As a young person, you deserve to access healthcare where you feel safe, respected, in charge of your own health, and connected to your cultural or religious needs. This page will help you access general healthcare services and professionals that can make that happen for you.
Guide to accessing culturally sensitive healthcare
When something appropriately responds to your racial, religious, linguistic, or cultural heritage. Culturally sensitive healthcare happens when a A person who gives you medical advice and care. For example, a doctor, nurse, psychologist or physiotherapist. healthcare professional values your input and expertise in your own health, and empowers you to practice cultural healing as well as trusting their expertise. For young people from migrant or refugee backgrounds, healthcare professionals may not always understand our belief systems and how they impact our way of living. The doctor’s offices can feel like places where you just have to do what you’re told and your voice is not heard how you would like it to be. But you should always feel empowered to exercise your right to ask questions, understand and You ‘advocate for yourself’ when you speak up about how you’re feeling to be in control of what happens to you.advocate for yourself.
Knowing how your cultural, spiritual or religious practices influence your life and your health can help you feel safer and more confident to find a GP that understands you. Let’s have a look at how to do that.
How to find healthcare professional/s you trust
Seeking health services can be daunting especially when you aren’t sure if there are specific measures in place to hold a safe space for your cultural, spiritual or religious needs. Asking questions is the first step in identifying if a healthcare professional can help with your health concerns in a culturally, spiritually and religiously safe way.
Questions to get you started
- How would you like a health professional to approach you about getting this check?
- How would you like to have a conversation about getting this check with a friend? (What to say/what not to say)
- What would be the boundaries for these conversations?
- How do you think you can reassert your boundaries when you feel unheard or discriminated against?
- What are some faith practices that influence the way you approach health concerns?
- What are some cultural practices that influence the way you approach health concerns?
- What are some of your personal attitudes or behaviours that influence the way you approach health concerns?
- How can you navigate these faith, culture, attitude and behaviour factors when seeing a health professional? What’s the best way for you to share these with them?
Choosing the right person
You deserve to speak to a healthcare professional who you feel understands your personal health, takes what you say seriously and is accessible for you. Consider things like:
Location and opening hours
Fees and billing: are they a A medical centre that is free if you have a Medicare card.bulk billing practiceor a A medical centre where you have to pay to see a doctor. If you have Medicare, this will pay for some of the cost but there will also be a ‘gap’ for you to pay.private practice? If they are a private practice, in what time periods do their concession fees apply? For example, some places do not offer concession fees after 5pm. See more information about Medicare for your age and visa status below.
Recommendations from people you trust
- Whether they offer services for your community or in your language
A good place to start is going on the website of the medical centre you want to visit. It will normally have a section with the names and profiles of their People who can give you medical advice and care. They are people like doctors and nurses who have medical qualifications.clinical staff. Their profiles will tell you things like:
What kinds of health conditions they have expertise in (these are sometimes listed as their ‘special interests’)
What kinds of patients they have experience with
What language/s they speak
Other skills or qualifications they have – for example, if they do skin lesion removals, IUD insertions or other specialised care
What days they work
You can consider all these things to find a person that suits your needs, values and schedule.
What to do if you're unsure
If you are feeling nervous or undecided, you can:
Call the medical centre to ask questions about a healthcare professional you are thinking about booking.
Book an appointment that suits you – think about if you would you feel more comfortable starting with an in-person or A healthcare appointment over phone or video call. A health professional can give you advice just like the can face-to-face, and it usually costs the same amount.telehealth appointment.
Ask someone you trust to come to the appointment with you.
How to work with your GP for culturally sensitive care
The ‘GP’ stands for General Practitioner.GP’s office is a common place we all find ourselves when we are sick or need medical assistance (including referrals to go and see other health professionals). You can be treated by a GP or a nurse, and sometimes there are other healthcare professionals who work there too (for example, physiotherapists or psychologists). This means that it is the healthcare centre you will probably visit most regularly, can build a good relationships with the people who work there. It also means you don’t have to commit to the first GP you find, and should be able to choose one that you feel most comfortable with.
