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An important part of settling into your new country is having a home. This is especially important for people who have been forced to migrate and have left their home and many other things behind.

The aim of this research project was through photovoice to better understand the housing experiences of people who arrived as refugees in Australia and how those experiences affected their wellbeing.

Photovoice is a participatory action research approach where participants use images to capture their everyday experiences. Imagery can be a powerful tool to convey one’s lived experience.  With this method, people use the photographs to talk about the things that they want to bring attention to, to start a conversation or make change. Images teach, through photos, as group members share and reflect on what is important to them. In this project, we explored neighbourhood, housing and wellbeing.

Over several weeks, a group of people from refugee backgrounds who live in the Albury-Wodonga area came together at Gateway Health in Wodonga. Across three workshops, a researcher from the University of Melbourne listened and recorded the stories of the group as they shared their experiences of the challenges they faced after arriving in Australia while trying to settle into their new home.

We heard about specific challenges of Albury-Wodonga like how the lack of public transport made life very difficult before people were able to get a licence or buy a car. Many told of the difficulties of being a mother with a baby and young children and trying to get to playgroup or health appointments. Other challenges such as learning English, navigating the new systems and finding housing were found to impact people’s wellbeing. Group members told us how the high cost of living meant they would have to decide between buying food or paying rent.

We listened to each others’ stories and heard about many challenges but we also heard stories about overcoming adversity, working hard, making sacrifices and finding success. People spoke of buying homes, getting their drivers licence, learning English and growing vegetables in their community garden.

The photos and quotes shared capture these experiences. We see the challenges and barriers faced and we hear about success and happiness.

Published: June 6th, 2024