Multicultural Sexual Health Network Forum

By Caitlin O'Mahony

MSHNOn Tuesday 23rd April the inaugural Multicultural Sexual Health Network (MSHN) forum was launched by Georgie Crozier (Victorian Parliamentary Secretary for Health) on behalf of the Multicultural Health and Support Service (MHSS) – a program of the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health (CEH).

What is the MSHN?

The MSHN is committed to achieving better health outcomes for refugee and migrant communities in the area of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses through a multi-sectoral approach.

Who attended the forum and what were the themes?

Representatives of various refugee/migrant organisations and health services attended the forum, such as Foundation House, The Centre for Multicultural Youth, Spectrum MRC and the Royal Women’s Hospital.

Speakers from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, La Trobe University and Doutta Galla Community Health provided coverage of the following themes:

  • up-to-date information on humanitarian settlement services and trends
  • an overview of disparities and poor sexual health literacy amongst culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
  • opportunities and suggestions on the topic of ‘how to approach health assessments and management plans’


What we learnt through collaboration

As well as listening to speeches, the forum had a focus on workshopping. We were divided into region-based groups and given the opportunity to promote the services provided by our individual organisations for migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and international students.

It was fantastic to hear how others are assisting CALD communities in sectors such as housing, education and employment as well as health. In general, we all recognised similar problems associated with the lack of education, diagnosis and management of sexual health issues and blood-borne viruses.

In groups we discussed:

  • the strategies and resources needed to promote sexual health and wellbeing in CALD communities.
  • the need for a centralised Service Directory and Resources Bank to increase community awareness of Victorian organisations and their services, resources and activities; basically, “who is doing what in your local area”.
  • the potential for the MSHN website to host such a directory/bank with consideration of specific cultural, gender and age requirements.
  • determining sexual health Referral Pathways for both individuals and communities to appropriate health services or ‘outreach’ health information programs (such as The Water Well Project) as key resources.
  • the importance of building trust between service providers and CALD clients so that sensitive issues such as sexual health can be discussed freely was emphasised.
  • the role of the MSHN ( under the ‘banner’ of CAH’s MHSS program) to develop and provide Service Provider Training in ‘best-practice approach’ to both consulting CALD individuals and discussing sexual health issues
  • the opportunity for Consumer Consultation to assist in determining what CALD communities need/want was thought to be vital.


My final note

The forum highlighted the many and varied ways Victorian organisations and health services can collaborate to assist in the continuation and development of appropriate community services for CALD communities. I continue to be excited about being involved as Deputy Chair of The Water Well Project, seeing how our volunteers are able to contribute in improving the health and wellbeing of migrants and refugees in Victoria.