Taking a stand with refugees

15 June 2020

Let’s all support better outcomes for refugee women and their babies.

That’s the message of DRANZCOG Advanced Trainee Dr Stefanie Pender as the College marks Refugee Week (June 14 to June 20), culminating with World Refugee Day on Saturday. The theme this year is: #StepWithRefugees — Take A Step on World Refugee Day.

Dr Pender is a passionate advocate for migrant and refugee health, and has worked on the frontline of the refugee crisis facing the world.
In 2017 she volunteered to save lives by joining German group Sea-Watch in the Mediterranean. In The Sydney Morning Herald, Dr Pender speaks about the refugees rescued, who were fleeing abuse, torture and slavery in Libya.

In 2019 Dr Pender worked with Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in South Sudan. Doctors Without Borders/MSF is one of the largest medical and humanitarian aid providers in South Sudan, with more than 3,500 staff across the country, as well as projects in Ethiopia and Uganda serving South Sudanese refugees. The area has been engulfed in a humanitarian crisis since a violent civil conflict began in late 2013.

“In the moment you are consumed by the immediate need," Dr Pender recalls of her time off the Libyan coast and in South Sudan. “Who to throw the first life jacket to when there are many in the water. When to give up on a resuscitation when there are others in need. Or during a delivery, deciding whether the one power source should be used for the light or the oxygen.

“The overwhelming sadness strikes you later.”

Refugee crisis

According to the UN, the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 70.8 million people around the world have been forced from home by conflict and persecution at the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 30 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.

Dr Pender says awareness of this crisis and our own privilege is key.

“I would hope Australia could welcome more refugees,” Dr Pender says. “There is so much to be gained for everyone from having a more multicultural, inclusive and just society.”

Advocacy for refugees

‘Doctors do have a powerful voice in society and they can advocate for better health outcomes for asylum seekers and refugees in Australia,” Dr Pender says.

In April, RANZCOG supported a call by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre to release 1400 people from immigration detention to limit viral transmission and infection, as part of the country’s emergency response for COVID19.


RANZCOG believes that the same standard of health care should be provided to women seeking asylum, refugees, and women held in detention as that provided to all women. Read its position statement.

RANZCOG participates in the Migrant and Refugee Health Partnership. This initiative seeks to consolidate cross-sector knowledge, foster policy and support culturally competent practice. Read more.



Meet the Councillors of the Twelfth RANZCOG Council

Find out more about who is representing you on RANZCOG Council.




Dr Pieter Mourik (AM)

Being recognised in the Australia Day honours was a highlight for this rural medicine advocate.



RANZCOG urges all practitioners to help pregnant women get vaccinated

RANZCOG urges all practitioners to heed the advice issued by RANZCOG and ATAGI which recommends that pregnant women are routinely offered Pfizer or Moderna mRNA vaccine at any stage of pregnancy.