The impact of family separation on mental health and resettlement outcomes of refugees and asylum seekers in Australia



This project was part of the Australian Human Rights Institute's 2022 seed funding round, receiving $9,967.85.


As of December 2020, there were 82.4 million people worldwide displaced due to war or conflict, representing the largest number of displaced people ever documented. Unfortunately, it is common for a family to become separated whilst fleeing persecution and conflict. As the number of forcibly displaced people has increased, Australia, among other host countries, has adopted increasingly restrictive immigration policies, many of which result in refugees living in Australia being unable to reunite with their immediate family members. 

This research aims to highlight the impact of family separation on mental health and resettlement outcomes of refugees and asylum-seekers living in Australia. It will draw attention to the detrimental effects of restrictive immigration policies on the psychosocial wellbeing of separated families. 

There are three main components of this project, including:

  1. To review existing research to develop an understanding of the impact of family separation on mental health and well-being of refugee youth
  2. To advance the understanding of the experiences of refugee and asylum-seeker adults who are separated from their children and currently living in Australia
  3. To examine the policy and practice effects of the findings and distribute these findings to kay stakeholders, including Australian researchers, NGOs and policy-makers. 

The research will then be published as novel systematic reviews of parent-child separation on child and adult mental health and aid in the formulation of a knowledge translation workshop which will bring together leaders in the field of mental health, child human rights, refugee service provision, community members with lived experience and policy makers. The findings will also form the foundation for subsequent projects, which will continue to investigate the impact of parent-child separation on refugee children residing in Australia.

2023 project update

The project has submitted one high-quality peer-reviewed publication related to the field of human rights. We have also successfully finalised the initial literature search and selection of papers for our Systematic Review and data extraction and analysis is currently underway. Once analysis of the data has been completed, a manuscript will be prepared for submission to a tier one psychology journal later this year.  ​ 

For our quantitative paper, we have completed the data analysis phase, with an aim of having our manuscript submitted to co-authors by March 2023. Following this, the manuscript will be submitted for publication to the Australian Journal of Human Rights. ​ 

Moving forward, we plan to apply for external research funding that builds on the research project, with ​CI Byrow applying for an ARC DECRA in 2023. The proposed research will build upon the outcomes achieved in this Australian Human Rights Institute seed funding grant. The identification of key psychological mechanisms relevant to refugee families that arise from this research will be used to form the basis for further project funding opportunities in 2023-2024. ​