Media Release: Funding boost for migrant aged care workers to lead primary prevention of violence against women initiatives in the workplace

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) and Mercy Health have received funding from the Victorian Government to extend the Equality@Work project, the first gender equality and primary prevention of violence program in Australian workplaces to specifically address the needs of migrant women aged care workers.

Over the past 11 months, MCWH has partnered with the not-for-profit aged care provider Mercy Health, to engage migrant women aged care workers in workplace-based solutions to gender inequality and violence against women. Mercy Health Group Executive Director People, Learning & Culture Kate McCormack says staff were engaged through forums, Gender Equality Advocates’ training, and a photo shoot depicting their responses to the question: “What will promote equality and respect for aged care workers?”.

Dr. Adele Murdolo, Executive Director of MCWH, is delighted that the leadership of migrant and refugee women has been acknowledged and fostered through the Equality@Work project. “Feedback from the participants has been overwhelmingly positive: they told us they feel valued as employees and are inspired to lead positive change in the workplace.”

Today’s funding boost announcement allows MCWH and Mercy Health to build on the momentum and energy generated amongst staff to improve workplace wellbeing, career progression and equality outcomes for migrant women workers.

The Minister for the Prevention of Family Violence, the Honourable Natalie Hutchins MP, says the prevention of family violence and violence against women in Victoria is of the utmost importance, with the government supporting programs in workplaces, educational institutions and the community. Aged care workplaces are a key setting for engaging migrant women.

“We won’t end family violence in Victoria without confronting the gender inequality that drives it. This funding further supports achieving this is the workplace, which we know is a critical setting”

The WRAP #61: Our end of the year edition full of giving, love and Hope!

It is time for us to wrap 2017 in a bright shiny bow and send it on its way. There have been ups, there have been downs, there have been very sad and significant losses as well as some heartfelt victories.

At MCWH we have also experienced personal losses as well as achievements. A loss we all shared was the death of Minister Fiona Richardson in August. Her passing inspired all of us in our commitment to preventing violence against women as the recent 16 Days of Activism showed. As part of that commitment, MCWH was proud to launch our Intersectionality Matters: Guide to engaging immigrant and refugee communities to prevent violence last week and we invite you all to read it.

How have we all managed to get through this roller-coaster twelve months? All in all, we think it has taken a lot of generosity, love and hope so that’s what we are focusing on in our last WRAP for the year. We are celebrating one of the year’s biggest wins and the wonderful triumph of love, discussing the gendered expectations around giving and spending 60 seconds with MCWH’s newest and brightest, Hope Mathumbu.

Have and safe and hope-filled holiday season,

The women of MCWH

The gifts that love won for 2018

Image/ Eldeise 'Equal Love Rally: What it means to me' @ LOTL

Image/ Eldeise ‘Equal Love Rally: What it means to me’ @ LOTL

Here at MCWH we’re not usually excited by celebrity weddings. It’s often difficult to connect with “who is marrying who” in the faraway worlds of movie stars or royals.

But hearing about the first same sex marriages taking place in Australia, at MCWH we can’t help but be excited. These joyous occasions have been so hard-won. They are long-awaited expressions of peoples’ love and happiness together, and a public and shared opportunity for friends and family to witness their loved ones exercise their equal rights to marriage. As the slogan proudly states, ‘Love Won’, and now we can soak up the pleasure of seeing love celebrated without discrimination.

In the fog of joy and excitement, let’s not forget that it’s been a tiring and difficult battle against an inequality that began almost fourteen years ago. It was only in 2004 that the Marriage Act was amended specifically to discriminate against same-sex relationships. Passing the bill to legalise same-sex marriage has not destroyed a long-held tradition, but has reversed the introduction of a very recent act of political discrimination.

There has been harm done along the way. The postal survey was traumatising for many, and the process of having the community judge whether LGBTIQ people are worthy of equal rights was demeaning. Moreover, once the announcement was made and the result was a resounding yes, the recriminations which identified migrants as the culprits behind the no vote in some electorates was inaccurate and divisive and did little more than feed into racist stereotypes of migrant communities. For LGBTIQ people who belong to migrant and refugee communities, that news angle, after such a happy and unifying result, was isolating and demoralising.

We’re so happy to see that as we farewell 2017 we are leaving behind a significant form of discrimination against LGBTIQ people. As for 2018, we are pleased to take some wonderful gifts with us into the new year so that we can apply them to our work in dismantling discrimination and injustice in other realms.

Our first gift is wisdom: we have learned that despite the positive result, the effect of putting a community’s rights up for public judgement can be harmful and creates long-lasting damage to a community’s trust and well-being.

Our second is civic engagement: we have loved seeing young people more politically engaged, enrolling to vote in unprecedented numbers, and beyond that, taking a lead on the issues that affect them and their communities. May their passion continue to lift community spirits.

Our third: we are grateful for the opportunity to bring love into politics. The public celebrations that took place across Australia, both inside and outside of Parliament House, were beautiful expressions of love across the barricades.

More of these gifts in our communities will definitely make 2018 worth coming back for. We’ll see you then.

Self-care during the silly season

angel-cemetery-sculpture-rock-carving-160765It’s that time of year when we wish many of our friends, family and colleagues a safe and happy summer break. Often the safety risks we have in mind are about taking care travelling or not running around the swimming pool. But the silly season can also throw other sorts of health risks our way.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it can be difficult to escape the social pressures to give more time, more money and more cheer at this time of year. For some of us, the financial expectations of the season can be a source of stress. For others, the lack of social networks or family relationships can be equally challenging. According to mental health experts, the festive and holiday season can be a high-risk time for some individuals and communities, especially those who are socially and economically disadvantaged.

