Background: Australian Government policy aims to resettle refugees in regional Australia. Little is known about refugee healthcare experiences in these settings. A qualitative study was performed to examine refugee perceptions of healthcare in a regional centre of northern Queensland.
Method: An interpretive approach to a narrative inquiry methodology was undertaken. Purposive sampling and an interview guide were developed in partnership with the local refugee settlement agency. Semi-structured interviews were performed with fourteen refugees and involved interpreters. Transcripts were thematically organised into a story, validated by participants. Using QSR NVivo 12, all researchers analysed the transcripts. Themes were validated at a community event.
Results: Six themes were described: service issues (you are the problem), self-advocacy (speak up), knowledge and understanding that changes with time (that time I didnt know but now I know), interpreter issues (on Fridays, theres no interpreters), regional-metropolitan differentials (everybody loves to live here), and the influence of the past on present behaviour (they use to be in the refugee camp and thats why).
Discussion: A conceptual framework involving engagement, access, trust and privacy, and the old versus the new, can be used to describe refugees unique challenges and experiences in regional Australia. Discrimination, transport, and reliance on family and peers may be experiences that are more prominent in regional Australia. Refugees spoke favourably about living in northern Queensland but perceptions of access in metropolitan cities affected their movement.
Implications for practice: Refugees require high quality information sharing practices, formal support systems, and better models of service delivery for interpreting support. Better models of primary healthcare to engage with refugees in regional settings are needed. Clinicians need to be culturally respectful with their interactions. Further research is needed on refugees in regional settings in implementing policy and service delivery.