• Partners: Centre for Social Justice and Community Action, Durham University; Manchester Centre for Youth Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University; Fairfield City Council; and NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS).

    Funded by: UNSW Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences Research Collaboratives Seed Grants 2019

    Project description: This Australian and UK action research project co-designed a suite of ethical principles and an infographic about the ethical conduct of CBPR with people from refugee backgrounds. It emphasises key features of ethical and decolonial engagement including cultivating relationships, sharing power, addressing structural barriers, and honouring lived experience expertise.


  • Partners: UNHCR India and BOSCO Delhi      

    Project description: The Refugee Community Development Project (RCDP) was an innovative refugee community-led project based in New Delhi, India. It was developed by the former Centre for Refugee Research in partnership with the Afghan and Somali Refugee communities and UNHCR in New Delhi. The project incorporated education, livelihoods, and women’s safety and social support initiatives. It received multi-year funding (from 2012–2106) from the Department of Immigration’s Displaced Persons Program (DPP) and was jointly managed by the Centre for Refugee Research and BOSCO Delhi.

    The aim of the project was to develop and trial an innovative community-based protection response to the protection of women and girls at risk and other vulnerable refugee groups. In February 2012, the Centre undertook extensive consultations to confirm the program and training needs to inform the development of a holistic response to the protection needs of women and girls and other vulnerable groups. This included a particular focus on the factors which cause and contribute to heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). These include the lack of safe livelihoods options, limited educational pathways, social isolation and adverse community attitudes.

    The result was the establishment of an innovative community-based response led by the refugee community at all stages of project design, implementation and evaluation. Core project activities included education classes, women’s groups across South and North Delhi, vocational training classes, and biannual recreational activities which had a direct and positive impact on psychosocial well-being. The project employed refugee community development workers in senior management, social work and teaching roles. Critical skills were built amongst workers, NGO partner staff, UNHCR and the broader refugee community in human rights, community-based social work, psychosocial support and counselling, community organising and leadership, community development, and project design, monitoring and evaluation.


  • Partners: AMES

    Project description: In 2009, the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research undertook an evaluation of the Community Guides program of the Australian Multicultural Education Services (AMES) Victoria. The Community Guides program trains and employs former refugees to provide settlement assistance to newly arrived refugees from their own community and/or language group. The program provides culturally and language appropriate settlement support to new arrivals, as well as training, work experience and employment pathways for those employed as community guides. In 2008, AMES contracted the Centre for Refugee Research to evaluate the program. AMES chose the reciprocal action research methodology developed by the Centre because of its commitment to full community participation in the evaluation.

    This research documented and analysed the community guides settlement support model for its effectiveness and value in facilitating successful settlement and in developing capacity within refugee communities. The research has contributed to the knowledge base on innovative practice in the settlement of refugees, and informed policy and service provision to guide the process of refugee resettlement.


  • Funding: Federal Office for the Status of Women

    Project description: This project aimed to begin a response to domestic violence in refugee communities. It culminated in the development and launch of a training kit. A linked project was the compilation of a comprehensive report entitled 'The Ultimate Betrayal', which was written by Eileen Pittaway for UNSW’s Australian Domestic Violence Clearinghouse.


  • Project description: ‘Hopes Fulfilled or Dreams Shattered? From Resettlement to Settlement’ was an international conference held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney from 23­–25 November 2005. The conference focused on the Women at Risk resettlement program, and participants delivered papers on a variety of issues, many of which are available for download below.


  • Partners: Refugee Council of Australia, NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS),  Auburn City CouncilEdmond Rice Centre

    Project description: From 2008–2009, the Centre for Refugee Research conducted a research project on behalf of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency, offering the first substantial piece of detailed qualitative research focused on the resettlement and integration in Australia of refugees from the Horn of Africa.

    Resettlement to Australia is an opportunity to rebuild shattered lives. However, the media and public discourse in Australia seldom, if ever, addresses the fact that so many people from African countries are succeeding in rebuilding their lives in Australia, nor that in doing so they contribute to the richness of our social, cultural and economic lives. However, the horrendous experiences they have lived through prior to arrival, their constant worry about family left behind in danger, and gaps in settlement service provision has led to a situation whereby some people are not coping as well as they had hoped and dreamed that they would before arrival in Australia.

    The final report provides a unique opportunity to hear directly from refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa of their experiences of resettlement and integration in Australia, as well as their concrete recommendations for how to better support their resettlement and integration. The research team’s findings enhanced policy development and resettlement service provision, and fostered better understanding of refugees from African communities living in Australia and other countries of resettlement.


  • Partner: NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

    Project description: The Centre for Refugee Research was chosen to partner STARTTS (who provides torture and trauma rehabilitation services to resettled refugees in NSW) in this project, which explored the notion of social capital in resettling refugee communities in Sydney. The overall project aim was to develop indicators and a methodology to evaluate the impact of community development initiatives on supporting the development of positive social capital within these communities. STARTTS provided training on using the indicators and evaluation framework in 2015 and 2016.


  • Partner: NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS)

    Funding: Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC) Displaced Persons Programme

    Project description: In 2012, the Centre for Refugee Research received funding from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC) Displaced Persons Programme for a project on developing a community-led psychosocial support programme for Somali women at risk in Nairobi, Kenya. The project was based on a human rights framework focusing on self-determination and dignity of the Somali urban refugee community, with a community-development approach valuing community capacity and agency, fostering leadership skills.

