A LANDMARK Victoria University research project will document the experiences of western suburbs residents from Ethiopia.
Community engagement adviser Elleni Bereded-Samuel, an Ethiopian migrant herself, says she was inspired to launch the project by her daughter Rediete after a recent trip to their homeland.
"There has been very little research conducted about Ethiopian migration to Australia," Ms Bereded-Samuel said.
"What we want to know in this project is how migrants are settling in and whether documenting a trip back home to Ethiopia can bring happiness."
Ms Bereded-Samuel said many Ethiopians returned home to visit their families and the trip itself could greatly impact their outlook on life in Australia.
"When they return home they realise how far they've come since they left," she said.
"By giving back to their economy on their return they feel positive about their new life - the education, training, employment they have received."
To start next year, the study will involve 60 Ethiopians living in the west, documenting their experience of returning home to visit family.
Ms Bereded-Samuel, who moved to Australia more than 16 years ago, says the transition is often difficult for African migrants.
"A lot of them have been through a lot of trauma to get to Australia," she says.
"They miss their home and their families and tend to set up their new life where other Ethiopians are living."
Ms Bereded-Samuel said there were about 4000 Ethiopians living in Brimbank, Maribyrnong and Wyndham and hundreds more in Flemington.
Victoria University honorary research fellow Dr Sebastian Filep said studies showed that regularly writing about positive experiences could lower depression.
"What we don't know is if reminiscing and writing about intensely positive holiday experiences will boost happiness levels higher than writing about a good day at home or an enjoyable visit to a park," he said.
For Ms Bereded-Samuel, the project is also a chance to change the way people view her homeland.
"There are so many negative images of war, starvation and trauma in the media of Ethiopia that it takes away from the beauty of the country and the beautiful people that live there."
Details: 9919 4322.