Date of Award

1-1-1999

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Psychology

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Neil Drew

Abstract

Refugees arriving in Australia undergo a number of settlement processes including adaptation and acculturation, social support and network development, and an exploration of their ethnic identity. This research examines the settlement processes of mixed marriage refugees from what was Yugoslavia who arrived in Perth, Western Australia in the early to mid 1990's. A mixed marriage is one where the couple are from different ethnic backgrounds. This research has two main aims. The first aim is to examine the processes of acculturation and adaptation, the development of social support networks, and ethnic identity, within the refugees. These processes provide a framework from which to understand the settlement process. The second aim is to investigate the initial settlement programs and supports provided by Australia's government and community groups, and to provide recommendations for future service provision. Throughout the research, the experiences of the refugees are located within the sociopolitical context of the conflict in what was Yugoslavia and their migration. The impact of the refugees' ethnicity and ethnic identity is also considered. The research was comprised of a study in two stages. The first stage involved scoping interviews with critical participants and refugees to identify key conceptual domains for the purpose of guiding subsequent interviews. The second stage consisted of multiple-case, conversational interviews with 12 mixed marriage refugees from what was Yugoslavia. Data was analysed thematically and the results indicated that the participants were moving towards an acculturation outcome of bi-culturalism. The majority have taken out Australian citizenship, were proud of and grateful for it and saw it as a security for the future. The results also indicated that ethnicity impacts on the development of social networks. The participants generally socialised with other mixed marriage refugees as they felt comfortable and emotionally supported by them. Mainstream Australians provided more instrumental support. The participants referred to a feeling of belonging to Australia increasing with participation in the community and have made substantial efforts to understand the Australian way of life. Feeling part of the Australian community was a process that was taking time. The participants described their ethnic identity as either Yugoslav or Bosnian, regardless of their ethnicity. Whilst maintaining this identity, being Australian was also important and did not conflict with feeling Yugoslav or Bosnian. The links between the various settlement processes are discussed as well as the validity of the research process and recommendations for future research and for settlement programs. The results illustrated the diversity of experiences of the participants as well as a commonality resulting from their being in a mixed marriage. With respect to the second aim, the initial settlement experience is characterised by stress, due in part to the nature of the refugee experience and exacerbated by a lack of English, receiving confusing and untimely information, difficulties in finding work and difficulties in meeting mainstream Australians. The refugees who went through the On-Arrival Accommodation program felt less supported than those who went through the Community Resettlement Support Scheme, which offered a chance to meet Australians and provided better material assistance.

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