Community Connections: Improving Wellness in Launceston’s ageing Bhutanese Community

Dr Susan Aykut, Community Care NESB



In Northern Tasmania there are a growing number of Bhutanese refugees over the age of 65. As relatively new arrivals to Australia, few service providers to date really understand what their health and wellbeing issues are, or what they are likely to be. Community Care NESB has undertaken measures to find this information out and this presentation will share what some of those findings are, and what initiatives they have implemented in trying to address some of the core concerns they have discovered.

Establishing a connection with the Bhutanese community has not been easy. While older members of this community identify as Bhutanese, ethnically they are Nepalese. They have come to Australia from refugee camps in Nepal, where many of them have lived since the early 1990s after they were expelled from Bhutan. Nepal did not want them either. As twice-displaced peoples, trusting authorities in their affairs is not easy for them. However, CCNESB has formed a trusting connection with this community, and now provides care services to some of their aged members.

Building on this relationship, CCNESB, in conjunction with the Bhutanese community, has now put into place an innovative program designed to address the deteriorating mental and physical health experienced by some of its members, which have in part resulted from their social isolation in their new environment and from their post-traumatic stress from their long refugee status. This presentation will outline the rationale, process and progress of this program, and provide an interim evaluation of how successful this undertaking has been in improving the group’s wellness and in cultivating this community’s sense of belonging and contribution to their new home.

Why the presentation/topic will be of interest to Conference participants:

CCNESB specialise in providing aged care support services to the aged CALD community to help them stay at home for as long as possible. This paper will outline the rationale, process and progress of an innovative project undertaken by CCNESB with aged members of Launceston’s Bhutanese community to do that. As a case study, it will offer the first real understanding of the needs of aged Bhutanese/Nepalese migrants in Tasmania.

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