Project Overview

Through this project, we aim to conduct an in-depth of investigation of the diverse contextual factors impacting the settlement experiences of refugee and migrant background youth, and the role of support services. The study will provide the settlement sector and service providers with crucial new knowledge on how to foster the wellbeing of these young people. Conducted across three countries, Australia, Canada, and USA, and involving 1200 surveys and 54 focus groups, the research study will be one of the most comprehensive studies of refugee and migrant youth settlement in the world.

Project Background

 In Australia and internationally there is a pressing need to understand the factors that promote the successful settlement of migrants and refugees. A socially inclusive and productive Australian society strives to support all members and enables equitable participation in social institutions such as education and employment.

An overarching aim of this innovative project is to examine the settlement experiences of refugee and migrant youth aged 15-24 years. Such young people face a unique set of pre and post-migration challenges placing them at increased risk for a range of settlement and psychosocial and behavioural problems. Evidence suggests that in the shorter term most of these young people do not access the support services which could improve prospects for successful integration, improve quality of life and accumulation of human and social capital critical for a prosperous future.

This study will investigate how support services promote successful settlement, psychological health and wellbeing of refugee and migrant youth in Australia, Canada, and the USA, with a view to influencing settlement and multicultural mental health policy and practice. The proposed research will provide a unique opportunity to compare the mental health of refugees with migrants in Australia and with youth in other Western countries - a matter of priority for settlement policy and intervention. The research provides a unique opportunity to address this need by bringing together a team of internationally recognised experts in immigration, settlement, acculturation and multicultural mental health, multicultural service delivery, behavioral and cultural economy, and epidemiology, with key industry partners from the national and international multicultural services sector.

Canada and the USA are selected for comparison because of similarities (Canada) and differences (USA) in their settlement and immigration policies and practices that influence the provision of support services to refugees and migrants. We will conduct a mixed-method study to examine settlement experiences, psychological health and wellbeing and the role of support services in fostering the positive integration of migrant and refugee youth in all three countries. The results will provide new knowledge and better understanding of support services within a global context.

Project Aims:

  1. To conduct an in-depth investigation of the experiences of refugee and migrant youth and the diverse contexts of migration to inform knowledge and evidence to improve their settlement and psychological wellbeing.
  2. To identify contextual factors that youth and their families identify as relevant for settlement and psychological wellbeing of youth, and to examine the relationships between successful settlement and wellbeing.
  3. To investigate the nature, scope and effectiveness of support services currently accessed by youth and their families.
  4. To provide recommendations for effective research communication and dissemination strategies to impact policymakers and service providers across the mental health and social services sector, and position future research in the field of settlement.

Chief Investigators (CI):

Partner Investigators, and Partner Organisations

  • Eugenia Tsoulis, OAM – Australian Migrant Resource Centre (AMRC)
  • Tamara Stewart-Jones – Multicultural Youth South Australia (MYSA)
  • Effat Ghassemi, Newcomers Center of Peel (NCP), Canada
  • Tara Pir, Institute of Multicultural Counseling and Education Services (IMCES), USA


 Project Advisory Committee

From academia

  • Alison Phipps - University of Glasgow, UNESCO Chair in Refugee Integration, expertise in refugee resettlement.
  • Saba Safdar - University of Guelph, Canada, Director, Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, expertise in cross-cultural mental health.
  • Uwe Gielen - Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Executive Director, Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology, USA.
  • Sansom Tse - University of Hong Kong; expertise in cross-cultural mental health.
  • Rena Papadopoulos - Middlesex University, London, expertise in transcultural health
  • Jolanda Jetten - University of Queensland, expertise in social psychology, cultural identity, and intercultural relations.
  • Maureen Dollard - UniSA, Australia, expertise in understanding contextual factors affecting psychological health and wellbeing.
  • Susan Rees - University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia, expertise in refugee mental health, gender, human rights, and gender-based violence.

From the community

  • Sandra Elhelw Wright - Head, Settlement Council of Australia (SCoA), qualified lawyer, expertise in domestic and family violence.
  • Arman Abrahimzadeh - Zahra Foundation, Australia, providing economic empowerment for women fleeing abusive homes, Councillor, City of Adelaide.
  • Adam Beik - Team Leader, Australian Red Cross, supporting people who are facing homelessness, President, Training & Employment Advisory Council, South Australia (TEACSA).

This 3-year research study is funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Scheme – LP190100740.


Selected associated publications:

  1. Ziaian, T., Puvimanasinghe, T., Miller, E., de Anstiss, H., Esterman, A., Dollard, M. F. (2021) Identify and belonging: refugee youth and their parents' perception of being Australian. Australian Psychologist, 56 (2), 123-136.
  2. Ziaian, T., Puvimanasinghe, T., Miller, E., de Anstiss, H., Esterman, A., Dollard, M. F. & Afsharian, A. (2021). Family influence on refugee youth education and employment aspirations. Journal of Family Studies, 1-19.
  3. Ziaian, T., Barrie, H., Puvimanasinghe, T., Miller, E., Dollard, M., Esterman, A., Barrie, H., Afsharian, A. (2019). Demographic profile of SA refugee youth population: Pathways to active citizenship: refugee youth and their transition from school to further education, training, and employment . Adelaide, Australia: University of South Australia. DOI: ISBN: 978-0-646-80424-8
  4. Ziaian T, Miller E, de Anstiss H, Puvimanasinghe T, Dollard M, Esterman A, Barrie H, Stewart-Jones T, (2019). Refugee youth and their transition from school to further education, training, and employment in Australia. JMIR Res Protoc., PMID: 31368445
  5. Ziaian, T., Puvimanasinghe, T., Miller, E., de Anstiss, H., Dollard, M. F., Esterman, A., Barrie, H., & Afsharian, A. (2018). Challenges, facilitators, and enablers of conducting research with youth from refugee backgrounds. The Australian Community Psychologist, 29(2).
  6. Miller, E., Ziaian, T., & Esterman, A. (2018). Australian school practices and the education experiences of students with a refugee background: A review of the literature. International Journal of Inclusive Education22(4),
  7. Ziaian, T, de Anstiss, H, Antoniou, G, Puvimanasinghe, T., & Baghurst, P. (2016). Sociodemographic predictors of health-related quality of life and healthcare service utilisation among young refugees in South Australia. Open Journal of Psychiatry, vol. 6, no. 1, pp. 8-19.
  8. Ziaian, T, de Anstiss, H, Antoniou, G, Baghurst, P & Sawyer, M. (2013). Emotional and behavioural problems among refugee children and adolescents living in South Australia. Australian Psychologist, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 139-148.
  9. Ziaian, T, de Anstiss, H, Antoniou, G, Sawyer, M & Baghurst, P. (2012). Depressive symptomatology and service utilisation among refugee children and adolescents living in South Australia. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 146-152.