Doctor treating child

Researchers at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) are working with communities of refugee and migrant backgrounds to co-design and culturally adapt research processes to engage culturally diverse communities. 

In 2021, half of the Australian population was born overseas or had a parent born overseas. More than one in five people in Australia now speak a language other than English at home. Despite this, many research studies systematically exclude families of refugee and migrant backgrounds who are not fluent in English or familiar with research processes. 

Language is not the only barrier. Undertaking research with communities of refugee and migrant backgrounds requires research teams to appreciate different values, life experiences and perspectives. For communities that have fled persecution and war-related trauma to find safety in Australia, there may be additional barriers, including lack of familiarity with consent processes, fear of authority due to experiences of forced migration and the potential for past trauma to be triggered by participation in research.

Engaging culturally diverse communities in research

For the past ten years, researchers in the Intergenerational Health Group at MCRI have been working in partnership with the Victorian Foundation for Survivors of Torture (Foundation House) to co-design, implement and evaluate approaches to community engagement in a variety of research studies working with women, children and families of refugee and migrant backgrounds. The employment and training of a team of community researchers culturally and linguistically matched to communities taking part in each research study has been critical to the team’s success. 

Intergenerational Health Community Researchers

From left: Intergenerational Health Community Researchers Maryaan Essa, Shogoufa Hydari, Akuc Deng and Shadow Toke, and Project Coordinator Rowena Coe

Know Our Story toolkit

Leveraging their experience of working in partnership with communities of refugee and migrant backgrounds over the past decade, the Intergenerational Health group has developed an innovative ‘Know Our Story’ toolkit to support clinical and public health researchers to co-design and adapt research processes to engage culturally diverse communities. The toolkit has been designed to inspire, encourage and support clinical and population health researchers to work towards greater social inclusion and equity in research practices. 

Watch the "Know Our Story" animation to witness the benefits of a researcher-community partnership. The stories shared in the animation are informed by the experiences of community researchers, research participants, and community advisors participating in the Refugee and Migrant Health Program (Intergenerational Health group and Stronger Futures Centre of Research Excellence) at MCRI.