Stories from the field: Tan’s story

Tan* is a 27 year old single mother of two. She and her children, aged six and ten at the time, arrived in Australia by plane from South East Asia seeking asylum. Tan had suffered prolonged domestic violence and sexual violence, and developed post-traumatic stress disorder. 

As a result of her trauma, Tan suffers from depression, insomnia, frequent flashbacks, hypervigilance and a sense of helplessness. She finds it difficult to be around men and struggles to catch public transport without experiencing anxiety. Tan has also been recently diagnosed with breast cancer and has ongoing chronic pain.

Tan’s visa conditions do not allow her to access Medicare or allow her to work, so she is unable to derive an income to support her family. She relies on rental assistance from another asylum seeker support service. She has no family or support in Australia.

cabrini outreach asylum hub

The Cabrini Outreach Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub provides Tan with primary health care and specialist mental health support. Tan can also access free medication through a pharmacy waiver program. Without these services, Tan would have to rely on under-resourced public hospitals for her primary and mental health care needs and may be forced to make the choice between food for her family and essential medications.

Tan is one of more than 350 people seeking asylum who receive free primary care and/or specialist mental health care at the Cabrini Outreach Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub. The vast majority have either no access to Medicare or have access to Medicare but no other income. The hub’s psychiatrists, general practitioners and physiotherapists give their time for free. In this time of the COVID-19 crisis, people and families seeking asylum are facing greater challenges than ever, and are particularly vulnerable to social isolation, poor mental health and destitution. 

If you would like to make a donation to the Asylum Seeker and Refugee Health Hub, please contact

*Name has been changed to protect identity