Refugee Trauma & Recovery Program

UNSW Sydney


A research program dedicated to understanding the psychological and neurobiological effects of refugee trauma and pathways to recovery


Can you  help?

You can make a difference. 

We would like to invite refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced trauma to participate in research projects, aimed at gaining a better understanding of the refugee experience.

These projects will help us to improve the treatment of traumatic stress reactions among refugees.

Participation is open to all refugees and asylum seekers, including non-permanent visa holders.

We would like to hear from people who feel they are coping well, as well as those who are experiencing difficult reactions such as sadness, nightmares and distressing memories.

We will compensate eligible participants for their time.


Refugees & Asylum Seekers

If you would like to enquire about participating in our research projects, please click the "Enter your details" button and we will contact you by telephone, with an interpreter if needed. You can also contact us directly on 1300-130-700.

Enter your details →


If you would like to refer someone to our program, please obtain their permission and enter their details below. We will contact them by telephone, with an interpreter if needed, to provide them with more information about our research.

Refer to RTRP →


All information provided by participants is considered highly confidential and is only accessed by the research team..

Our Projects

The Refugee Adjustment Study

The Refugee Adjustment Study is an Australia-wide study, which aims to examine the potential role of resettlement factors on refugee adjustment over time. We also hope to understand the possible mechanisms through which resettlement might affect psychological wellbeing.     Find Out More...

The Experiences of Refugees Study

The Experiences of Refugees Study aims to understand how refugee experiences affect beliefs and emotions. Find Out More...

The Coping with Stress Study

The Coping With Stress Study aims to understand how individuals from refugee and asylum seeker backgrounds cope in difficult situations. Find Out More...

'Tell Your Story': The STRIDE Project

'Tell Your Story' is an innovative online program designed specifically for refugee men. Users can read and hear advice from other refugee men about what they found useful when dealing with stress. The program contains twelve online chapters with videos and information about stress. The program is available in Arabic, Farsi and Tamil.  You can access the program privately, on your phone or a computer at times that suit you.  Find Out More...

The Refugee Neuroimaging Study

The refugee neuroimaging project aims to build an understanding of the brain processes that underpin some of the key traumatic stress reactions experienced by refugees. These include difficulties processing emotions, managing stress, relating to others and dealing with loss and separation. This project is being conducted in collaboration with STARTTS to inform the development of new tools and strategies for supporting the recovery of refugees.    Find Out More...  

our Team

The Refugee Trauma and Recovery Program is staffed by an experienced team of clinicians and researchers.

Members of our team include:

Dr Angela Nickerson - Director
Senior Lecturer, UNSW
Clinical Psychologist
E: a.nickerson@unsw.edu.au

Dr Belinda Liddell - Deputy Director
Research Fellow, UNSW
E: b.liddell@unsw.edu.au

Dr Yulisha Byrow
STRIDE Project Manager
E: y.byrow@unsw.edu.au

Savannah Minihan
Research Assistant
E: savannah.minihan@unsw.edu.au


Joel Colbourne-Hoffman
PhD/Master of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate
E: j.colbourne-hoffman@unsw.edu.au

Lillian Le 
PhD/Master of Psychology (Clinical) Candidate
E: l.le@unsw.edu.au

Prof Richard Bryant - Clinic Director, Traumatic Stress Clinic
Scientia Professor, UNSW

Dr Rosanna Pajak
Clinical Psychologist

Contact Us

RTRP Intake Line: 1300 130 700

Email: refugee@unsw.edu.au






NSW 2145









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We would love your help to spread the word about our research

Tell your friends and family about the projects that interest you. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And pass information on to those you think might be interested in taking part in our research projects. 

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The RTRP team, March 2017

Recent News


Dr Belinda Liddell named one of Top 5 young Science Communicators!

6 June 2018

Dr Belinda Liddell Top 5 under 40.png

RTRP's Deputy Director, Dr Belinda Liddell, has just been named a winner of the Top 5 Science Communication Program, an award that recognises the work of early career researchers and their passion for communicating their research. The Top 5 recipients will begin a 2-week media residency at the ABC later this year.

Read more about the Top 5 here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-06-06/meet-the-abcs-top-5-scientists-for-2018/9839468

2nd Australia & New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference - Call for Abstracts Open

The Forum of Australian Services for Survivors of Torture and Trauma (FASSTT) invites individuals and communities from refugee backgrounds, clinicians, practitioners, researchers, philosophers and policy makers to submit an abstract for the 2019 Australia and New Zealand Refugee Trauma Recovery in Resettlement Conference, which will be held in Brisbane. The call for abstracts close 3rd August, 2018. 

