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Community Care Tasmania

 Broadland Drive, Launceston, TAS

Community Connections: Improving Bhutanese Wellness 


Home Care - Multiple locations - Organisational wide or multiple home program

Award descriptors

  • Diversity
  • Consumer engagement and/or co-design
  • Health and wellbeing

Holistic, stakeholder driven and culturally appropriate program to build trust, and bring older people of Bhutanese background together and connect them to the community.

About the program

In 2016 we designed and initiated a three-year pilot program called Community Connections to improve the wellness of Launceston’s ageing Bhutanese community – a new migrant group of refugees who have been twice displaced from Bhutan and Nepal. This multi-faceted program was developed in response to a detailed needs analysis undertaken with our older Bhutanese community via surveys and interviews conducted over 18 months. This consultation found that they felt socially isolated from their own and broader community. They had very little understanding of what services were available to them and a distrust of government agencies – especially in aged care – traditionally a responsibility of family.  Our studies also highlighted a significant number of older Bhutanese people were experiencing deteriorating mental and physical health exacerbated by their social isolation in their new environment, as well as from post-traumatic stress issues stemming from their long refugee status. As services provided within the aged homecare framework did not adequately address these issues, we decided to innovate.
Our solution was to create a holistic, stake-holder driven program that built trust, was culturally appropriate, and bought older Bhutanese together and got them out into the community. Following successful applications for funding, our program brings older members of the Bhutanese community together three hours once a week and for a day-long excursion once a month.  Participants socialise together and with other people in the community, as well as receive relevant information and skills to help them live better and healthier lives. Social outings have introduced them to places and available services provided by government departments and community services, and an opportunity to experience local cultural sites and learn how and what older locals do to remain fit and well.

Providing participants opportunities to meet locals has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on building a sense of belonging in their community. With some older Bhutanese having spent up to 25 years in refugee camps in Nepal, meeting and seeing what some local 90 year-olds do has been inspiring. As many participants have rural backgrounds, meeting locals shearing sheep, growing specialty crops, or visiting community gardens, or producing handicrafts, has likewise been affirming and established cross-cultural bonds.

Four Bhutanese workers are employed part-time and are being trained to run this program, which currently has fifty registered participants, four of whom are clients. The increase of regular participants attending the weekly sessions, now averaging 30-40 people, and a range of testimonials, demonstrate that the program is delivering its objectives. It has improved mental wellness by reducing feelings of isolation and depression, nurtured self-reliance, increased their physical wellness by actively engaging them in site visits and other activities, and it has increased feelings of inclusivity in their new community.

Fundamentally this program is about welcoming and supporting new arrivals, training and up-skilling workers to deliver appropriate services for all members of our community, recognising that within our ageing society there is increasing diversity and that the services and care we provide need to reflect this diversity.

More about this program

Dr Susan Aykut at or call (03) 6334 0990


Friday, 7 December 2018 - 6:26pm