Building partnership to improve health and wellbeing of Sydney's Rohingya community

Finding comfort in football

April 2019

Building partnership to improve health and wellbeing of Sydney's Rohingya community

Building partnership to improve health and wellbeing of Sydney's Rohingya community

Mohammed Younus has been deeply affected by the ongoing conflict in his home country.

“I grew up in a village in the Rakhine State in Burma [now known as Myanmar]”, Mohammed, 35, said speaking through a Rohingya interpreter from his new home in Sydney.

The Rohingya are a mainly Muslim minority group in Myanmar.

The United Nations has said that since late August 2017, “widespread and systemic violence” has led to more than 700 000 Rohingya fleeing across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh.

“The situation in our country is bad at the moment because of the conflict there.

“Some of us have family there who have been affected by that violence. We are always worried about them,” Mohammed, who has been granted refugee status since his arrival in Australia, said.

The conflict has had a big impact on the health and wellbeing of the growing Rohingya community in the Canterbury area.

Sydney Local Health District has stepped up to help by contributing funding and support for community-led activities as part of the District’s Can Get Health in Canterbury project.

The project is run in partnership with Central and Eastern Sydney PHN and the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity. The project is underpinned by values of equity and community engagement and works in collaboration with Canterbury communities and community organisations. 

It aims to improve access to primary health services for the area’s culturally and linguistically diverse population who face increased risks of developing preventable diseases or conditions.

The team’s worked with a Sydney-based group, Burmese Rohingya Community in Australia (BRCA).

Their approach is modelled on the UK’s The Big Local initiative where a community selects activities that will improve their own health, Jane Lloyd, Director of the District’s Health Equity Research and Development Unit, said.

“The whole idea is to build local capacity to respond to the Rohingya community’s needs. We recognise that they’ve faced trauma and there’s a need to support the health of the population.

“The Rohingya community came up with the ideas and the resources. They decided the priorities,” Jane said.

A $10,000 grant was provided to the BRCA to organise activities.

“We organised a football tournament. There were six teams from Sydney and two from Brisbane made up of young men,” Mohammed, who is a sports manager at the BRCA, said.

The tournament was held at an indoor venue in Lakemba earlier this year.

“Our main goal was to ease our stress. We tried to ease our tension and pain. We met each other and comforted each other. Some of us played football which made us happy,” he said.

Supporters watched the matches and gathered for a traditional lunch before trophies were presented.

The outcome was positive.

“The BRCA steered the ship. They were responsible for setting up the tournament. Those involved learnt new skills and made new social connections,” Jane said.

The District has also been able to support the Rohingya community to maintain their cultural ties.

“One of the things they’re concerned about is the diffusion of their culture. So, they valued the opportunity to connect as a group. Football is a unifying international language,” Jane said.

The BRCA would like to expand the tournament next year.

“We have a plan. We are on the way. We are trying to organise a bigger tournament next year. We would like to invite other ethnic groups from Burma to attend,” Mohammed said.

For more information, please email Can Get Health in Canterbury’s project officer Barbara Hawkshaw at b.hawkshaw@cesphn.com.au or Community Partnership’s Fellow Amy Bestman at a.bestman@unsw.edu.au


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Page Last Updated: 08 April, 2019