Website: http://www.refugeetraumaconf.org.au/program-2019/call-for-abstracts-2019/


SMHR Conference 2017

December 2017

Members of the RTRP team recently attended The Society for Mental Health Research (SMHR) 2017 Annual Conference in Canberra. We were very grateful to be able to present some of our recent research on the mechanisms underlying refugee mental health and adjustment, and were excited to hear about the fascinating and innovative mental health research being conducted both nationally and globally. 

RTRP recently received research funding from The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)  

30th November 2017

RTRP recently received research funding from the NHMRC, which will be used to conduct innovative research on treatments for Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in traumatised refugees. The awarding of this funding highlights the importance of the research conducted by RTRP in improving treatment outcomes for refugees. You can read about the latest funding boost here: https://newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/health/funding-boost-mental-health-research-unsw.

UNSW Scalable Research: Researcher Talk Series 2017

27th November 2017

Our program director, Dr Angela Nickerson, spoke at the UNSW Researcher Talk Series about the latest research being conducted by the RTRP team. Dr Nickerson discussed how the work of RTRP will have a global impact by promoting good mental health and wellbeing in refugees and asylum-seekers. A fascinating series of talks by some very inspiring researchers!


ISTSS Annual Meeting 2017

15th November 2017

Members of the RTRP team recently attended the 33rd Annual Meeting of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS) in Chicago, between 8th-11th November 2017. It was an amazing experience to not only present our own research on refugee mental health, but also hear about the innovative and exciting work looking at trauma across the world.

A special congratulations to RTRP Director Dr Angela Nickerson for receiving the Chaim and Bela Danieli Young Professional Award, a highly prestigious award recognising excellence in the field of trauma research!

AACBT Conference 2017

1st November 2017

The RTRP team recently attended the 38th National Conference of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy in Sydney between 26th-28th October 2017. We were excited to have presented our research on the mechanisms underlying refugee mental health, and to hear about the exciting research being done not only in Australia, but around the world.

Sydney Alliance: Invitation to people seeking asylum who would like to share their story.

27th July 2017

Did you come to Australia as an asylum seeker?
Are you interested in sharing your story with local communities so they can understand why people seeking asylum come here and act to make Australia more welcoming?

Since 2014 the Sydney Alliance has worked with organisations all over Sydney, to host more than 40 “table talk” events where people seeking asylum have told their stories. By sharing their stories, people seeking asylum have helped members of the Australian community better understand what is happening to people who seek protection in Australia. They have moved Australian citizens to act as part of campaigns to get concession Opal cards and TAFE access for asylum seekers. They have also practiced their English, gained public speaking skills, and made friends and connections for their lives in Sydney.

Right now the Alliance is looking to make contact with more people who would like to join our team of asylum seeker speakers. No public speaking experience is needed – just conversational English and the willingness to share your story.  (Tamil and Arabic interpretation are also available). The Alliance provides support and works closely with host organisations to make table talks as safe as possible for speakers – there are no media and no photos.

There will be an information session for new speakers on Sunday July 30 at Parramatta. If you’re interested, please contact Chantelle at chantelle@sydneyalliance.org.au.

Refugee Week 2017

3rd July 2017

Over the past few weeks, members of the RTRP team attended so many fantastic events as part of Refugee Week. Celebrating the positive contributions that individuals from refugee backgrounds make to the Australian society, it was truly an uplifting and fun experience. Tremendous thank you to Auburn Diversity Services Inc., CORE Community Services, and the Fairfield Police Force for hosting these events! We look forward to joining in again next year!

Refugee Alternatives Conference 2017

23rd February 2017

The RTRP team recently attended the Refugee Alternatives Conference between 21st - 23rd February 2017. Organised by the University of New South Wales and the Refugee Council of Australia, the conference was packed with discussions about ways to target migrant issues at the individual, national, and global level. Many thanks to all the wonderful speakers for their insights and contributions!

Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress 2016

16th September 2016

The RTRP team recently attended the Australasian Conference on Traumatic Stress (ACOTS) in the Gold Coast between 8th - 10th September 2016. The conference was an amazing three days of workshops, talks, and discussions on issues of trauma across different populations. We were grateful to share our research and experiences working with refugees, touching on such themes as emotion regulation, cultural differences in processing, moral injury, and neural correlates of social/emotional processing.


Queensland Says WELCOME

15th August 2016

#CreateWelcome is social movement encouraging people to create and post messages of welcome and belonging for newly arrived Queenslanders (e.g. refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and international students). Thousands of welcome messages are being shared through the social networking platform Instagram. The #CreateWelcome campaign requires a collective effort to create a welcoming community so please join them and add your own message of welcome! 

Follow the link below to find out how you can get involved! 



Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood

8th August 2016

On Thursday 4th of August the RTRP team joined a number of other health professionals on a tour of a simulated refugee camp set up in the grounds of the Auburn Centre for Community. The tour was an interactive experience guided by former refugees or asylum seekers. On the tour we took on the perspective of a refugee/asylum seeker and were taken on a journey – starting with having 1 minute to gather our belongings all the way to arriving in Australia and the complications involved with starting a whole new life. At each part of the tour the tour guides gave us a little insight into their own personal stories. Along the journey we had to make tough decisions that not only impacted ourselves but also our families.

All members of the RTRP team found the tour of the Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood a very humbling and sobering experience. This was the third year the project has been running and it was open to the public for tours over the weekend. Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood is a great way to understand the struggles that refugees and asylum seekers face especially as it involves putting yourself in their shoes and attempting to overcome the overwhelming obstacles that refugees and asylum seekers are confronted with daily.  


Science Postgraduate Research Competition!

5th August 2016

Congratulations to two members of our RTRP team, Lillian and Joel doing an amazing job presenting their research in the Science Postgraduate Research Competition!! Both Lillian and Joel gave outstanding 1 minute presentations outlining the aims of their research and what they have found so far.

Joel spoke about his work on moral injury in traumatised refugees and Lillian's presentation focused on the effects of emotion regulation on refugee mental health.

Special mention must go to Joel for taking home a one of the School of Psychology prizes for effective communication and public engagement!

The Big Hello to all new arrivals!

6th July 2016

To welcome the new arrivals from the Syrian and Iraqi communities, the Salvation Army will be hosting a Welcome BBQ this coming Saturday at Fairfield West. With food and entertainment provided, it will be a wonderful day of celebrations. We hope to see you there!

Sharing our research at WCBCT :

29th June 2016

What better way to celebrate Refugee Week than to raise the importance of clinical and research work with refugees. Members of the RTRP team recently attended the 8th World Congress of Behavioural and Cognitive Therapies in Melbourne between 23rd-25th June 2016, sharing our research on refugee mental health. A tremendous thank you to all our partners and participants, who make our research possible!

We definitely look forward to attending the 9th WCBCT in 2019.

Celebrating Refugee Week 2016!

29th June 2016

We had a splendid week celebrating the successes and contributions of refugees to society. Thank you to Auburn Diversity Services Inc., SWS CALD Communities Coalition, and the Fairfield Police Force for letting us join in on the festivities. With courage, let us all combine again next year!

Raising awareness: "The Quiet Epidemic of Mental Disorders in Refugees"

Published on WIRED, this article raises awareness about the prevalence of mental health issues faced by refugees around the world and highlights the importance of research in understanding psychological mechanisms of adaptation to guide interventions. Find this article here: www.wired.com/2016/02/the-quiet-epidemic-of-mental-disorders-in-refugees/ 

Congratulations Dr Angela Nickerson - UNSW 20 Rising Stars

Our Program Director, Dr Angela Nickerson, was named one of UNSW's 20 Rising Stars as an emerging research leader. This acknowledgement highlights the importance of her pioneering research in helping to elucidate the mechanisms underlying refugee trauma. Read about this here: www.20risingstars.unsw.edu.au/refugee-mental-health

Thinking about completing a PhD?

Are you a graduate who is passionate about refugee research and interested in pursuing a PhD? Contact us about joining the team at RTRP at the University of New South Wales. Get in touch with Dr Angela Nickerson (Program Director) to discuss this research opportunity. 

Upcoming Events:

Working with survivors of torture and trauma - an AACBT National workshop tour

Do you work with refugees, asylum seekers or migrants with mental health problems? Our very own Dr Angela Nickerson will be presenting on state-of-the-art strategies for treatment with these groups. 

This workshop will outline key psychological responses reported by refugees and asylum-seekers, and how these relate to trauma, displacement and post-migration challenges. An overarching theoretical model for understanding pathways to adaptation in refugees will be presented, and clinical examples provided to illustrate aspects of the refugee experience. The state of the research evidence regarding psychological interventions for PTSD in refugees will be reviewed, and key considerations in working with clients from refugee backgrounds will be discussed. Download the workshop information brochure here.


  • PERTH Wednesday 30 March 2016
  • ADELAIDE Friday 1 April 2016
  • SYDNEY Tuesday 5 April 2016
  • MELBOURNE Thursday 14 April 2016
  • BRISBANE Friday 15 April 2016

Book now at www.aacbt.org/eventscalendar

Proud to be Silver sponsors of the STARTTS Refugee Ball 2015!

The RTRP team had a wonderful night with our guests, David Keegan (SSI) and Maria Cassaniti (TMHC). It was great to be a part of this fun event with over 400 attendees. We all enjoyed the terrific food, amazing company, and hearing from the keynote speaker, renowned orthopaedic surgeon and Iraqi refugee Dr Munjed Al Muderis. We are all already looking forward to the next STARTTS Refugee Ball in 2016!

Recent Publications