Introduction by Croakey: Navigating the complexity of Australia’s health system can be daunting at the best of times, but for young people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, the challenges can be insurmountable.
As part of our #CroakeyYOUTH series, Jahin Tanvir of the Youth Health Forum outlines the health care barriers for young people from migrant and refugee communities, and his ambition to build a more inclusive health system.
Jahin Tanvir writes:
“Being able to give back to others when they are not able to do it themselves.” Those are the words my mother had instilled in me from a young age. Naturally, being so young, I never truly understood the gravitas of those words. It wasn’t until I graduated from high school that I was able to step back and realise what my mother meant.
As a first-generation migrant raised in Australia, the word ‘health’ has various meanings for me. It is about quality of life as well as survival. It is about self-improvement and rehabilitation. It has such weight to it that it requires the experiences of an upbringing to truly understand its importance.
I was two years old when my parents came to Sydney and as I grew older, I saw first hand what it was like to lead a ‘work-in-progress’ life. My parents left their entire careers and lifestyles to build from the bottom up in Australia. As they built our lives here, their access to health care became a source of dishonour. They prioritised work over their own wellbeing for the sake of their children, and their knowledge and confidence in navigating the available health care services was scarce.
Access to care
It was disheartening to witness this as a child and now, as a 19-year-old adult, I see the same trends of poor understanding and access to the health system for underprivileged migrant and refugee communities in Australia – an issue that we must fix for the younger generation.
Since I left school, one of my deepest ambitions has been to create a more inclusive health care system. Young people in the modern world are growing up in one of the most tumultuous periods of change and advancements with predictability becoming a distant memory. We have issues around climate change, rural access to basic needs, inclusivity, and the list continues to grow. With every developing concern in metro areas, there is an even greater worry for those in rural and regional Australia – especially for minority migrant groups. This is due to the everyday struggles already faced with the cultural and linguistic barrier that they need to adjust to.
Health care for minority communities is a basic need that must be addressed. Not only am I passionate about this due to my own lived experience but also because a young person’s upbringing plays a pivotal role in their adulthood and the mentality they occupy. It is the foundation from which individuals chase their aspirations and become the person they want to be as they grow older. It is instantly affected when health care and services are not a widely available.
Access to general practitioners is not enough on its own. Young people from diverse backgrounds need to know how to navigate their health services such as seeing a psychologist or medical counsellor for their mental health, dental and eye care, physiotherapy and all the intricacies in medical healing.
For a lot of these migrant and refugee communities, taboos and stigmas prevent young people from accessing the care they need as it somehow becomes ‘wrong’ to talk about the basic ability to meet one’s health needs. Young people are immobilised from taking initiative and reaching out to improve their health because of the multitude of cultural and familial consequences.
My passion as part of the Youth Health Forum, along with the various other initiatives I am involved in, is to be able to crush these barriers for all young people in Australia, irrespective of background. We are privileged to live in a country where health care services are within reach, yet we push these services aside when cultural, socioeconomic and educational obstacles are placed in front of them. My dream is for every child to understand that there is an array of services available that can better their physical, cognitive, and mental health.
I feel empowered by the Youth Health Forum as I am given the opportunity to work with a myriad of young leaders from around Australia to shape the Australian health and social system, to be inclusive and accessible to all. In addition, the forum is designed to create recommendations for action in youth health. These will be presented to the Minister for Health and the Shadow Minister for Health: an opportunity I will take full advantage of for all young people in minority communities.
Jahin Tanvir is a commissioner at Wellbeing Health and Youth which forms the Centre of Research Excellence in Adolescent Health. From seeing the struggles of migrants and individuals of culturally linguistic background in his community faced when accessing health services, Jahin felt an innate responsibility to act and advocate for health and young people. Since graduating from school, he has been involved with youth-led and not-for-profit organisations such as the Red Cross, Headspace, World Vision, and United Nations Youth. He is currently studying Optometry with ambitions in turning his career towards being a paediatric optometrist.