Refugee Mental Health Clinic

Making Medicare-funded mental health services accessible for asylum seekers and people from refugee backgrounds

Many people from refugee backgrounds find it difficult to access mainstream Medicare-funded services that understand the refugee experience and use interpreters, as interpreting is not covered for psychology or mental health social work appointments.

Since 2008, STTARS has hosted a number of registered visiting mental health practitioners with specialist expertise to provide a dedicated service to asylum seekers and people from refugee backgrounds under Medicare funding, including the ‘Better Access to Mental Health Care’ initiative.

STTARS provides administrative, interpreting and casework support to help people accessing the Clinic overcome practical and settlement difficulties and connect them with essential services. Clients attending the Clinic can also be easily linked in to other services within STTARS such as groups or counselling support if required, and may contact the duty worker if they need urgent support between appointments with their specialist.

To be eligible for the Refugee Mental Health Clinic a client needs to be an asylum seeker or person from a refugee background with a Mental Health Care Plan from their GP. Referrals are managed by STTARS’ Intake & Clinic Coordinator.

For more information about the Clinic contact Alica Varesanovic, our Intake & Clinic Coordinator, on 8206 8900 or via email:

To see our current Clinicians please visit Our Staff page.



STTARS’ service model recognises that psychotherapeutic interventions alone are unlikely to resolve distress for people from refugee backgrounds.

Many of these people say they experience difficulties when attempting to access mainstream services. Additionally, the types of services that are available in South Australia may operate differently from those in their country of origin, or may not have existed there at all. Experiences of torture and trauma can also inhibit the survivor from accessing and negotiating many essential services, either due to pervasive and debilitating symptoms or because of past negative experiences with government authorities. When seeking support they may also encounter barriers in the form of a lack of cultural understanding, cultural sensitivity, or interpreting services. At STTARS, the advocacy role provides a safety net, ensuring that survivors of torture do not ‘fall through the gaps’ in our health and welfare systems.

Advocacy at both individual and systemic levels is considered essential at STTARS because a family without housing or income - or experiencing a legal crisis - will not respond to psychological support while their primary needs are not being met. Our model thus requires the ability to be able to address critical welfare and material needs alongside therapeutic issues.

Whether clients attend STTARS for counselling or Medicare-funded services from psychiatrists, psychologists or mental health social workers through our Refugee Mental Health Clinic, all generally have significant broader needs. STTARS’ team of specially trained and dedicated caseworkers (whose various cultural and linguistic backgrounds reflect those of the people who access our service) works hard to ensure that these broader material needs are met for our clients. While the primary focus of caseworkers is to address practical needs, the sensitive and trauma-informed way that they go about this work is crucial in assisting clients to hold on to hope in difficult times and recognise the value of engaging in therapeutic work.

STTARS' caseworkers also act as a resource and support to other staff within STTARS, sharing their depth of knowledge and experience to ensure that clients receive the best service possible.