ACSPRI Conferences, ACSPRI Social Science Methodology Conference 2014

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Methodological innovations for a complex population

Diana Smart, Saul Flaxman, Kylie Brosnan, John De Maio, Michelle Silbert

Building: Holme Building
Room: Sutherland Room
Date: 2014-12-10 01:30 PM – 03:00 PM
Last modified: 2014-11-12


The Building a New Life in Australia study is a recently initiated, 5-wave longitudinal research study that aims to increase understanding of the factors influencing the settlement pathways of recently arrived humanitarian migrants in Australia. The project will provide a broad evidence base to assist policy development and program improvement.

The recruited sample consisted of 2,399 refugees and asylum seekers who had arrived in Australia, or been granted their humanitarian visa, in the previous three to six months. Participants came from a broad range of national and linguistic backgrounds and were recruited from urban and rural areas and all states of Australia. The data collection for the first main wave of the study took place from October 2013 to March 2014. The sample is extremely diverse and highly vulnerable, which created a number of challenges. A pilot phase revealed that many participants had low literacy and education levels and the study was their first experience of survey research and particular western concepts. The methodology and materials needed to be tailored to their needs.

Interviews were completed as either a self-completed personal interview using a computer with audio and flashlight functions provided; or an interviewer- or interpreter-administered face-to-face interview (or telephone interview as needed). Surveys and promotional materials were translated into fourteen languages and a study website was developed with the contents presented in written and audio format translated into the fourteen languages. This was a complex process. Community Engagement Officers (respected members of local migrant communities) were recruited and played a vital role in introducing the study and explaining its nature and aims to participants. In order to accommodate participants’ cultural requirements, it was necessary to provide a choice of male and female interviewers and to recruit interviewers or interpreters who could speak each of the languages and who had specific regional and religious backgrounds.

This paper describes in more detail the methodological challenges of undertaking study of this nature and the innovative solutions used to address them. Key learnings associated with different modes of interview will also be explored in the paper.