Newly arrived refugees will get a better understanding of Australia’s health system and the services they can access thanks to a new program starting soon in the western and northern suburbs.

The Bedaya Sehaya Refugee Healthy Living program, run by the North Western Melbourne Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) and cohealth, will train staff from Syrian and Iraqi backgrounds to provide refugees with information about the health system in culturally appropriate ways.

The program will target newly arrived refugees in Hume, Brimbank and Melton.

NWMPHN acting chief executive Julie Borninkhof said the three municipalities were chosen because of the high number of refugees living in them.

The program will use Arabic and Assyrian-speaking health workers to help new arrivals understand the health services and which services can be of assistance to them.

Ms Borninkhof said refugees were affected by distinct health issues related to their experiences, both before and after arriving in Australia, and might need additional support to access the health system.

“That’s why we are engaging bicultural workers in both the design and delivery of this program, so it has the best chance of
overcoming the language, cultural and experiential barriers,” she said.

Mental health will be a key focus of the program, with peer support groups to be set up across the three municipalities to educate refugees about mental health and teaching them strategies to improve their psychological wellbeing. The program will run until the end of June next year.