    Based in a local Somali-run health clinic which was respected and trusted by the community, the community designed activities to support the women's psychosocial needs: a women's support group which was aimed at building networks and emotional support through education; monthly picnics which took the women out of the area in which they lived and away from the roles they were tied to on a day-to-day basis; a child development and parenting workshop, which involved both men and women to support parenting skills; a men's support group to discuss common issues; and a training-of-trainers outreach project aimed at educating women in the community about SGBV issues and support available from UNHCR.

    The project achieved the aim of engaging the Somali community to design, implement and manage a psychosocial support programme for refugee women. Through education as a protection tool, the project addressed the emotional and social aspects of the psychological impacts of the refugee experience focusing not just on the individual, but on family and community.

  • Project description: In January 2005, staff from the Centre for Refugee Research travelled to Sri Lanka as part of the University response to the tsunami. We provided training and technical support to assist in the establishment of programs across the affected areas for women who lost their homes and families, and who suffered from sexual abuse in the aftermath of the disaster.

  • Project description: From 2003 to 2005, The Centre for Refugee Research undertook a longitudinal action research-based study to:

    • explore the needs of refugee women and the effectiveness of current policy to address these needs
    • identify roadblocks to efficient policy implementation and the role of ideology and discourse in the policy process
    • address the problems experienced in the effective implementation of the 'Women at Risk' (WaR) resettlement program

    The WaR program aims to identify refugee women at extreme risk of violence and without family protection, and to fast-track their removal to a resettlement country. Australia is one of a number of resettlement countries that have a quota of resettlement places within its refugee program for women and children at risk. The research was undertaken with refugee groups in Thailand, Ethiopia and Kenya. The research identified a range of intersecting risk factors, and found that refugee women frequently experienced multiple trauma which compounds their risk of further trauma. 

    The WaR research has had an important impact on the Centre's work through the:

    • rethinking of the ethics of refugee research and the evolution of the reciprocal research methodology
    • provision of training to refugees becoming an integral part of the Centre's work
    • application of findings to assist in tsunami relief efforts in Sri Lanka
    • application of findings in addressing domestic violence in refugee families in Australia
    • publication of refugee women's stories as important advocacy tools by community based refugee women's organisations, in particular Shattering Silences and Systems of Impunity by the Women's League of Burma and Karen Women's Organisation

    The research also contributed to extremely significant international research and policy and practice outcomes, including:

    • the development of a Women at Risk Assessment and Response tool, subsequently adapted and incorporated into UNHCR's Heightened Risk Identification Tool (HRIT) which is now part of standard UNHCR field practice.
    • the adoption by UNHCR's Executive Committee of a Conclusion on Refugee Women and Girls at Risk. The Conclusion is extremely significant international ‘soft law' that provides a critical framework for improved policy and practice in response to refugee women and girls at risk. The Conclusion has contributed to amendments in Australian Government policy and an increase in the numbers of women at risk accepted for resettlement in Australia, and an increase in UNHCR funding for services targeted at women.


    •  A case study (PDF) illustrating this notion of compounded risk was prepared for Amnesty International.
  • Partners: Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW)

    Funding: Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant

    Project description: The Centre for Refugee Research and ANCORW (Australian National Committee on Refugee Women) received ARC Linkage funding for three years to study the experience of women at risk once they are resettled in Australia, in both urban and regional centres. Many of these women and their families face ongoing risks in Australia, and these generate additional settlement needs which are not currently met by service providers. The study used community development techniques and a human rights framework to research the resettlement experiences of women at risk using a methodology which includes women as active participants in the process. It:

    • focused on engaging existing capacities and capabilities of refugee women, including strategies to foster social participation
    • examined the role which participatory strategies designed to foster autonomy and empowerment might play in assisting refugee women to integrate and settle well in Australia, and
    • explored the impact of place of resettlement on successful integration, and the implications of this for service provision and social cohesion in rural and regional situations and urban settings.
  • Project description: The staff of the former Centre for Refugee Research worked extensively to research and document failures of the international protection system, and the endemic rates of sexual and gender-based violence The work of Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Linda Bartolomei has been recognised through invitations to participate as keynote speakers and panel members at formal meetings of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Geneva. The impact of their work was also formally recognised by the former High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres; the former Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees (Protection), Erika Feller; and by senior Australian government representatives.

    Their work and the work of their team is cited in many documents produced by the UNHCR and has resulted in significant advances in international law and social policy, notably new international law relating to the protection of refugee women and girls at risk, which was adopted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations: UNHCR Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk (105) 2006. This has had a significant impact on improving protection frameworks for refugee women and girls including increased funding and improved service provision.

  • Project description: In contexts of protracted displacement such as refugee camps, cultural, religious differences, and the influence of violent groups create an unstable environment for young people. There is a lack of research on the use of development communication interventions aimed at promoting peace in these contexts. This is a case study analysis of media projects in three refugee camps located in different geographical areas. The intended outcome is to generate evidence on a development communication approach that addresses humanitarian needs while simultaneously triggering mechanisms that initiate longer-term community and social development. The focus is on media use by displaced young people living in protracted situations of encampment.

    Funded by: Australian Research Council, Discovery Early Career Researcher Award

    Project Link: https://c4dpeace.com/