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Depression, anxiety, drugs, body image, bullying, violence, peer pressure, relationship and friendship issues, and community connectedness are key health issues for newly arrived young people in the St George area.

They also want health services that are low cost, easy to get to, allow flexible or drop-in appointments, allow unaccompanied and confidential visits, and have non-judgmental staff who have good youth rapport.

These findings are from a new report produced by Advance Diversity Services (ADS), which offers insights from a Youth Health and Wellbeing consultation for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) young people held in Oatley on May 16.

Launched in October, the report aims to support community service organisations in providing services to newly arrived young people in the St George area by increasing understanding of their health and wellbeing needs.

ADS Executive Officer Antoinette Chow said the report identifies barriers that can stop young people from CALD backgrounds from using a health service or seeking advice about their health concerns.

‘It also makes recommendations that can improve young people’s access to services,’ she said. ‘Simple steps service providers can take include: offering a friendly space, having welcoming and culturally competent staff, and providing promotional resources that are youth friendly and presented in different languages.’

Forty young people aged 15 to 19 and drawn from local schools took part in the consultation, which was facilitated by 2Connect Youth & Community. All participants had been in Australia from six months to five years, and two-thirds of them for two years or less. Their countries of origin included China, Bangladesh, Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia, Pakistan, Burma, Iraq, France, India, Hong Kong, Jordan, Thailand, and Syria.

This was the second CALD youth health forum organised by ADS, and feedback from both consultations was positive. This year, participants said they had learned important information about Kids Helpline, Medicare, headspace, how to contact health clinics and services, and how to find chaplains and mental health support.

Background and recommendations

In 2017, CALD young people in St George participated in a consultation as a strategy outlined in the Get Active-CALD Youth Project funded by South Eastern Sydney Local Health District, Multicultural Health Service and coordinated by ADS.

This first consultation identified the need for current information to inform future service delivery and assist providers in their efforts to make a positive difference to the lives and health of youth in the region.

On the strength of these findings, ADS made a commitment to run similar consultations biannually.

To propel this initiative, ADS formed a project advisory committee, with stakeholders partnering with ADS to implement a second consultation in May 2019. Partner services included Georges River Council, headspace Hurstville, SESLHD and 2Connect Youth & Community, which facilitated the day’s proceedings at Georges River College Oatley Senior Campus.

Interactive activities helped the 40 young people who participated in the consultation to explore a range of questions including:

  • What are the health and wellbeing problems of newly arrived young people?
  • What knowledge do they have of existing services they can access for help and how comfortable are they in accessing existing services?
  • What features are most important for services that support young people from CALD backgrounds with their health and wellbeing matters?

Participants documented the day’s discussions which were later collated in the report along with charts and graphs to illustrate the findings.

The report also offers recommendations in the following four categories for health-oriented service providers who work with newly arrived CALD young people.

Environment. Services should project a youth friendly space to encourage young people (and their families) to feel safe, welcome and accepted as newly arrived young people may be anxious and unsure about accessing a service for the first time. This includes providing a calming reception area, free resources in different languages, and flexible opening hours.

Staff. Positive first impressions are important as young people engage with a service. All staff should be welcoming, non-judgemental, culturally competent and sensitive, and genuinely helpful.

Culture. Services need to ensure that all staff practise cultural competence in order to respond respectfully to young people from all cultures, backgrounds, languages, and religions. This includes employing staff who speak a second language, recognising cultural holidays and celebrations, and understanding bi-cultural conflict and parental expectations.

Promotion. Promotional efforts should prioritise relevant information young people are seeking, be presented it in a variety of youth friendly formats, and incorporate feedback from other young people who have used the service. It is also important to use social media in creative and meaningful ways, offer information in different languages, and encourage face-to-face engagement with service staff which builds trust.

ADS’s Multicultural Youth Officer, Settlement and Community Services, Salvin Kumar, said the 2019 Youth Health & Wellbeing Report gives practical suggestions to providers in the region who want to dissolve the barriers that prevent newly arrived young people from accessing health services.

‘Providers who want to make a positive difference to the health of CALD and newly arrived young people in our area will be better positioned to achieve this goal if they act on the report’s insights.’

Download the report from the ADS Resources page https://advancediversity.org.au/resources/