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Australia’s treatment of refugee and asylum seeker children: the views of Australian paediatricians

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Many Australian paediatricians have been, and will be, providing care to refugee or asylum seeker children. They come from countries evenly spread among Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and demonstrate a different disease spectrum to Australian children.1 Australia hosts about one refugee per 1000 inhabitants.2 Children are proportionally overrepresented, with around 40% of Australia’s refugee intake being less than 20 years old, similar to the global refugee population.3 These children bring unique medical, cultural, social and linguistic characteristics, and paediatricians need to know how to manage them (Box 1).15

There are scant data on how well paediatricians understand the health and health-related rights of refugees and people seeking asylum. Concerns have been raised that the medical profession’s knowledge is suboptimal.9,16 General practitioners and medical directors have limited knowledge of support services available to them.17 Only one-third of the GPs studied had used a professional interpreter service while managing refugees, while 60% knew that the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) is available free of charge.18