Interaction with neighbours can significantly affect refugees’ perceptions of being welcomed by the host society. Friendliness from the host community is very important in helping refugees feel welcomed whereas perceived unfriendliness can undermine other successful aspects of integration. This study examined narratives from individual interviews with 47 Ethiopian, Congolese and Burmese refugees on their relationships with neighbours settled in highly multicultural, low socio-economic neighbourhoods in Australia. Our industry partner, Access Community Services Ltd. (ACSL) disseminated the information about the study amongst the communities with whom they have built trusting connections. While most refugees reported having collegial relationships with their neighbours, many restricted interactions with neighbours so as to not lead to issues down the track, or as some were told that this is how one must interact with neighbours in Australia. Coming from collectivist cultures where the neighbour is your first point of immediate social contact, such advice caused intrapersonal conflict. Language appeared to impact on the quality of building social bridges with neighbours as did cultural distance.
Aparna Hebbani, University of Queensland, Australia
Val Colic-Peisker, University of Queensland, Australia
Mairead MacKinnon, University of Queensland, Australia