Year

2005

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

School of History and Politics - Faculty of Arts

Abstract

This thesis examines the health policies and services developed and delivered by Commonwealth and New South Wales governments for migrants during the period 1960 to 2000. While the thesis discusses migrant health policies in general, it principally examines mental health policies and services for migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds (NESB). It has selected the Illawarra region of New South Wales as the area for its case study. Mental health has traditionally been the responsibility of state and territory governments with little assistance from the Commonwealth. Despite growing evidence of serious mental health problems in the migrant communities, governments were slow to recognise the need to resolve them. The mental health of migrants became a serious issue during the post- World War Two period of migrant intake. From that era until the seventies the ideology of assimilation dominated Australian health and welfare policies and services, hence, migrant health did not receive special attention. With the introduction of multiculturalism, migrant services improved, partly as a response to the efforts of migrant communities themselves. But it has not been sufficient. The Illawarra region of New South Wales has been an area which has benefited very little from NSW health department policies. Yet, it is one of the state's regions which is home to a significant NESB migrant population. It is also a region with high levels of unemployment. The NESB population is culturally, linguistically and socio-economically disadvantaged. Mental illness, in such circumstances is an insurmountable problem which has not received due recognition. In a society which discriminates against the mentally ill, mentally ill migrants suffer a double disadvantage due to their migrantness and their 'madness'. If over three decades of multicultural philosophies have brought Australia cultural pluralism, it is not reflected in migrant health and welfare. The problems remain, clouded by the haze of multiculturalism. Mental health policies and services for NESB migrants remain inadequate to the present day. The distribution of services is discriminatory towards the Illawarra region. Current problems in the delivery of services to migrants are inherited from a monolinguistic and monocultural past exacerbated by ethnocentric practices and attitudes of Ausralian governments and society.

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