Study gives voice to Pacific Islanders

La Trobe University researcher Professor Helen Lee has been awarded an ARC Linkage grant to study the socio-economic situation of Pacific Islanders in regional Victoria.

The project aims to give a voice to Australia's Pacific Islander migrant communities living and working in regional areas. It will also examine the effects of different immigration statuses on Islanders' experiences and well-being.

'The Seasonal Worker Program has recently been uncapped,' says Professor Lee, 'so there will be a lot of Pacific Islanders coming to the Mildura area, and other parts of regional Australia, to work in the agricultural industry.

'These new arrivals add to existing regional Pacific-Islander communities, who are often socially and economically marginalised.'

Health and educational concerns

She says a preliminary study by postdoctoral research fellow Makiko Nishitani found serious issues in these communities.

Health problems such as diabetes, poor educational outcomes, low access to services and youth problems were of particular concern.

Community service groups in the Mildura area, the focus of her study, are finding it hard to open channels of communication, says Professor Lee.

'Some Islander groups are particularly hard to reach, such as those who have overstayed their visas,' she adds.

Close work with community groups

Professor Lee will work closely with community organisations such as the project's partner, the Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council. Its Executive Officer, Dean Wickham, is a co-investigator. The other project partner is the Mallee Sports Assembly.

The three-year project is funded by an ARC Linkage grant of close to $200,000. It is one of six totalling more than $1.6 million awarded to La Trobe academics to support the University's research.

Media Contact: 

Ernest Raetz, Media and Communications, 0412 261 919 / e.raetz@latrobe.edu.au

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