Australia’s health system isn’t adequately supporting migrant and refugee women

A report by the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health says inequality, racism and sexism can collide when it comes to sexual and reproductive health outcomes for some migrant and refugee women.

A report released on Wednesday by the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) in Melbourne found Australia’s health system “doesn’t cater adequately for migrant and refugee women” when it comes to sexual and reproductive health.

“Migrant women have much lower levels of access to sexual and reproductive health services, particularly preventative and early intervention services,” MCWH executive director Dr Adele Murdolo said.

“We see high rates of stillbirth, we see high interventions during birth, so [they are] much [more] likely to have a caesarean.

“Our report shows that migrant and refugee women tend to have lower levels of satisfaction with the health care that they receive.”

According to the report – titled Sexual and Reproductive Health Data Report 2021, and its sister document, Act Now – migrant and refugee women also have an increased risk of contracting a sexually transmitted condition, experiencing family violence, and suffering poorer maternal and child health outcomes than non-First Nations Australian-born women.

“Prior to COVID, [some] women weren’t accessing their contraception in Australia. They’d go back home and get a year or two worth of contraception,” Dr Murdolo said.

“That’s obviously a big fail in the Australian health system, where you’ve got people who live here permanently who don’t use it.”