An innovative project that includes a smartphone app that comes in multiple languages has been launched to support men who have recently arrived in Australia on humanitarian visas. The new app becomes available as Australia prepares to welcome an additional 12,000 refugees who have been affected by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.
The project also aims to support the communities into which refugee men are settling, and people who work in the settlement sector.
The New Roots Project has been developed to build the health and wellbeing of men, aged 18-45, from Arabic, Farsi and Tamil-speaking backgrounds, who have recently arrived in Australia, and to help them overcome the daily challenges as they start a new life.
The app, which is the first of its kind in Australia, is free and available in Arabic, English, Farsi and Tamil for iPhone and Android devices.
The app is one component of the New Roots Project which has been developed by Settlement Services International (SSI) in partnership with beyondblue and funded by donations to the Movember Foundation. The other components are online training for caseworkers in settlement services and training for community leaders.
The app includes information, tips and tools that help with starting a new life and staying positive in a new country. It has been developed to promote health and wellbeing, to assist with participating in community life and to help men access community and government services. Following a 12-month pilot phase in NSW, it is hoped the app will be made available in more languages and other project components will be promoted Australia-wide.
SSI CEO Violet Roumeliotis said the project was based on research and community consultations.
“People from refugee backgrounds who are resettling in countries like Australia have typically been through traumatic experiences in the countries they are fleeing from,” Ms Roumeliotis said. “The stress of adapting to a new country and culture and securing the necessities of life can compound on that trauma and negatively affect physical, social and emotional wellbeing.
“The three elements of the New Roots Project — the app, community training and Online Toolkit — are designed to relieve some of that stress and to provide easily accessible tools and information that men can use to rebuild their own health and wellbeing. The design and content was all based on research and consultations with the communities that the project is intended to support.
“The app isn’t intended to replace traditional one-on-one support from a settlement caseworker, but is designed as an additional tool that men can use whenever they need.
“I’d like to thank beyondblue for its work throughout the development of this project, and the Movember Foundation for funding the project to support the health and wellbeing of these men.”
beyondlue CEO Georgie Harman said beyondblue was delighted to support the New Roots Project and promote good mental health among newly-arrived refugee men.
“beyondblue wants all people living in Australia to achieve their best possible mental health. Having access to this app and its practical information in their native language may help men cope with the stress of living in a new country and adapting to a new culture, and also explain about where to get help if they need it,” she said.
Paul Villanti, Executive Director, Movember Foundation said the Foundation was proud to have funded the development of this app. “It’s critical that all men feel connected to their communities given what we know about the impact that can have on their health and wellbeing. The New Roots app will help new members of our community establish those important social connections here in Australia,” Mr Villanti said.
New Roots Ambassadors
Former Iraqi refugee Dr Munjed Muderis, who is now a leading orthopaedic surgeon in Sydney, is a New Roots Ambassador.
“I think this app is a great new tool that will be very helpful for men from a refugee background,” Dr Muderis said.
“I know from my own experience that this can be a very stressful and difficult period when settling in a new country. The New Roots app can help with staying healthy through exercise and eating well, as well as connecting with people by joining local community and sports organisations and attending cultural activities.
“These things can be overlooked during the initial turbulent period of settling in a new country, but they are essential for reducing stress and embracing the opportunities to make this time a happy, healthy and productive experience.”
Cricketer Hameed Kherkhah, who has played with Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League, is also a New Roots Ambassador. Mr Kherkhah moved to Australia from Afghanistan as a boy, when his family was given refugee protection.
“I was young, but I remember that my brothers and dad found it very hard and they had a lot of difficulties finding work, getting driving licenses, meeting other people and finding sports clubs,” Mr Kherkhah said.
“I meet a lot of people in my community who are in a similar situation today to what we were in. They need help to find work, housing, sports clubs and this app can help with these things. I think it’s great; all the information is there in your pocket, on your phone, and in your language.
“I wish this was around when my dad arrived, he would have loved it.”
SSI Online Communications Coordinator, Callan Lawrence, 0478 156 491 or 02 8799 6746
beyondblue, Anne Wright, 0411 035 695 or (03) 9810 6108