Qualitative exploration of the impact of employment and volunteering upon the health and wellbeing of African refugees settled in regional Australia: a refugee perspective
Background: People from refugee backgrounds face various challenges after moving to a new country. Successfully securing employment has been linked to positive health outcomes in refugee populations; there is less research into the impact of volunteering on health outcomes in refugees, or the role of employment and volunteering in regional or rural communities. This study aims to explore how employment and volunteering influences the health and wellbeing of refugees settled in regional Australia, and identify areas for appropriate service provision.
Methods: Nine adults of refugee background in regional Australia were purposively sampled through community organisations using word-of-mouth referrals for semi-structured interviews. Interviews were transcribed. Thematic analysis was used to uncover emergent themes and identify relationships between themes. A strengths-based theoretical framework was adopted to inform further analysis.
Results: Paid work and volunteering engenders a sense of self-fulfillment and sense of belonging, facilitating successful integration into a new community. Employment further allows maintenance of an adequate standard of living, thus improving healthcare access and promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours. Adverse effects from employment include difficulties managing work-life balance, disconnect with family and loss of traditional heritage, but these were significantly outweighed by the positive effects. Volunteering provides no financial incentive, but similarly promotes community connections and positive self-worth, preparing refugees for the workforce. Both employment and volunteering held direct positive benefits for their physical and mental health, improved healthcare access and promoted cultural and social integration. These factors enabled successful settlement and subsequently improved overall wellbeing of participants. A strengths-based approach demonstrated how participants used employment as a tool for seeking purpose and ongoing self-development.
Conclusion: Unique experiences with employment and volunteering in a regional area amongst a refugee community were explored. Our results describe various ways in which meaningful employment and volunteering can facilitate positive health and wellbeing outcomes of refugees, and thus reinforces the importance of providing such opportunities to ensure successful settlement. The benefits of volunteering in this community have not been previously explored. Additionally, concerns expressed and recommendations suggested by participants could be used to inform future research, policy, interventions and health and employment service provision for refugee populations.
SOURCE: Wood N, Charlwood G, Zecchin C, et al. “Qualitative exploration of the impact of employment and volunteering upon the health and wellbeing of African refugees settled in regional Australia: a refugee perspective” BMC Public Health, 1 February 2019.
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