Examining intergenerational cultural transmission in refugee families: A study of Congolese, Burmese, and Ethiopian refugee families resettled in Australia

Presented by Dr Aparna Hebbani and Mairead MacKinnon

Date: Friday 6 September, 2019
Time: 3:00pm-4:00pm
Location: Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37) 


Refugee families with children constitute almost 40% of Australia’s annual humanitarian visa intake (DIBP, 2013). According to UNHCR (2014), refugee parents and children on average spend 17 years living in refugee camps– in many cases, children are born in refugee camps (outside their home country). Hence, the determination to transmit various aspects of their home culture to the next generation may be more heightened than other migrants who come directly to Australia on other visa categories. As refugees often do not conform to normative Western views of the ‘ideal’ family, family communication scholars caution that more researchers need to (re)consider definitions of the family within the cultural sphere (Suter, Baxter, Seurer & Thomas, 2014). A search for the term ‘refugee’ in the Journal of Family Communication results in only five studies, one of which came out of the results of our broader research project (Khawaja et al., 2017). More significantly, it is essential to study the refugee family unit as the life trajectory of a refugee family in most cases is quite distinct compared to the life trajectories of other migrant families (McMichael, Gifford & Correa-Velez, 2011).  We examined how migrating to a culturally different country like Australia impacted intergenerational cultural transmission within the refugee families. Data is presented from interviews with 47 Burmese, Congolese, and Ethiopian refugee parents settled in Australia.  All Ethiopian participants came via refugee camps where they spent 2-31 years.  Congolese participants came via refugee camps where they spent 1-12 years, and Burmese participants had spent between 4-30 years in refugee camps.

Presenter Bios:

Dr Aparna Hebbani researches refugee and asylum seeker settlement in Australia, and the media representation of Muslims, asylum seekers, and refugees in Australia. Her ability to conduct high quality research and secure collaborations is evidenced through her grants and publications record. She has led a team which won a highly competitive Australian Research Council Linkage grant ($135,000) investigating refugee employment and intergenerational communication.  Dr. Hebbani has served on the State Premier’s Queensland India Council, as well as boards of many NGOs in Australia and overseas.

Mairead MacKinnon is a PhD candidate and research assistant at the University of Queensland. Mairead’s research is interested in understanding way Australian media report on refugees and how journalists and editors make decisions when reporting on refugee-related issues. She is also interested in how former refugees perceive the impact of media coverage on their sense of belonging and how they are accepted by the larger Australian society. She has published in both the communication and journalism field. Mairead is also a Sessional Academic teaching various communication and journalism courses



About Research Seminar and Workshop Series


School of Communication and Arts Research Seminar Series

The research seminar and workshop series occur each semester, each with a different topic and guest speaker from UQ or otherwise.

Friday, 24 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

Fire Futures: codesigning for resilience

Dr Skye Doherty

Friday, 31 March

Hybrid: Online via Zoom and in person at the
SCA Writer's Studio
(Level 6, Michie)

From Fatigue Studies to Burnout: A Brief History of Work Exhaustion

A/Prof Elizabeth Stephens



Digital Learning Space (Room 224, Level 2), Joyce Ackroyd Building (#37)