Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub

by Catherine Garner, Group Director Mission and Cabrini Outreach

As we mark the second anniversary of the official opening of the Cabrini Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, it’s timely to reflect on how well we have met our goals and aspirations.

We saw our first client on 20 June 2016, a red letter day in the sector as it marks the annual observance of World Refugee Day. By the end of June 2017, we had received 176 referrals and had 137 clients using the service regularly. In the nine months to April 2018, our referrals have doubled. We now have 245 active clients and 204 clients have a regular appointment with us.

Today our clients can access:

  • A nurse-led health assessment and vaccination catch-up service
  • General practice care
  • Physiotherapy
  • Specialist mental health service with psychiatry, counselling, case management and limited outreach providing comprehensive and integrated mental health support
  • A pharmacy waiver program where clients who have no income can have their prescriptions filled at a local community pharmacy, which then bills the costs to us

Our client profile has changed over the two years of operation. In the first 12 months, the dominant client group was young men. Since then, the number of women, young families and older people has grown. Our clients now range in age from newborns to 71 years. They come from 36 different countries and 42 ethnicities.

Most of our clients have complex health issues:

  • 49 per cent have been diagnosed with a mental illness
  • 11 per cent experience chronic pain
  • More than 10 per cent have a serious, chronic illness (other than mental health problems)

Ninety-five percent of clients have one thing in common: they do not have access to Medicare and/or no income. This is the group of people we set out to serve. We are able to provide them with free healthcare because of the generosity of our donors, our sponsors and our pro bono general practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologist and physiotherapist.

In the financial year ended 30 June 2017, we received approximately $44,000 from donations and fundraising and $120,000 in-kind support from St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. The pro bono health professional contribution was valued at $180,000. This accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the value of the service provided. The balance of costs was covered by a small amount of Medicare revenue and a generous cross-subsidy from Cabrini.

When we opened our doors in 2016, our vision was to one day be able to close the service due to lack of demand. That day is yet to come. We will continue to pray for a future where vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Australia are able to access the healthcare they need to live productive and meaningful lives and recover from the traumas of their past. In the meantime, with your help, we will continue to reach out with compassion to this most vulnerable group of our fellow human beings.

To make a donation visit

To learn more, visit the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub