Browse all research projects at the Forced Migration Research Network or view our current projects here.

Achieving Best Practice in Settlement Services for Refugee Women-at-Risk

People Involved: Robert Schweitzer, Mark Brough, Ignacio Correa-Velez, Kate Murray, Access Community Services

Research Areas: Refugee Women & Girls at Risk

Funding Agency: Australian Research Council

Project Description

This research aims to develop a practice framework for working with refugee women, who have entered Australia on women-at-risk visas. Underpinned by an ecological perspective of human wellbeing, the practice framework will align with the determinants of women-at-risk psychosocial wellbeing as identified in the research.


  1. Assess psychosocial wellbeing of refugee women-at-risk within six months of arrival and at 12-month follow-up;
  2. Determine relative influence of factors that impact psychosocial wellbeing of this group within six months of arrival and at 12 month follow-up;
  3. Gain rich understandings of social and gendered experiences of refugee women-at-risk within 18 months of arriving in Australia;
  4. Work with a settlement agency to develop an assessment and practice tool, which can be used by practitioners working with refugee women-at-risk, and;
  5. Develop and disseminate a best practice framework that will inform settlement services for refugee women-at-risk in Australia.


The mixed methodology is informed by sociocultural and psychological perspectives. The research is conceptualised within an ecological framework to understand the risk and protective factors of women-at-risk within the broader context of their relationships and environments. The mixed-methods longitudinal design provides structure and flexibility to assess and illustrate the women’s experience at multiple levels, in line with the ecological framework. Quantitative assessment and qualitative interviews will draw rich understandings of the women’s resettlement experience, and will ascertain relationships between individual factors (psychological) and social factors (changes in community networks) during the early period of resettlement. The qualitative component enables the identified relationships to be elaborated with meaningful depth.


The project will develop a framework in collaboration with our industry partner for ensuring that the complex needs of refugee women who are ‘at-risk’ are met as Australia’s humanitarian program continues to grow.

Afghan Migration and Displacement Trends Since the 2014 Security and Political Transitions

Information Consumption and Decision Making of Irregular Maritime Arrivals

People Involved: Dr Claudia Tazreiter and Professor Sharon Pickering, Monash University

Partners / Collaborators: Australian National University/Department of Immigration and Border Protection (ANU/DIBP) Collaborative Research Program

This project is based on qualitative in-depth interviews with migrants in transit in Indonesia supported by a survey. The project maps decision making of migrants in transit to better understand the drivers of onward journeys. This project focuses on Iranian and Afghani asylum seekers.

Fieldwork conducted in Indonesia.


Occasional Paper: Information consumption and decision-making of irregular maritime arrivals (PDF) [1 Mb]

The Meaning of Rights in Refugee Settlement

People Involved: Dr Linda BartolomeiEileen Pittaway, Geraldine Doney, Professor Richard Hugman

Research Areas: Refugee resettlement

Partners/Collaborators: AMES Australia, Diversitat Geelong, Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT), NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG)

An exploration of the interpretation of the human rights framework in refugee settlement

People who have had to flee their homes and live for years with violence and denial of their rights, welcome the human rights which life in Australia promises. However resettlement in a new country is not an easy process and newly arrived refugees face many challenges as they adjust to life in a new country. One of these challenges is learning about and adapting to a different system of laws and rights. Resettlement brings an assumption that the rights of refugees previously denied them will be restored, and that they will enjoy and experience rights in similar ways to other citizens. However, preliminary research by FMRN and its partners has found that the issue of human rights in refugee settlement is far more complex. Many report that concerns over the meaning of rights, or how information about rights is presented has lead to confusion and misunderstandings.

In 2013, staff from the Centre for Refugee Research including Honorary Professor Eileen Pittaway, Centre Director Dr Linda Bartolomei and Centre Associate Professor Richard Hugman were awarded a three year Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant to examine these issues.

In particular this project is exploring how understandings of women’s, men's and children’s rights influence refugee settlement in Australia. It builds on a significant body of work that the Centre has already undertaken in this area. Project partners include refugee settlement service providers: AMES Australia, Diversitat Geelong, Queensland Program of Assistance to Survivors of Torture and Trauma (QPASTT), NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) and Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG ).

The aim of the project is to improve the settlement of refugees by enhancing their understanding of and interaction with human rights, domestic law and policy as it relates to their lives in Australia. Through consultations with refugee men, women, young people and settlement services, it seeks to gather ideas and information that will contribute to an understanding of the different ways that ‘rights’ are conceptualised, experienced and practiced by different groups.

The outcomes of the project will be the development of theoretical models and practical training tools that support a rights-based approach to settlement services and that enable refugees to settle with safety and dignity while living within the legal frameworks of their new country.

Project resource


Background information on related projects

Research team

Chief investigators:

Dr Linda BartolomeiAssociate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Professor Richard Hugman

Research staff:

Kristy Ward, Emma Pittaway and Charlotte Bell


For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei
Ph: 02 9385 1859

Australian Research Council

Refugee Community Development Program (RCDP)

People Involved: Dr Linda Bartolomei, Dr Kristy Ward, Effie Mitchell, Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Kerrie James

Research Areas: International Research, Refugee Women & Girls at Risk

Partners/Collaborators: UNHCR India and BOSCO Delh

The Refugee Community Development Project (RCDP) was an innovative refugee community led project based in New Delhi, India. It was developed by the the Centre for Refugee Research) in partnership with the Afghan and Somali Refugee communities and UNHCR in New Delhi. The project incorporates education, livelihoods, and women’s safety and social support initiatives. It has received multi-year funding ( 2012 – 2106) from the Department of immigration’s Displaced Persons Program (DPP) and was jointly managed by CRR and BOSCO Delhi.

The Project was grounded in the principles of human rights and community development with a focus on safe livelihoods and sustainable outcomes. The methodology is based on work developed over a number of years by the CRR; with the concept developed from its close work with refugee communities and in partnership with UNHCR. The aim of the project was to develop and trial an innovative community based protection response to the protection of women and girls at risk and other vulnerable refugee groups. Central to the model is its focus on utilising the knowledge, skills and capacity of the refugee population to enable them to them to plan and provide services for their own community. In February 2012, CRR undertook extensive consultations to confirm program and training needs to inform the development of a holistic response to the protection needs of women and girls and other vulnerable groups. This included a particular focus on the factors which cause and contribute to heightened risks of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV). These include the lack of safe livelihoods options, limited educational pathways, social isolation and adverse community attitudes. The result was the establishment of an innovative community based response which is led by the refugee community at all stages of project design, implementation and evaluation, with support from CRR, Bosco Delhi and UNHCR. Core project activities include education classes, women’s groups across South and North Delhi, vocational training classes, and biannual recreational activities which have had a direct and positive impact on psychosocial well-being. The project employed refugee community development workers in senior management, social work and teaching roles. Critical skills were built amongst workers, NGO partner staff, UNHCR and the broader refugee community in human rights, community-based social work, psychosocial support and counselling, community organising and leadership, community development, and project design, monitoring and evaluation. A number of academic and practice publications and training materials have been produced to support others to replicate this approach. These are available in the resources section.

Research team

Chief investigator: Dr Linda Bartolomei and Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway

Research staff: Dr Kristy Ward and Effie Mitchell

For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei
Ph: 02 9385 1589


Stage 2 Final Report June 2013 (PDF) [7 Mb]

RCDP Brochure Dec 2015 (PDF) [1 Mb]

Refugee Women and Girls in the Global Compact on Refugees

An action research partnership to implement and monitor commitments to gender equality, ending sexual and gender-based violence and the Age Gender and Diversity approach in the Global Compact on Refugees.

People Involved: Adjunct Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway, Dr Linda Bartolomei, Dr Caroline Lenette and Geraldine Doney

Research Areas: Refugee women and girls, International Law and Policy

Partners/Collaborators: The Australian National Committee on Refugee Women (ANCORW), Advancing Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG) and UNHCR Geneva

Refugee women and girls in the Global Compact on Refugees

Due to continuing global concerns and political tensions over the increasing mass movement of refugees and migrants, in September 2016, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) issued the New York Declaration Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants. The Declaration Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants was passed by consensus from all Member States. As well as reaffirming commitments to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and the 1967 Protocol, States committed to provide increased and coordinated protection for refugees and migrants (54). Mr Volker Türk, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR, described this international, high-level commitment as a “minor miracle”, indicating its nature as the most significant commitment to the protection of refugees in decades. He has invited academics, advocates, service providers, and refugees to provide input into a Program of Action (POA) to realise the commitments of the GCR.

In May 2017, the research team developed a comprehensive gender analysis of the draft GCR and POA to support advocacy for stronger commitments to the protection of refugee women and girls in these documents (58). This analysis has already generated significant international interest from UNHCR, the Australian Government, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, and peak bodies including International Council on Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) who have circulated the document to all their members. Volker Turk (Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, UNHCR) publically acknowledged the value of the CIs’ extensive work in that respect at the opening plenary of UNHCR NGO Consultations in June 2017 in Geneva.


  1. Refugee Women and Girls in The Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (PDF) [1 Mb]
  2. Gender Notes on the First Thematic Discussion on the Global Compact on Refugees (PDF) [616 Kb]


For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei

Ph: 02 9385 1859


Ubuntu Care Project Evaluation, Burundi

People Involved: Linda Bartolomei, Eileen Pittaway, Jung-Sook Lee, Emma Pittaway, Tashi James

Research Areas: Ethical Research with Individuals and Communities at Risk, International research

Partners/Collaborators: Handicap International

The Centre for Refugee Research UNSW Australia has worked with Handicap International on this important project, which aims to prevent sexual violence risks for children with a disability and improve responses across three countries in Africa.

