• Research Areas: Refugee resettlement

    Partners/Collaborators: ACCES Community Services

    In October 2009, the Centre for Refugee Research (CRR), in partnership Assisting Collaborative Community Employment Support (ACCES) Services Inc, conducted interviews and a community consultation in Logan, Queensland. They worked with women from African and refugee backgrounds, to learn about their family experiences before and since resettlement in Australia, and canvas their ideas for achieving better communication and understanding between refugee families and service providers in the area of family. ACCES and the women had observed that in many cases refugee women and families are bewildered and disempowered in their dealings with family and child protection agencies. They noted that some families felt African communities are targeted by child protection agencies for attention, and that preconceived notions relating to their refugee and/or African backgrounds influenced service provider actions and decisions.

    View the report from these consultations (PDF)

  • Research Areas: Refugee resettlement

    Partners/Collaborators: AMES

    An evaluation of the Community Guides program of the Australian Multicultural Education Services (AMES) Victoria, by the UNSW Centre for Refugee Research, January - July 2009.

    AMES Settlement and consortium partners are contracted by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) to provide settlement support to newly arrived humanitarian entrants to Australia. The Community Guides program is a key component of this work. 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.

    This innovative program was initiated by AMES in 2005. In 2008, AMES contracted the Centre for Refugee Research to evaluate the program. AMES chose the reciprocal action research methodology developed by CRR,because of their 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 will contribute to the knowledge base on innovative practice in the settlement of refugees, and inform policy and service provision to guide the process of refugee resettlement.

    The research and reports of the program evaluation are available from AMES.

    Please read the final report: “Unsung Heroes” An evaluation of the AMES Community Guides program (PDF)

  • Research Areas: Refugee women and girls at risk

    Domestic Violence and Refugee Communities Project (From Horror to Hope)

    This project aimed to begin a response to domestic violence in refugee communities. It culminated in the development and launch of a Comprehensive training kit and DVD, 'From Horror to Hope'. Training based on this kit is available to community organisations from staff of the Centre for Refugee Research. The kit will be available on this website shortly.

    A linked project has been the research for and compilation of a comprehensive 25 000 word report entitled 'The Ultimate Betrayal', which was written by the Eileen Pittaway, for the Australian Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, UNSW, financed by the Federal Office for the Status of Women. That report is available View the 'Ultimate Betrayal Report' (PDF)

  • Research Areas: Refugee resettlement, Refugee women and girls at risk

    Hopes fulfilled or dreams shattered - conference November 2005

    An international conference taking us from resettlement to settlement, with a focus on the Women at Risk resettlement program, was held in November, at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

    Background Papers:

  • Research Areas: Refugee resettlement

    Partners/Collaborators: Refugee Council of AustraliaAuburn City CouncilEdmond Rice Centre

    The majority of refugees recently arriving from Horn of African Countries have come from 'Protracted Refugee situations'. Due to horrendous conflict and persecution they have had to flee their homelands, leaving behind homes and families. Many have been living in appalling refugee camps for up to 20 years. Children and young people were born in refugee camps and have known no other life. The camps are dangerous and violent and food, education and medical services are minimal. People suffer from serious challenges to their cultural heritage, their ability to maintain family and community life.

    Resettlement to Australia is an opportunity to regain and rebuild their shattered lives. The media and public opinion 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 of us all. Many Australians only hear about the problems, often exaggerated. A major attribute of migrants from the Horn of Africa is their resilience and adaptability. However, it must be acknowledged that that resilience needs nurturing. 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.

    This project was undertaken by the Centre for Refugee Research on behalf of the Horn of Africa Relief and Development Agency (HARDA), and in partnership with the Refugee Council of Australia, the NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), Friends of STARTTS, Auburn Council, and the Edmond Rice Centre.

    The integration framework developed by Ager and Strang is used as the framework of analysis in the report. The concept of integration has been used as one of positive humanitarian endeavour by the host community which directly benefits new arrivals and encourages social harmony.

