What’s happening on the ground?

Men from migrant and refugee backgrounds have often witnessed, or experienced, physical or sexual violence, including war and torture, which can result in depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. 


For many new arrival communities, the role of the man has historically been that of decision-maker, provider and ‘head of household’. Some men find it difficult to adjust to new expectations and the new freedoms of their wives and children (especially daughters) when they arrive in Australia. 


Group approaches that are activity-based and get men talking to each other in a non-threatening environment has been proven as one of the most effective ways of reducing barriers to talking about problems they are facing in adjusting to Australian life.

*Australian Refugee Health Practice Guide (Foundation House). 

What can we do about it?

Seed funding was provided by Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (Vic Health) to the Open Exchange; a mental health and wellbeing initiative developed by community leaders from migrant and refugee communities with lived experience of mental illness, and expertise in counselling and community education. Its purpose is to address social isolation, disconnection, and low mental health literacy particularly amongst men from migrant and refugee communities.

Led by those with lived experience of psycho-social challenges, and working closely with diaspora communities and their organisations, the Open Exchange seeks to build mental health literacy among its participants, through a multi-faceted community engagement approach that centers around helping people find job opportunities and build their professional (career) confidence:

  • Development of place-based assets that are safe and accessible, and encourage help seeking self-led behaviour change
  • Access to mentoring/counselling services where community leaders in mental health first aid training support individuals to navigate the mental health service system in Victoria
  • Creation of online resources that can be easily shared across different generations of a given community

Why is this going to work?

Employment is commonly identified as a vital indicator of refugee integration into society. Yet, one of the most common stressors for refugees and migrants is unemployment. Psychological health and wellbeing deteriorate with exclusion from the workforce, with unemployed refugees reporting physical and psychological health complaints, lower physical health and obesity, depressive symptoms, lower life satisfaction, and psychological distress due to financial hardship.

Kury and colleagues’ (2018) investigation of psychological health found that refugees (especially men) desired to work but felt overwhelmed by the culture and language barriers they encountered. It’s based on this research, that the Open Exchange has built its approach to delivering services to men from migrant and refugee communities.

Community ‘’Job Circles’’:

Goal 1: to bring jobseekers and coaches together in a safe space, where they can deep dive into a masterclass topic and apply the learnings to their own CV and employment circumstances with the assistance of an employment mentor.


Goal 2: encourage members of the community to access a regular space where they can connect and share their personal challenges in a space facilitated by migrant/refugee leaders with mental health first aid accreditation, and with a counselling background who can help community members access counselling and other health services.

Format: a practical hands-on interactive setting in an accessible community venue with light refreshments and snacks to create a relaxed friendly atmosphere amongst peers 

Audience: Migrant and refugee community members 

Timing: monthly 6-8pm on a weekday 

Venue: Epping, Glenroy, Castlemaine, Geelong and Preston