Refugees and humanitarian entrants’ health outcomes in Australia can be severely impacted by their experiences and health challenges prior to arriving in Australia. They are a subset of a group of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, who have been identified as a population of interest across the health sector, including in several key Australian Government strategies.

Understanding patterns of health outcomes and service use within the refugee and humanitarian entrant population is important to identify gaps in accessing appropriate health care, to better address the health needs of refugees and humanitarian entrants, and to inform the design and delivery of health care services and settlement services.

While data are routinely collected on the health and welfare outcomes of the broader Australian population, there is no demographic information to identify the refugee and humanitarian population in national health and welfare data sets. As a result, there is limited ability to assess refugees and humanitarian entrants’ health status and outcomes.

This report provides data on the health service usage, medication dispensing patterns, health status and mortality of refugees and humanitarian entrants who arrived in Australia from 2000 to 2020 using the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) Person-Level Integrated Data Asset (PLIDA) (previously known as Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP)) (Box 1.1).

Box 1.1: Refugees and humanitarian entrants

The Department of Home Affairs administers the Australian Government’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program which resettles humanitarian entrants in Australia. Consistent with the approach adopted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), under the Humanitarian Program, Australia prioritises those cohorts who have the greatest resettlement need, including: 

  • people outside their home country, assessed as refugees by the UNHCR and referred to Australia for resettlement
  • applicants proposed by a close family member in Australia
  • vulnerable cohorts within refugee populations, including women and children, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ and other identified minority groups. (Home Affairs 2023).

For the purposes of this project, humanitarian entrants refers to those who have been resettled in Australia under the offshore component of Australia’s Humanitarian Program. The term humanitarian entrants is used in the report to refer to refugees and humanitarian entrants.