Media Release: Poverty report highlights the challenges for migrant and refugee women

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) commends the recent release of the ‘Poverty in Australia’ Report by the Australia Council of Social Services (ACOSS) and responded to the report’s implications for immigrant and refugee women.

‘The report makes clear both the multidimensional aspect to poverty and the triple jeopardy many migrant and refugee women face ’, said Dr Adele Murdolo, Executive Director of MCWH.

‘As the findings point out, if you are a woman or if you come from a non-English speaking country, your risk of poverty is significantly higher. And we know from the work we do at MCWH that migrant and refugee women also face higher risks when it comes to health and their overall wellbeing.’

‘The link between poverty and ill health is well-known, yet there is still very little comprehensive research about immigrant and refugee women’s health status.
‘Immigrant and refugee women are at significant risk from, and are already over-represented in, an array of preventable illnesses such as diabetes and diabetes-related deaths, maternal deaths and perinatal and neonatal deaths.

‘The report’s release is an important reminder to us all that poverty is not just an economic problem or about an individual’s financial resources, it’s also very much a social issue spanning many life domains, including health, employment, education, social connections and personal safety.

‘Being income poor is not the same as also being socially excluded and for many immigrant and refugee women, the concept of social exclusion is a reality and a risk they face on a daily basis.’

‘The concentration of migrant and refugee women in a range of low-skilled occupations and contract positions, for example, makes women more vulnerable to exploitative and discriminatory treatment and increases their risk to negative health outcomes.

‘In order to reduce inequalities, we need to invest in the appropriate early intervention and prevention policies that assist the health and wellbeing of all Australians, regardless of their birthplace or ethnic origin,’ said Dr Murdolo.

WRAP #1: Welcome to the first edition

Drum roll please …

We’d like to introduce you to our very first WRAP.  If you’ve ever had the feeling there was something missing in the world of commentary but couldn’t quite put your finger on it, then here’s a clue: the WRAP is the first national e-bulletin of, and for, women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds.

Each month The WRAP will be casting a fresh eye on issues that matter to immigrant and refugee women. Each issue will cover two topics and a regular 60 Seconds column featuring insights from a woman who has impressed us with her wit and wisdom.

Whether it’s an ongoing, new or emerging issue, we’ll be writing about it through our multi-focused lens with the aim of magnifying something new or different.

We hope you enjoy the first issue.

Until next time,
The WRAP Editorial Team


our olympic dream

Going for Gold in Health

Of all the things the local media could have reported on this Olympics, it focused on Australia’s ‘abysmal’ medal tally. The Olympic spirit is said to be many things— cooperation, participation, mutual understanding and striving for excellence. Yet, it seems that for elite athletes it absolutely does matter whether you win or lose, regardless of how you play the game.

Something in the whole medal tally navel-gazing does not, for want of a better word, tally up and a little investigative journalism would not have gone astray here: the government has spent millions (178 of them at last count) on our elite athletes yet The Rest of Us are getting fatter and increasing our risk of an early death. And ironically, much like the Olympics, there is competition between countries, or at least between countries of birth, for “highest health risk”. According to recent statistics, a large percentage of overseas born migrants in Australia have or are at high risk of developing diabetes. Your chances are even better (which is much worse) if you happen to be a woman. For a start, if you’re an Asian-born woman, you’re at least three times more likely to develop diabetes while you’re pregnant.

An Olympic Gold medal? Forget that, The Rest of Us would be happy enough to squeeze the recommended 15 minutes of exercise into our usual work-filled, time-pressured day (and let’s not forget, it’s still women who continue to carry the unpaid workload). It begs the question that if more money was channelled into health promotion and preventative health for those who need it most, Australia might one day bag itself a gold-standard health system. Then we’d all be winners.


A Loss in Translation

According to the latest census, Australia is a diverse nation with almost half of longer-standing migrants and almost 70% of recent arrivals speaking a language other than English at home. It would be logical then to assume that Australia’s 3,500 interpreters and translators would be basking in this multilingual afterglow. Not so.

The recent launch of the report Lost in Translation, which advocates for better conditions in the translation and interpreting sector, should be a wake-up call for those who think multilingual work is on a par with Google translator. Since the 80s, interpreting and translating work has increasingly been characterised by the three C’s: Casualised, Contractualised and Crap conditions. Yet consider the challenges migrant men and women face in our hospitals and health care services without the expertise of a qualified interpreter or translator (bonus points if you know the difference between the two). Particularly in matters of reproductive health, a woman shouldn’t need her young son, for example, to act as a go-between in personal discussions with health professionals because there isn’t an interpreter available. Nor should situations occur (as they have) where a woman unintentionally falls pregnant simply because she misunderstood the contraceptive advice given to her by the English-Only-Speaking doctor.

Language is never just about words and dictionaries, more often than not it’s about respect and dignity, on both sides. If we continue to outsource and devalue the work of our bilingual workforce, the standards and integrity of our health, social and justice systems will also be compromised. And what would be the meaning of that?


60 seconds with Wahibe Moussa

Wahibe Moussa

Actor, playwright, Green Room Award recipient and VCA Masters student

If you were a super-heroine, what power would you possess?
The ability to read people’s minds and their true intentions; I would use it to shift people’s mind-sets slowly, over time, so they don’t realise it’s happening.

I’d infiltrate film and television board rooms and subliminally suggest TV shows in many languages; indigenous languages would be heard more often and brought into the mainstream. I would bring a mixture of cultures into the room; a few more wog and indigenous producers, good women producers.

I think the industry is so busy trying to make things financially viable it completely dismisses the notion that a soapie full of coloured faces might possibly be a success. People aren’t black and white and that reality always goes missing in television.

Theatre however caters for the audience’s appetite for personal stories; the more emotional the better.  People’s experiences of horror become entertainment.

The White Guilt thing changes nothing –  I want the power to get into people’s heads and make them aware that their guilt turns them into victims, and takes the focus off the real victims and their experiences.

Tasmanian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Advocacy Project Report

A new report funded by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services has been published as part of the national Points of Departure project initiated by MCWH.

The Tasmanian Project aimed to further increase advocacy skills through workshops with a further 105 women of immigrant or refugee backgrounds, and to support Tasmanian input to a United Nations strategy.

This report makes an important contribution to immigrant and refugee women’s research and advocacy in Australia, and MCWH sends our warmest congratulations to Yabbo Thompson, the project manager and report author. The project could not have happened without her long connections with the community, especially immigrant and refugee women, and her skills as a facilitator. Yabbo won the Tasmanian Human Rights Week award in 2012 for her significant contributions towards CALD communities.

You can read the full report here.