Social Capital and Rural Health for Refugee Communities in Australia

Lillian Mwanri, Emily Miller, Moira Walsh, Melanie Baak, Anna Ziersch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Refugee resettlement significantly contributes to Australia’s migration programs, with recent policy directives prioritising rural resettlement. As a result, the cultural diversity of populations of several Australian rural towns has substantially expanded. Newcomers may encounter challenges becoming part of closed social networks and accessing the resources they need for a healthy life in resettlement. However, there are also benefits that stem from positive integration for newcomers and for receiving populations. As part of a larger study, which aimed to explore facilitators and barriers to successful resettlement in a rural setting, the objective of this paper was to show how social ties were important for participants’ health, both facilitating access to resources, including health services, and connecting people to health-promoting living conditions. In-depth individual interviews with 44 participants from refugee communities originally from Africa and South-East Asia, settled in a rural South Australian town, were conducted. Participants were invited to the study through snowball sampling via known connections between the researchers and key people within the communities. Interview transcripts were analysed using framework thematic analysis. The findings demonstrate how participants drew on connections within their cultural communities, reflecting collectivist cultural values. These social ties were key to enabling access to resources for health. These included emotional resources, such as a sense of belonging, as well as physical and practical resources, including food, housing, and/or accessing services. Several participants were also working towards a career in the health industry. Populations from refugee communities in rural towns are growing, not only with the continuation of new arrivals to these towns, but also as the settled populations expand their families and communities. Effective health service provision in these locations needs to serve these growing communities, and there is scope for services to tap into community networks to assist with this.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2378
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • refugee
  • resettlement
  • rural settings
  • social capital
  • social determinants of health


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