FMRN was engaged to undertake the evaluation in Burundi. A rigorous mixed-method approach was designed to undertake the evaluation, utilising the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research. An innovative qualitative method (‘reciprocal research’) was implemented alongside a quantitative questionnaire in a quasi-experimental pretest-posttest design. The baseline evaluation was conducted in Gitega, Burundi in August 2013.


In 2010 Handicap International (HI) and Save the Children implemented a pilot project to address the vulnerability of children with disabilities to sexual violence in four African countries (Burundi, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania). This pilot project was supported by the OAK Foundation. A situational analysis was conducted through the collection of evidence on the modality and occurrence of sexual violence towards children with disabilities in these countries. The findings revealed that children with disabilities face similar risks and vulnerabilities to sexual violence in all four countries, and also face common barriers when it comes to accessing services for care and support at the medical, psychosocial and legal level. As a result, survivors with disabilities are likely to bear the full consequences of the violence (STDs, including HIV/AIDS, unwanted pregnancies, marginalisation, psychological trauma, new impairments), and the large majority of perpetrators are able to escape justice.

In response to these findings, the Ubuntu Care project was established by Handicap International in Burundi, Rwanda and Kenya. The project aims to reduce the endemic levels of sexual violence against children, especially those with disabilities. It takes a holistic approach to the problem of sexual violence, understanding that children’s safety is determined by an array of factors at the individual, family, community and national level. It empowers children to become key actors in their own protection, while supporting other stakeholders (especially families) to create a safe protective environment.

Further information on the project can be found on the Handicap International website.

Research team

Chief investigators:

Dr Linda Bartolomei, Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Jung-Sook Lee

Research staff:

Emma Pittaway and Tashi James


For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei
Ph: 02 9385 1589

Violence Against Refugee Women and Girls

The staff of the former Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) worked extensively to research and document failures of the International protection system, and the endemic rates of sexual and gender based violence The research outputs of Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Dr Linda Bartolomei have been recognised many times through invitations to participate as key note speakers and panel members at formal meetings of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Geneva. The impact of their work was also formally recognised by the former High Commissioner For Refugees, Mr Antonio Guterres; the former Assistant High Commissioner for Refugees (Protection), Erika Feller; and by senior Australian Government representatives.

Their work and the work of their team is cited in many documents produced by UNHCR and is acknowledged as an example of rigorous academic research producing practical and useful outputs. Their research has resulted in significant advances in international law and social policy notably, new international law relating to the protection of refugee women and girls at risk, which was adopted by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations: UNHCR Conclusion on Women and Girls at Risk (105) 2006. This had a significant impact on improving protection frameworks for refugee women and girls including increased funding, resettlement places and improved service provision.

Women’s Decision Making and Information Sharing in the Course of Irregular Migration

People Involved: Professor Claudia Tazreiter

Research Areas: Refugee Women & Girls at Risk

Partners / Collaborators: Australian National University/Department of Immigration and Border Protection (ANU/DIBP) Collaborative Research Program

This project is based on a large survey and in-depth interviews with women asylum seekers and stateless persons in Malaysia.

Research team

Chief Investigators: Dr Claudia Tazreiter and Professor Sharon Pickering, Monash University


Draft Occasional Paper: Women's decision-making and information sharing in the course of irregular migration (PDF) [13 Mb]

Women at Risk: Protection and Integration in Australia


People Involved: Dr Linda Bartolomei, Associate Professor Eileen Pittaway and Rebecca Eckert

Research Areas: Refugee Women & Girls at Risk; Refugee Resettlement

Funding Agency: Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant

Partners / Collaborators: Australian National Committee on Refugee Women(ANCORW

The Centre for Refugee Research (CRR) and ANCORW (Australian National Committee on Refugee Women) received ARC Linkage funding for three years to look into the experience of women at risk once they are resettled in Australia, in both urban and regional centres. Rebecca Eckert, research assistant and a long time supporter and volunteer with CRR and ANCORW is undertook her PhD as part of this project.

Most women at risk have experienced extreme violence, torture and trauma, and have been raped or bear children from rape, forced marriage and forced prostitution. Many of these women and their families face ongoing risks in Australia, and these generate additional settlement needs which are not currently met by service providers. If these needs are not met in the first crucial years of life in Australia, this may seriously impact on their ability to successfully integrate in Australian Society.

The study used community development techniques and a human rights framework to research the resettlement experiences of WaR using a methodology which includes women as active participants in the process. It:

  • focused on engaging existing capacities and capabilities of refugee women, including strategies to foster social participation
  • explored the role which participatory strategies designed to foster autonomy and empowerment might play in assisting refugee women to integrate and settle well in Australia
  • explored the impact of place of resettlement on successful integration, and the implications of this for service provision and social cohesion in rural and regional situations and urban settings.


For further queries regarding the project please contact:

Dr Linda Bartolomei

Ph: 02 9385 1589