There are different questions you can ask to make sure a healthcare professional is right for you. For example:
- For cultural/religious purposes, am I able to request a female/male doctor or nurse? This is an important question to ask before booking an appointment if it ensures your sense of safety. You can always ring the clinic and ask the receptionist.
- Am I able to draw on my spiritual/cultural beliefs in our consultations? For many of us, our cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs are tied to our overall wellbeing and determine how we live. You should always feel empowered to ask this question as it represents you as a whole being.
- Do you have designated spiritual/religious staff that can support me in my appointments? If you do decide to settle for a GP that doesn’t represent or fully understand your cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs, you can check in with them to see if they have staff members with a role designated to support religious or spiritual guidance.
- Am I able to seek further healing from spiritual healers in my community? A GP can sometimes advise you in taking care of your health in specific measures outside of their office to ensure we are healthy; this also means your healing doesn’t have to end there if you find importance in your religious and spiritual healing too.
Getting your own Medicare account
Medicare is a system that provides free or When part of the cost is covered by the government.subsidised healthcare in Australia. It’s accessible to people living in Australia who are:
- Australian citizens
- Australian permanent residents, and people who have applied for permanent residency (this excludes an application for a parent visa)
- Temporary residents covered by a Ministerial Order. This includes people on humanitarian visas, including eligible asylum seekers and people from refugee backgrounds
- Citizens or permanent residents of people from New Zealand, Norfolk Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.
You probably have seen a Medicare card before, it is a small green card with bold numbers on the front. These numbers are unique to parents or guardians and their dependants (that means their children).
You can get your own Medicare card once you are 15 years and older. Your Medicare card allows you to do things like:
- Access variety of medical services and prescriptions at a lower cost.
- Access care as a public patient in a public hospital.
- Purchase cheaper medicines at a pharmacy under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
When can you get your own Medicare card?
When you turn 15, you can apply for your own card that is private to you. More information about how to apply for a Medicare card is on the Services Australia website.
However, if you’re a young person under 15, you still need to use your parents’ Medicare card and they will be able to see your A claim with Medicare is an application sent through to get a Medicare benefit. Often it is done automatically for you. For example, when you go to the doctor, they will submit a claim on your behalf to pay for the appointment.claims.
Note: once you turn 14, you and your parents can no longer access your Medicare claims history online. If you need to request your Medicare claims history, use the Request for Medicare claims information form.
How to apply for Medicare
To apply for Medicare in Australia, you need to supply the following documents:
- Completed Medicare enrolment form
- Proof of identity and supporting documents
The supporting documents are documents that prove your identity and travel status. If you don’t have these, you can call Medicare to discuss your situation and get other options.
Once you complete your Medicare application form and organise your supporting documents, you submit them together to Medicare Enrolment Services by email or postal delivery.
If you require help with Medicare or would like to know more, you can call the Medicare program line. You also have the option for Medicare to connect your call with an interpreter.
How My Health Record works
My Health Record is a safe and secure place where your key healthcare information can be kept online. An up-to-date record means your vital health information is available to you and your healthcare providers whenever it’s needed.
It can include information like:
- Pathology results, such as blood tests.
- Reports from x-rays and medical imaging.
- Medicines that you may be taking.
My Health Record is especially important in circumstances that are out of our control. For example, in the case of a medical emergency your record is accessible to your treating doctors. It helps them make safer healthcare decisions, which can be lifesaving in those instances.
If you don’t already have a record, you can register for one at any time online, or by completing Part D of the Medicare enrolment form. You will need to sign in to My Health Record through myGov.
You can set up and control your record without parent or guardian supervision if you are 14 years and older. This lets you have full Autonomy happens when you can act in charge of yourself.autonomyand privacy over your record.
- You can invite someone you trust like a family member to help you manage your record.
- You can decide which healthcare organisations can access your record if you set an access code.
- If you want, you can also include your preferred language in My Health Record.