    Download the report (PDF)

  • Research Areas: International research

    Every year between 2008 and 2015 the Centre for Refugee Research (CRR), at the invitation of and in partnership with community-based refugee organisations, provided training to displaced communities on topics requested by the community. With the permission of the participants, the training and associated activities also provided rich research data which, after approval by the community members, is used for advocacy on issues of concern identified by the community. CRR offered internships to UNSW students to participate in this training and research. Interns self funded their participation, and part of the internship fee covers the costs for participation by the refugee community members. In this way, students were able to work at a grass roots level with refugees and gain valuable learning and experience, while also facilitating training in the refugee community.

    Reports on refugees living in Delhi (PDF) and in Mizoram in India are products of CRR internships.

    The November 2013 internship team again had the invaluable opportunity to work with various communities in New Delhi. One intern had kindly agreed to share reflections of her experience (PDF).

  • Research Areas: Ethical research with individuals and communities at risk; International research; Refugee women and girls at risk

    "The community felt like they owned the project."

    The Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) received funding in 2012 from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship's (DIAC) Displaced Persons Programme for a project in partnership with NSW STARTTS. The focus was 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.

    The Somali refugee community in Kenya face extreme levels of violence and discrimination in urban sites and are often stigmatised as terrorists and accused of overstaying their welcome after years of displacement from civil conflicts in Somalia. Women and girls in particular experience high levels of sexual and gender based violence, additional trauma which exacerbates their refugee experience.

    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 are tied to on a day to day basis: they socialised purely for their own benefit in an environment that was safe, fun and relaxing, and included a cultural aspect such as poetry reading or drama activity; a child development and parenting workshop, which involved both men and women to support parenting skills; men's support group to discuss issues that were relevant to women and also the men; and a training-of-trainers outreach project aimed at educating women in the community about SGBV issues and support available from UNHCR. The community felt that lack of education was at the core of women's disempowerment, so each project focused on education as a way to extend support.

    The project was developed and supported during extraordinarily difficult times of insecurity from its inception, through to the evaluation. However, this only highlighted the importance of engaging community-based organisations in programmes targeting refugees, and ensuring the programmes are run and managed by refugees themselves. The community themselves decided when it was not safe to continue or when it was safe to resume activities. Although there had to be changes made from the original plan, the project achieved the aim of engaging the Somali community themselves 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.

    Although the funding ended in June 2014, the women learned to form their own support groups and share education learned with friends and family: "I taught my family the important thing of talking to someone to reduce stress".

  • People Involved: Dr Linda Bartolomei, Dr Kristy Ward, Effie Mitchell, Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Kerrie James

    Research Areas: International Research, Refugee Women & Girls at Risk

    Partners/Collaborators: UNHCR India and BOSCO Delhi

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

    The Project was grounded in the principles of human rights and community development with a focus on safe livelihoods and sustainable outcomes. The methodology is based on work developed over a number of years by the CRR; with the concept developed from its close work with refugee communities and in partnership with UNHCR. 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. Central to the model is its focus on utilising the knowledge, skills and capacity of the refugee population to enable them to them to plan and provide services for their own community. In February 2012, CRR undertook extensive consultations to confirm 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 which is led by the refugee community at all stages of project design, implementation and evaluation, with support from CRR, Bosco Delhi and UNHCR. Core project activities include education classes, women’s groups across South and North Delhi, vocational training classes, and biannual recreational activities which have 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. A number of academic and practice publications and training materials have been produced to support others to replicate this approach. These are available in the resources section.

    Research team

    Chief investigator: Dr Linda Bartolomei and Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway

    Research staff: Dr Kristy Ward and Effie Mitchell

    For further queries regarding the project please contact:

    Dr Linda Bartolomei
    Ph: 02 9385 1589
    Email: linda.bartolomei@unsw.edu.au


  • People Involved: Linda BartolomeiEileen PittawayJung-Sook Lee, Emma Pittaway, Tashi James

    Research Areas: Ethical Research with Individuals and Communities at Risk, International research

    Partners/Collaborators: Handicap International

    The Centre for Refugee Research UNSW Australia has worked with Handicap International on this important project, which aims to prevent sexual violence risks for children with a disability and improve responses across three countries in Africa.

    FMRN was engaged to undertake the evaluation in Burundi. A rigorous mixed-method approach was designed to undertake the evaluation, utilising the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research. An innovative qualitative method (‘reciprocal research’) was implemented alongside a quantitative questionnaire in a quasi-experimental pretest-posttest design. The baseline evaluation was conducted in Gitega, Burundi in August 2013.


