support newly-arrived communities.  A roadmap for engagement provides a guide on making these connections before, during and after settlement.

      Engaging these services is beneficial for:

      • developing clear referral pathways and ways of working
      • sharing information and lessons learnt about the community
      • supporting clinicians on how to use interpreters, book interpreters and engage with clients
      • understanding the enablers and barriers for each service and how barriers and gaps can be addressed
      • assessing needs for community education and partnering with these services to provide support
      • identifying opportunities for services to work together to address concerns within the community.

      Start engaging and networking early in the settlement process. Over time, relationships will develop and the needs of the community will evolve, including their need for specific services.

      Partnerships, relationships and a whole of community response

      External stakeholders

      Below is a list of stakeholders outside of NSW Health that you may wish connect with to support newly-arrived communities.

      Supporting settlement

      Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP) providers

      Intensive support for humanitarian entrants and other eligible visa holders during initial settlement stages. People will normally stay in this program for six to eighteen months.

      Source: Department of Home Affairs

      Settlement, Engagement and Transition Support (SETS) Program

      Complementing the HSP and other Commonwealth support, the SETS program offers ongoing support for humanitarian entrants and eligible visa holders. The program runs for five years from entry to Australia.

      Source: Department of Home Affairs

      NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

      A specialist, not-for-profit organisation established to provide culturally relevant psychological treatment, support and community interventions to survivors of torture and refugee trauma.

      Source: STARTTS


      Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP)

      A free service to help eligible migrants and humanitarian entrants with low English levels to improve their English language skills.

      Source: Department of Home Affairs

      Health (external)

      Primary health networks (PHNs)

      PHNs provide support to primary healthcare services. They look at ways that healthcare services can address the needs of communities – particularly those at risk of poor health outcomes – and support network development.

      Source: Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care

      General practitioners (GPs) and practice managers

      Watch our video on the GP relationship. It explains the role of GPs in providing ongoing care for people after an initial assessment is completed by the refugee health team.

      Local allied health services

      Includes dentists, orthopaedics, audiologists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists, etc.


      Department of Communities and Justice

      Connect with the department regarding complex cases involving domestic and family violence, and child protection issues. Early engagement is vital.

      Source: Department of Communities and Justice

      Multicultural service officers

      An essential service for humanitarian entrants providing Centrelink and Medicare support.

      Source: Services Australia

      Other local services

      These services will likely be involved in supporting newly-arrived communities during different stages of settlement. It is important to understand their referral processes, service provision and capacity to work with the newly-arrived community.

      • Local council and government
      • NDIS providers
      • Volunteer programs
      • Local non-government organisations (NGOs) and not-for-profit (NFP) organisations
      • Family support services
      • Violence, abuse and neglect services, such as women shelters and the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Program
      • Housing services
      • Employment programs

      For a comprehensive list of local services in NSW, refer to Services in NSW from the Refugee Council of Australia.

      Aboriginal services

      Refugee health services should connect with local Aboriginal health services and the local Aboriginal community during the initial period of refugee settlement. Your local Aboriginal service will be able to advise the most culturally-appropriate way to engage with the community.

      Aboriginal medical or health services will often work in trauma-informed ways. They may also run community engagement programs and health information sessions. Sharing knowledge and discussing ways of working may assist you to set up your network and service partnerships.

      Internal stakeholders (NSW Health)

      Consider engaging the following public health services in your local area. This may be easier when the refugee health service is based in a hospital setting.

      • Multicultural health (if available)
      • Public dental
      • Public pathology
      • Pharmacy
      • Emergency department
      • Maternity
      • Mental health
      • Women’s health services
      • Physiotherapy
      • Diabetes service
      • Occupational therapy
      • Audiometry testing
      • Speech pathology

      If the refugee health service is not located where these services are available, there are other options. Engage specialists or clinicians in a way that is agile. For example, arrange for clinicians to regularly travel to your clinic.

      The Transcultural Mental Health Centre works with health professionals and communities across New South Wales to support positive mental health for people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

      Read the Murrumbidgee LHD case study for an example of internal stakeholder engagement.

      Read the Illawarra Shoalhaven LHD case study for an example of using hospital tours as part of community education.

      Roadmap to engagement

        Engaging key stakeholders and developing partnerships should begin before people from a refugee background arrive in the region. During this time, the local council and Humanitarian Settlement Program generally lead planning and bring services together to map linkages and identify the needs of the incoming community.

        This is the time for services to develop access methods and address gaps and barriers, and understand enablers. New services may be established or existing services may receive additional funding to increase service capacity.

        In the early stages of engagement, the refugee health team will need to explore what services are available, their roles and referral process. Services may include:

        • Aboriginal health services and the Aboriginal community
        • local council
        • settlement services
        • STARTTS
        • education services, including schools and Adult Migrant English Program providers
        • PHNs and GPs.

        This period provides an opportunity to form internal relationships with public health service providers to:

        • develop ways of working
        • agree on referral processes
        • share knowledge
        • learn how to use interpreters.

        Seek as much information as possible about the incoming community. Know the cohort and their experiences, health concerns and cultural background. However, consider this to be a preliminary understanding that will be developed when the refugees arrive.

        As cohorts arrive, services will begin to develop a clear understanding of the needs of the community, including barriers and enablers.

        During this period, consultation should begin with the community. The health team may want to assess the health literacy levels of the group and note any common health issues that were not established in pre-arrival planning. This is the time to start educational and health promotion programs with the community.

        Refugee health services will play an important role in alerting services to the community’s needs and complexities. The health team may engage with the following services to support the newly-arrived community:

        Early engagement will ensure services identify resource gaps that may not have been determined pre-arrival. Services should identify gaps together; continue to revisit gaps and barriers; and assess what additional services may be required. This could be done in committee meetings or interagency meetings.

        Throughout settlement, health teams should continue to engage with other services, develop strong relationships and build networks.

        The community will continue to change and develop as new members arrive and priorities change. For example, people from a refugee background will be eligible to apply for their citizenship after four years of settlement.

        After five years of settlement, community members are no longer eligible for support from settlement services.

        Examples of engagement

        In many NSW local health districts (LHDs), effort has been made to develop relationships between:

        These relationships should be developed early, and each service should be aware of service provision capabilities and limitations. This may require developing formal partnerships, such as a memorandum of understanding.

        Interagency meetings and committees help maintain cohesion among services. The meetings enable services to share the work they are doing, lessons learnt from the community, and areas that require services to work together.

        Specific health-focused interagency meetings may be required, involving:

        • refugee health
        • PHNs
        • allied health services
        • mental health services
        • STARTTs
        • settlement services.

        A directory of interagency networks is available on the Refugee Council of Australia website.

        Complex cases are common when working with refugees. Clients may have several interrelated issues that need to be addressed by several services. Services will need to understand the role each service plays and how they come together to provide holistic support.

        Navigating the Australian healthcare system can be overwhelming for people from refugee backgrounds. Care navigation may offer clients support to develop their understanding of the healthcare system and enables clinicians to assist clients in their healthcare journey.

        Care navigation programs are run through different local health services. For example, Northern Sydney LHD has a care navigation program. The program can also be run through PHNs, which is the case at Hunter New England LHD.

        Care navigation program in Armidale, NSW

        HealthWISE at Armidale delivers a care navigation program, funded by the Hunter New England Central Coast Primary Health Network.

        The program:

        • assists 600 Ezidi refugees who were forced to flee Iraq
        • supports them to navigate the health system and find solutions for the barriers that impact their health
        • assists clients to manage appointments and referrals and develop health literacy.

        Read more about the program on the primary health network website.

        Back to top