Remember, you can see who has access to your information and you can remove any information you don’t want in your record.
Accessing My Health Record if you're not eligible for Medicare
If you're not eligible for Medicare, you can still get My Health Record to access proof of your vaccinations and other key health information.
Step 1. Apply for an Individual Healthcare Identifier (IHI).
This is a unique 16-digit number that identifies you for healthcare purposes and My Health Record. It helps healthcare providers to accurately store and identify your medical records.
How do I know if I already have an IHI number?
- Have a Medicare card
- Have enrolled in Medicare
- Have a DVA card
You already have an IHI.
The quickest way to get an IHI is online using the IHI service through your myGov account. To apply:
- sign in to myGov.
- Select ‘Services’ or ‘Link your first service’.
- Select ‘Individual Healthcare Identifiers service’ and then follow the prompts.
Step 2. Register for My Health Record with your IHI
You must print and post the registration form and certified copies of identity documents. You cannot register for My Health Record online or by telephone.
Once your application has been processed, you will receive a letter with your Identity Verification Code. You will need this code to view your record.
Step 3. Link My Health Record in myGov
This takes about 15 minutes online. Before you can do this, you must complete both steps above and have your Identity Verification Code from step 2.
Reciprocal healthcare agreements
Australia has agreements with some countries that cover the cost of medically necessary care. This means that if you’re visiting from certain countries, you may be eligible for medical care under Medicare while you’re in Australia. These countries include:
- Malta and the Maltese Islands
- New Zealand
- Republic of Ireland
- United Kingdom
You're in charge of your health
Getting health check-ups helps you live a happy and healthy life as a young person. Your ideal health professional should help you feel empowered and heard in a When a health professional considers all parts of you, including mental and social factors, not just the physical symptoms of an issue.holistic way when they meet with you. They should tell you all your options for all of your health concerns, and explain the benefits and risks of each one. Some phrases that show they are doing this could be:
- “You get to choose.”
- “It’s your body.”
- “What do you feel comfortable with?”
- “Have a think about it and then let me know.”
- “You’re in charge.”
- “This is what might happen if you decide to receive this treatment or medication, and this is what might happen if you decide not to go forward with this medication/treatment.”
When can I consent to my own medical treatment?
You can give permission to your own medical treatments by the time you are 16 years old, as at this age you are expected to understand the nature and consequences of any procedure you consent to receiving. This means that health professionals allow you to take lead of your health even if your parents or guardians disagree.
It can be a little tricky to give consent to more serious medical treatments unless you are independent and not living at home. The less serious the treatment, the more power you have to accept or deny the treatment. Doctors can also make an assessment to determine whether you are capable of making medical decisions for yourself. They consider things like:
- Your age and level of maturity
- Your ability to understand the medical advice being given
- The nature of the treatment and its possible results, including any potential risks to your health
- Your ability to deal with the emotional impact of either accepting or rejecting the advised treatment
What to say when you feel unsure
Calling the doctor's office is an great starting point especially when you book in and chat through your questions. But that can be easier said than done if you’re a bit unsure about if they will understand what you want to talk about.
Remember, you’re allowed to say what you’re feeling, ask for more explanation or take time to decide. You should always feel like you can advocate for your cultural needs. Let’s walk through some scenarios and ways you can communicate what you’re feeling.
Scenario: you’re feeling comfortable with going into your doctor's appointment, but you’re still unclear on how the doctor might consider or respond to a certain aspect of your cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs.
When you feel unsure about if your doctor understands your cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs, feel free to ask questions and explain how your health is influenced by those factors that are very important to you. That helps them know how to care for you better and may even mean they refer you to another health professional that is suited for your specific needs. On the other hand, if you feel like they haven’t quite understood your concerns, don’t be afraid to repeat them. Some ways to open these conversations could be:
- “I would like to seek support from my community cultural, spiritual or religious healers, although I’m not quite sure about how it would impact this part of my health. Could you explain that in more detail and whether you have further support here?”
