A group of young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds have developed a series of online resources to empower their peers to take preventative care of their health. Following a disruptive period of lockdowns, routine health checks have been sidelined. This project  raises awareness of mental healthcare, sexual healthcare, and cancer prevention, in an accessible and culturally sensitive way.

As part of the Youth Affairs Council Victoria’s Multicultural Communications Outreach Program, three teams of Young Health Ambassadors sought to respond to common needs and questions when navigating the healthcare system.

Common barriers they identified included:

  • Stigma around accessing healthcare
  • A lack of health literacy
  • Wanting options to incorporate cultural or spiritual practices into their healthcare
  • Past negative experiences in healthcare settings
  • Uncertainty around costs

The project responded to these concerns by creating easy to understand, digital resources addressed at young people, shared through YACVic’s social media and website.

  • Mental health: an accessible resource supporting young people to move from shame to self-compassion and seek out mental healthcare, developed in response to identified gaps in community knowledge due to medical racism, cultural perceptions and the aftermath of the pandemic.
  • Sexual health: three swipe-right Instagram carousels on ‘Your rights when getting a sexual health check’, ‘What to talk to your doctor about’ and ‘How to express your needs during a doctor’s appointment’, created to address cultural taboos, knowledge gaps in friendship groups, and a lack of sexual health education due to remote learning.
  • Cancer prevention: a flyer with instructions to do routine self-checks and take preventative measures, developed to overcome misunderstandings about skin cancer within their communities, and a lack of information about skin health for people of colour.
  • A team of young translators were also engaged to translate key COVID resources on YACVic’s website into Mandarin, Punjabi, and Arabic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the importance of community-led health messaging for multicultural communities, with statistics from the ABS indicating that the age-standardised death rate for COVID-19 was 1.6 times higher for people born overseas compared to Australian-born people (15.7 deaths per 100,000 people versus 9.7 deaths.

Quotes from Young Health Ambassadors

Belise, Mental Health team

“I want to empower individuals to live their best life as it is a human right for all. I also understand the importance of wellness, and I am a believer of how health truly matters for all and its life changing benefits.”

“This project is important as it gives insights, resources and guidance to young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. It also hopes to create awareness while also challenging and breaking stigmatization the society might have towards mental health.”

Hanienah, Sexual Health team

“Often we can be quite awkward and nervous when attending our GP appointment, so finding out what's involved and how to maintain your comfort and safety during the check is important.”

“There is an intergenerational taboo around sexual health awareness amongst southeast Asian families, and I believe many of us (especially coming from migrant and refugee backgrounds) haven't been taught how to think critically about the information we consume.”

Alfred, Cancer Prevention team

“I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with fellow participants and the public, raise awareness about this issue and do my best to save my community.”

“A lot of lives have been taken away from innocent kids and our loved ones and therefore we need to put an urgent stop to this disease.”

More information

Media contact: Katia Pellicciotta (she/her), YACVic Media & Communications Coordinator on 0498 730 553 or kpellicciotta@yacvic.org.au.

About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading policy advocate for young people aged 12-25 and the youth sector in Victoria. Established in 1960, YACVic advocates for the rights of young people in Victoria to ensure they are active, visible and valued in their commmunities.