Publication Details

Ravulo, J., Woods, D., Barrie, L. R. & Abdo, J. (2020). The perceptions and usage of alcohol and other drugs in Middle Eastern and Burmese refugee communities across the Illawarra and Shoalhaven region. Wollongong: University of Wollongong.


People from a refugee background experience intersecting challenges which predisposes them to a heightened risk of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) related harms. Despite AOD service staff being conscious of increased risks regarding substance usage, there remains pivotal inextricable differences amongst the way cultures and subcultures conceptualise and relate to substance usage. This may be evident for refugee populations that have to navigate through the experiences of displacement, resettlement, and the acculturation process. Despite refugee populations being at risk for AOD harm, the services available for support remain under utilised. As a result, this can highlight discrepancies within the knowledge(s) of both service-provisions and refugee and CALD communities concerning engagement with one another as there is a misalignment of expectations.

The research outlined in this report aims to minimise service-access barriers that exist for people from a refugee and CALD background by proposing recommendations based on key findings.

Influenced by grounded theory, our qualitative study utilised focus groups to collaboratively engage participants who were from a Middle Eastern and Burmese refugee background. All participants (n=26) were between the ages of 18-25 and were resettled within the Illawarra or Shoalhaven local government areas within the last 10 years. Data was documented using a recording device and was later transcribed and coded using thematic analysis.

Results showed participants understood the nuances of AOD harm in a unique way that was mediated through cultural values, language, and lived experiences. Thus, impacting the knowledge and access of AOD services. The study is pivotal because it paves the way forward in improving refugee service-provisions in AOD for youth and communities.