- “Could you explain why you recommend that for me and what it means for my health and wellbeing?”
- “I want to get this medical treatment, but I am observing a cultural, spiritual or religious holiday which means I will be… (for example, fasting for 6 hours). What’s your advice?”
- “I’m not sure we’re speaking about the same thing. What I mean is that I’m concerned about…”
Scenario: you’ve seen a healthcare professional to discuss getting a medical treatment but feel overwhelmed to decide on the spot without your supports, or because you don’t quite understand the doctor’s medical language.
It’s okay to feel this way! A lot of the time all you need to feel clearer about something is time to sleep on it and reflect on all the information you’ve gotten, or for someone to break it down in a more understandable way before committing to it. Still, it can feel nerve-wracking to pause the decision when you’re in the moment, so here are some ways to do that:
- “Thanks for this information, I just want to have a think about it first.”
- “Thanks for this information, can I request a translator?”
- “Thanks for this information, I want to also discuss it with my family/community healers/another trusted person before I decide for sure.”
- “I don’t feel ready to do this today, what are my other options?”
- “Can I come back when I can bring someone with me to my appointment that can help me understand?”
Tucker, C. M., Marsiske, M., Rice, K. G., Nielson, J. J., & Herman, K. (2011). Patient-centered culturally sensitive health care: Model testing and refinement. Health Psychology, 30(3), 342–350. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0022967
Enrolling in Medicare - Medicare - Services Australia. (2022). Services Australia. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/enrolling-medicare?context=60092
The magazine of the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia Special Edition 2018 Special Edition My Health Record: A Resource for CALD Australians. (n.d.). https://fecca.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/FEECA-Mosaic-Health-issue_FINAL-for-Web.pdf
What Age Can I Consent To My Own Medical Treatment? (2022, October 28). Youth Legal Services. https://youthlegalserviceinc.com.au/fact-sheet-medical-treatment/
My Health Record. (2022, December 9). Log in to your My Health Record. My Health Record. https://www.myhealthrecord.gov.au/for-you-your-family/howtos/log-in
Individual Healthcare Identifiers - Services Australia. (2022). Services Australia. https://www.servicesaustralia.gov.au/individual-healthcare-identifiers
We all deserve respectful, culturally safe care and to be in environments that acknowledge and celebrate our diversity as Australians. You are a leader and hold power for your own healthcare choices. You can start your journey today by speaking to your GP about what matters to you most so they can cater to your cultural and religious needs.
Last updated 22 December 2022.
For information in different languages
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If there are no results for your language, try searching by ‘Easy English’.
Multilingual Women's Health Library
For women who speak languages other than English
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This resource provides free and accurate health information and education to women, in a range of languages other than English. You can search the online catalogue by specific health topics and languages.
It includes information about:
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Health information relevant to living in Australia
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Multicultural Health Connect
For health advice in your language
T: 1800 186 815
Monday to Friday, 11 am – 7 pm
Multicultural Health Connect is a helpline that you can call to get health information and advice in your language, from someone who understands your culture. The service is free and confidential, and run by workers from multicultural backgrounds.
It is for anyone who is from a multicultural background, and you do not need to speak English to access the helpline.
Refugee Health Guide - Victoria
Refugee Health Guide - Victoria
Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House)
This page lists health services in Victoria for people from refugee backgrounds. It includes:
The Refugee Health Program
Specialist refugee health clinics
Refugee Health Fellows
Specialised refugee and asylum seeker mental health services
Specialised asylum seeker health services
Specific health areas
Humanitarian Settlement Program (HSP)
Other useful services
Utopia Refugee and Asylum Seeker Health
For refugees and asylum seekers
5 Alexandra Avenue, Hoppers Crossing
Monday - Friday, 9 AM - 5 PM
T: 8001 3049
Utopia provides free primary care (GP services) to refugees and asylum seekers and their partners and children, regardless of their Medicare status. They offer long appointment times, interpreters and refugee-specific health services. Utopia is a non-government organisation.