Physios muscle up to support refugees

19 May 2023
Community and Social Participation

This week we are celebrating National Volunteer Week, and we wish to thank all the volunteers that give their time and energy to make change in our community. 

This year’s National Volunteer Week theme is ‘The Change Makers’, highlighting the powerful impact volunteers make supporting individuals, communities and the nation.

In celebration of the date, we will share stories of our amazing volunteers. Today, we share the story of Nitin Madan. 


A group physiotherapists and health professionals have been quietly supporting Ukrainian refugees to get the health support they need.

The Ukrainians, who fled the conflict in their homeland, faced long waits or out of pocket payments to access physiotherapy.

After being contacted by refugee settlement agency AMES Australia, senior physiotherapist Nitin Madan and his colleagues at Grit Physio agreed to support the Ukrainians.

The team volunteered to see the refugees fully bulk-billed with no out of pocket fees and they also agreed to treat people free of cost, and without a GP referral, who were in desperate need due to pain.

“We were contacted by AMES and we were happy to get involved,” Nitin said.

“We could see people were in pain and if it was not dealt with early in could become chronic,” he said.

“This is especially so in cases where there has been trauma, whether it’s emotional or physical. Untreated, this is an environment for chronic pain to embed itself.

“Some of the people we are helping faced waits of months for appointments.

“If left for three or four months, with some of these conditions, the likelihood of the lessening of pain is low.

“The people we are seeing are super grateful and it’s been super interesting for me to get some context and to hear some of their stories

“Most of our clients have been younger children and women and it’s been rewarding for us to be able to help.

Nitin said many of the Ukrainians wanted to pay something for their treatments.

“But were happy to bulk bill and do our bit to support them,” he said.

Nitin, whose parents migrated from India when he was six-years-old, says he felt some resonance with the Ukrainians he is supporting.

“I arrived in as Australia as a young child. I grew up and went through school here in Australia but I went through the challenges of identity and belonging associated with moving to a new country so some the experiences of the Ukrainians resonate with me.

“Coming from a migrant background, I can understand where they are coming from,” Nitin said.

AMES Australia Case Manager Deepika Singh said the Grit physios had done an amazing job in supporting the Ukrainians.

“The guys from Grit Physio have gone above and beyond to support our clients, many who were in pain and desperate need of treatment,” she said.

Deepika said many of the Ukrainian refugees had been refereed to Grit by Ukrainian-born medico Dr Oksana Nesterenko.

She offered free medical care to Ukrainians arriving in Melbourne after fleeing the conflict.

In the weeks after the conflict began, Ukrainian refugees were arriving in Australia on tourist visas and initially were not eligible for medical support through Medicare.

In those early weeks, Dr Nesterenko and her colleagues at the private ‘MyClinic’ medical practice in South Yarra treated hundreds of Ukrainian refugees.

“We treated Ukrainians from all over Melbourne. Mostly the elderly and women and their children. They heard about us by word of mouth,” she said.

Dr Nesterenko said many medical centres and practices across Melbourne have since risen to the challenges of supporting the Ukrainian arrivals.

“There has been great support from other medical practices and allied health practitioners, including Grit Physio, Cabrini refugee health, Monash refugee health, St Vincent’s Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital included,” she said.

Dr Nesterenko moved to Australia five years ago. She left Ukraine for England in 2001 where she qualified as a GP.