    In 2010 Handicap International (HI) and Save the Children implemented a pilot project to address the vulnerability of children with disabilities to sexual violence in four African countries (Burundi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania). This pilot project was supported by the OAK Foundation. A situational analysis was conducted through the collection of evidence on the modality and occurrence of sexual violence towards children with disabilities in these countries. The findings revealed that children with disabilities face similar risks and vulnerabilities to sexual violence in all four countries, and also face common barriers when it comes to accessing services for care and support at the medical, psychosocial and legal level. As a result, survivors with disabilities are likely to bear the full consequences of the violence (STDs, including HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, marginalisation, psychological trauma, new impairments), and the large majority of perpetrators are able to escape justice.

    In response to these findings, the Ubuntu Care project was established by Handicap International in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya. The project aims to reduce the endemic levels of sexual violence against children, especially those with disabilities. It takes a holistic approach to the problem of sexual violence, understanding that children’s safety is determined by an array of factors at the individual, family, community and national level. It empowers children to become key actors in their own protection, while supporting other stakeholders (especially families) to create a safe protective environment.

    Further information on the project can be found on the Handicap International website.

    Research Team

    Chief investigators: Dr Linda Bartolomei, Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Jung-Sook Lee

    Research staff: Emma Pittaway and Tashi James

    For further queries regarding the project please contact:

    Dr Linda Bartolomei
    Ph: 02 9385 1589
    Email: linda.bartolomei@unsw.edu.au

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

    This project 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.

    The project was initiated by Services for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). STARTTS provides torture and trauma rehabilitation services to resettled refugees in NSW. The Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) was chosen to partner STARTTS in this project. The Project report and a slide show which highlights the key project outcomes are available here. STARTT’s will be providing training on using the indicators and evaluation framework in 2015 and 2016.


    The glue that binds - Final report (PDF)

    The glue that binds - Slide show (PDF)

  • In January 2005, staff from the Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) travelled to Sri Lanka as part of the University response to the Tsunami.

    Eileen and Linda provided training and technical support to assist in the establishment of programs across the affected areas for women who lost homes and family, and who suffered from sexual abuse in the aftermath of the disaster. Selected training materials developed for the Tsunami relief effort are included in the resources section of this website.

  • Research Areas: Refugee women and girls at risk, International research 

    From 2003 - 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. A case study (PDF) illustrating this notion of compounded risk was prepared for Amnesty International.

    Developments from the Women at Risk project

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

    • a 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
    • the application of findings to assist in tsunami relief efforts in Sri Lanka
    • the application of findings in addressing domestic violence in refugee families in Australia
    • the 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 Heighted 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.
  • People Involved: Dr Linda BartolomeiAssociate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Rebecca Eckert

    Research Areas: Refugee Women & Girls at Risk; Refugee Resettlement

    Funding Agency: Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant

    Partners / Collaborators: Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW)

    The Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) and ANCORW (Australian National Committee on Refugee Women) received ARC Linkage funding for three years to look into the experience of women at risk once they are resettled in Australia, in both urban and regional centres. Rebecca Eckert, research assistant and a long time supporter and volunteer with CRR and ANCORW is undertook her PhD as part of this project.

    Most women at risk have experienced extreme violence, torture and trauma, and have been raped or bear children from rape, forced marriage and forced prostitution. 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. If these needs are not met in the first crucial years of life in Australia, this may seriously impact on their ability to successfully integrate in Australian Society.

    The study used community development techniques and a human rights framework to research the resettlement experiences of WaR 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
    • explored the role which participatory strategies designed to foster autonomy and empowerment might play in assisting refugee women to integrate and settle well in Australia
    • 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.


    For further queries regarding the project please contact:

    Dr Linda Bartolomei

    Ph: 02 9385 1589
    Email: linda.bartolomei@unsw.edu.au

  • The staff of the former Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) worked extensively to research and document failures of the International protection system, and the endemic rates of sexual and gender based violence The research outputs of Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Linda Bartolomei have been recognised many times through invitations to participate as key note 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 UNHCR and is acknowledged as an example of rigorous academic research producing practical and useful outputs. Their research 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 had a significant impact on improving protection frameworks for refugee women and girls including increased funding, resettlement places and improved service provision.