Key characteristics of the refugee journey for Iraqi and Syrian family members who support their children or siblings with disability

Publication Name

Disability and Society


Refugees with disability and their families are increasingly resettled in Australia but remain an under-researched group. As such, this study aimed to understand experiences of disability for humanitarian migrants who support a family member with a disability. Interviews took place with 10 family members from Iraqi and Syrian refugee backgrounds living in Australia, whose children or siblings had disability. BenEzer and Zetter’s conceptualisation of the refugee journey was used to analyse four themes of these families’ experience: (1) Temporal Characteristics: (2) Drivers and Destinations; (3) Process/Content of the Journey; and (4) Characteristics of People. Supporting a person or persons with disability was a defining feature of the participants’ journeys across all themes, with stigma and difficulties in accessing disability support being consistent throughout. The journeys were multifaceted and ongoing, particularly in response to gaps in Australian disability support, and demonstrated the agency and advocacy that families utilised to support the best lives of those they love. Points of interest Few researchers have tried to understand what the refugee journey is like for families where one or more member has a disability. We interviewed Iraqi and Syrian people who came to Australia as refugees. Each of them supported at least one family member with disability. Disability was very important at every part of their refugee journey. As well as the physical journey of coming to Australia as refugees, participants spoke about how they gained new knowledge and skills in Australia to become better advocates for their family members. The participants highlighted gaps in Australian disability support services, which future research should study.

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