People from refugee backgrounds are entitled to the full range of standard primary care services available in New Zealand. Evidence of refugee status must be provided – examples of this proof can include an approval letter from the Refugee Status Branch, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, or a residence or open-ended work visa). This means that any convention refugee has the right to go to a hospital or primary health organisation (PHO) and receive care. It should be noted that usual costs may apply, and this right does not extend to specialist care such as dentists, optometrists or mental health specialists generally.
Right to Healthcare
Everyone in New Zealand has the right to healthcare and education and information about healthcare, including sexual health. In New Zealand, any general practitioner (GP), student or youth health service will give you free health services.
At the Hospital
Proof of residency may be required at the hospital. Proof of residency includes a document such as a Refugee Travel Document, a Letter from Immigration or your Certificate of Identity. When you are admitted, you will be asked to provide an emergency contact. Only this person can call the hospital for updates.
Interpreter services are available in most areas of New Zealand for hospital and primary healthcare visits. For outpatient appointments, when you attend a hospital but do not stay overnight, interpreting services should be booked in advance.
Everyone in New Zealand has the right to doctor-patient confidentiality.
Doctor-patient confidentiality means that any health professionals in NZ, such as doctors and GPs, do not have the right to discuss your appointments with your parents, family or friends. However, a health professional may break doctor-patient confidentiality if they have reason to believe someone’s life may be in danger.
Everyone is entitled to an adequate standard of living in New Zealand. This includes access to health and disability services. You have the right to:
- Be covered under ACC for accidents.
- Be given clear information about your options for medical tests, treatments or procedures.
- Give consent before any health or disability service is provided.
ACC is the Accident Compensation Corporation. ACC covers everyone in New Zealand if you’re injured in an accident. It includes payment towards your:
- Medical bills and treatment.
- Income while you can’t work because of your injury.
An accident means a specific event where you’re injured by something that is outside your body, like falling down the stairs.
You will need to lodge your ACC application within 12 months of your injury as late claims are only allowed in a few cases.
You’re not covered by ACC if you suffer from an illness or if your injury is the result of a worsening condition (e.g. cancer or heart disease) or an age-related condition or illness.
Sexual crimes in New Zealand include sexual violation (such as rape and unlawful sexual connection), indecent assault and incest. In any of these situations, it is important that you tell someone you trust as soon as possible and then seek further help from trained counsellors, such as at the Rape Crisis and Women’s Refuge. Both of these services are free. You may also be able to get free counselling under ACC, who you can call to find out about whether counselling is available and organise sessions. You should also report the incident to the police.
Rape Crisis Website: http://www.rapecrisisnz.org.nz
Women’s Refuge Website: https://womensrefuge.org.nz
For more information on ACC counselling, visit the ACC website here.
All of these services are required to keep any information you tell them confidential. They cannot tell anyone else unless you want them to.
Everyone in New Zealand has the right to personal autonomy and bodily integrity, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identities. The legal age at which you can consent to sex or other sexual activity is 16. If there is no consent, then the act will be a crime.
In any situation where someone says no to any sexual activity, they have not consented to the sexual act, and the act will be a crime.
In some situations, even when someone says yes, it does not amount to consent. These situations include:
- when the person is under 16,
- when they are affected by drugs or alcohol so that they are incapable of consenting,
- when they are unconscious or asleep,
- if they have been forced into consenting,
- when they have some mental or physical impairment that means they cannot consent, or
- if they are mistaken about who the other person is.
If a person has consented to one sexual activity, it does not mean that they have consented to another activity e.g. if they have consented to oral sex this does not mean they have consented to penetrative sex.
Some mental illnesses are common, and it can be hard to tell when you or someone else is suffering from one. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression.
Anxiety is a response to stress or uncertainty, which becomes too great to handle. Symptoms include agitation, sleep disturbance, difficulty concentrating, loss of appetite or excessive appetite, headaches, stomach disorders or palpitations and panic attacks.
Depression occurs when someone has excessive low spirits that interfere with their everyday life. Symptoms include low, depressive mood with negative thoughts, numbness, emptiness and loss of hope, lack of interest in life, loss of motivation, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal, lack of appetite or comfort eating, sleep disturbance, self-neglect, anxiety and suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm.
If you think you might be suffering from a mental illness, the first thing you should do is tell someone you trust. However, if you don’t feel comfortable or ready to do this, there are several other options available to you. The organisations below can provide private and confidential support to help you overcome any mental ill-health.
There are two organisations dedicated to providing mental health services for former refugees:
- Refugees as Survivors New Zealand (RASNZ)
Based in Auckland, this organisation provides support to those from refugee backgrounds who experience mental health-related issues. All services are provided free of charge.
- Refugee Trauma Recovery:
Based in Wellington, the Refugee Trauma Recovery service is available to anyone from a refugee background who is experiencing psychological difficulties resulting from trauma. These services are free of charge, as are interpreters that can be provided where necessary.
Other Mental Health Contacts
- Alcohol and Drug Helpline – 0800 787 797. Offers help for people suffering with drug or alcohol addiction.
- Anxiety phone line – 0800 269 4389. Offers help for people who feel anxious.
- Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865. Offers help for people who are feeling helpless or have suicidal thoughts.
- Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email . Offers help for children and young people.
- Shakti Crisis Line – 0800 742 584. Offers help for migrant or refugee women living with family violence.
- For more information on how to cope with mental illness, you can also visit: www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/mental-health