Regardless of cultural and religious background, women usually bear the brunt of the shopping, the cooking, the preparing, the wrapping and the overall labour of the festive season. For women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds, these tasks are made even more difficult if family members are overseas and there is a lack of other social and economic support. The irony is not lost on us – at a time when we are told to “take care” and “enjoy our break”, we are negotiating incredible social pressures to contact family members, give unconditionally to others, and make the holidays special and magical for our children.

How then can we take care of ourselves through the chaos? In today’s world, women are often told that the answer is self-care. Yet unfortunately, this idea is also highly gendered. For example, relaxing on the couch in front of the television after a long day of work is often framed as self-care or time-out for women. While for men, often the same behaviour is just called ‘watching TV’.

The problem here is that the expectation on women to be responsible for taking care of ourselves becomes yet another item on our ever-expanding ‘to do’ list taking care of others. Rather than addressing the inequality of work, self-care becomes ‘spoiling yourself’, whether that be an expensive manicure, a block of chocolate or even five minutes alone. At its heart, this idea of self-care for women as ‘indulgence’ is too individualistic to give us any real relief. It doesn’t do many favours for men either, who aren’t given a language to address their own need to take time-out for their emotional and mental well-being.

Let’s challenge and change the gendered expectations we have about caring and being cared for in our homes and communities. At this time of year, we are told about the joys of giving and caring for others. However, women shouldn’t bear the sole burden of caring for ourselves or anyone else. Instead, let’s think about caring as something we share. Let’s work towards making sure that everyone – especially those made vulnerable and discriminated by our systems and structures – has the opportunity to take care of ourselves and give ourselves a well-deserved break!

60 seconds with Hope Mathumbu

FB_Hope1New motorist, twitter enthusiast and MCWH Project Officer

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I am enjoying a series of free exercise classes being offered by the Maribyrnong City Council’s Spring into Summer series. I decided to challenge myself this year and signed up for high intensity classes. It’s been a great experience. It’s really nice to live in a council that makes the health and well-being of all its residents a priority, especially given that it can be expensive to do some of these activities on a regular basis.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you have?
I would use my power to let people walk in other people’s shoes for a few hours (maybe days, depending on the person!). The dominant socio-political and economic landscapes really don’t give us the time and space to think about how we affect others or how other people are going. Maybe a bit of empathy would help…I hope so.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I wish I could tap dance or do some other kind of professional dancing, like swing dancing. I think that dancing can be a beautiful physical release.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
It’s a difficult question to answer because it would depend on many factors related to how they arrived and the resources they had when they arrived. I migrated to Australia from South Africa when I was 15 years old in 2003, with my mother and younger sister. Life then was so different, even pathways to social security, permanent residence and citizenship were so different. The only advice I could give to someone now would be practical advice about where to go for services relevant to their needs. I would also advise them to look for online communities where they can find people with similar experiences. Online communities really provide a wealth of information and comfort.

What’s your favourite word and why?
My favourite word is ‘Ubuntu.’ It is a Zulu word or Nguni/Bantu concept which loosely means ‘humanity.’ It is core to black South African humanist philosophy that celebrates common humanity. Ubuntu part of a Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which means that a person is a person through other people. Ubuntu is, at the same time, a deeply personal philosophy that calls on us to mirror our humanity for each other. This philosophy is central to who I am as a person and guides how I go about holding myself on a day to day basis.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background?
The best part about being a woman from an immigrant or refugee background is that I have multiple frames of reference for anything I experience and I feel that makes my life richer. I can’t put it into words, but there is such a great value in understanding concepts or points of view from different cultures and languages.

If you could invite any woman, alive or deceased, to dinner, who would it be and why?
I am unable to choose at the moment, but a shortlist would be: Nina Simone, Rihanna, Tina Turner, Tracy Chapman and the late Sharon Jones. Their music and styles have really influenced me in ways I can’t describe. Love them all!

Name a book or a film that changed your life
A book that changed my life is Barbara Kingsolver’s ‘The Poisonwood Bible.’ I read it when I was a teenager. Even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time, it taught me a lot about the lasting effects of colonisation, it also taught me a lot about feminism. I also really like Khalil Gibran’s book ‘The Prophet.’ I like to go back to it from time to time as a way of meditating on various aspects of life.

What are you reading right now? (Blogs, books, magazines, or anything else!)
I read Twitter every minute! If you are following the right people/pages, there is always a lot to learn or think about. I am waiting for holiday season to start reading Roxane Gay’s book ‘Hunger.’ She is a brilliant writer and I wanted to give myself space to read the book with little distraction. I recently finished reading her other book ‘Difficult Women.’ It’s a series of short stories about women and I was really affected when I read that. She has a beautiful way of expressing things I find hard to articulate about my experiences as a woman.

Do you have a song/ music that inspires and motivates you?
It depends on the kind of motivation I need! I really love listening to Tracy Chapman to reenergise myself. I really love her song ‘Telling Stories’ because I feel like it talks about cognitive dissonance, and I feel like unfortunately there is a lot of that in life.

What is your favourite possession?
My car, though I have major guilt at how bad it is for the environment! I got my driver’s licence in Feb 2017. It just opened up my world – and emptied my pockets, but never mind about that! I really love how much more I can do now because of it.

What could you never be without?
Moisturiser!

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
That white privilege and supremacy are real and need to be dismantled, along with capitalism.