The WRAP#47- The transformative power of data, Elder abuse, and 60 Seconds with Melek Cetiner

October has certainly been far from boring. We watched closely as the same-sex plebiscite came and went and continue to watch as it comes back into play. We celebrated International Day of the Girl and Mental Health Week, prompting us to reflect on the importance of accurate, intersectional and gender specific data about girls’ lives. At the other end of the life course, we explain why elder abuse needs an intersectional lens.

We also chat to Melek Cetiner about her love of music, books and film and her vision for a peaceful and united world.

Until next time,
the WRAP team.

Elder Abuse: it’s not just about age

Photo of an older woman smiling

Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Ageing, as in the grey and wrinkly variety, is rarely spoken about in the youth-obsessed cultures of countries like Australia. The invisibility of older people in the public consciousness is a concern and when older people are treated unfairly and denied opportunities in everyday life then it’s also a clear case of ageism. Just as racism isn’t entirely about race, ageism isn’t simply about chronology, but a form of prejudice that stereotypes difference and erases individual experience.

While luck and good genes certainly play a role, reaching and living though old age also relies on your capacity to maintain a reasonable level of health and wellbeing. Along with physical and cognitive changes, older people must also deal with changing economic, social and cultural circumstances. Retirement, loss of loved ones and social connections, loneliness, migration and increased dependency are just some of the factors that, along with age, can increase an older person’s vulnerability. Yet Australia’s ageing population is often categorised as a homogenous form of ‘diversity’ rather than a population that is in itself diverse.

Elder abuse, as a specific form of violence that affects elderly women, is a good case in point. Elder abuse is generally defined as any harmful act directed at an older person and that occurs within a relationship where there is an expectation of trust. Like all definitions, however, this is only the starting point for understanding what the interconnected issues and solutions might be. Older women, as with the rest of the Australian population, are a diverse group. Understanding the diversity that exists between, across and within certain groups of older women is critical for preventing and responding to elder abuse.

For older immigrant and refugee women, vulnerability is not only tied to all the other vulnerabilities typically tied to older age, but also to their experiences as non-English speakers, as newly-arrived migrants, and/or as carers to their Australian grandchildren. Immigrant women’s reliance on family members for translation and financial transactions, for example, has implications for potential abuse. In addition, intergenerational responsibilities and power dynamics between older women and other family members play out differently across different immigrant groups. All these factors require careful consideration.

If we’re now at a point in time that understands gender needs must be the focus of violence  prevention efforts, then it will serve us well to remember that it is an intersectional, gendered approach that will help us not only identify, but expose the persistent and underlying issues driving violence against women.

The lesser value assigned to older people—particularly older women—might signify our fears about going grey and wrinkly, yet it’s the relative invisibility of older immigrant and refugee women that is perhaps more telling of the deeper thinking required to advance gender equality for all women.

For older immigrant and refugee women, prevention of elder abuse needs to expose and respond to ageism, racism, and other discriminatory practices, all at the same time.

MCWH and the University of Melbourne’s joint submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission can be accessed here.

Weighing up the costs of migration

Migrant streams

Image// Commonwealth Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Government policy about migration generally focuses on meeting the social and economic needs of the country. Sadly, it’s rarely about the humanitarian (or even just plain old human) aspect or the ways migrants can be supported to help achieve the ideal of a cohesive and prosperous country. This focus on building the economy is evident in Australia’s migration program: of the 190,000 places available in the 2014-2015 program, 68% were skilled migrants and 32% were migrants from family visa streams.

The latest Productivity Commission Report on Australia’s migrant intake also highlights the ways economic benefit might be maximised through the migration program. The report examines the costs and benefits of immigration specifically as it relates to visa charges and the potential for some types of visas to be qualitatively restricted.

The report found that the parents of migrants who have settled in Australia are costing the health and welfare system billions of dollars. As such, the report recommends an overhaul to family reunion visas. In particular, it suggests that tighter restrictions be placed on parents wanting to join their adult children in Australia and that their children be wholly responsible for the health and income cost of their parents during their stay.

Separation from immediate and extended family members is one of the main challenges of settling in a new country, and for many immigrants it is one of the main causes of social isolation. This is why the report’s recommendation that family reunion visas need to be restricted for parents of migrants is particularly concerning.

An intersectional approach to migrant intake would consider the ways that visa types and their respective entitlements and restrictions might impact on groups and individuals already made vulnerable by migration structures and processes. It would also consider the policy impact on partners as well as on “skilled migrants.” If the proposed recommendation is taken up, it is immigrant and refugee women who are most likely to be impacted, whether they arrive as skilled migrants or as their partners. For example, for immigrant and refugee mothers, pregnancy and birth can be a particularly stressful time, especially without close familial and bilingual support. Just like the majority of Australian-born women, immigrant women are also more likely to take on most of the unpaid labour of parenting, sometimes without any assistance. However, unlike Australian-born women, immigrant women must also negotiate the tensions and challenges that arise from the migration experience: changing family dynamics and roles within the household; learning a new language; finding a home and a job; raising a child in a new country; worrying about elderly parents overseas and so on.

For most women and their families, having parents close by helps to ease these various challenges. Our migration program needs to recognise and acknowledge the day-to-day realities of immigrant women’s lives, so that they are able to more fully and equitably participate in Australia’s prosperity, economic or otherwise. It’s an argument that requires us to look beyond the budgets and ask about the real costs and benefits for women, families and migrants in general.

The WRAP #45- Early bird, leadership and recognition and 60 Seconds with Carmel Guerra

As the days get longer, brighter and warmer we look forward to saying goodbye to winter and welcoming spring. Spring is all about rejuvenation, renewal and new life and for any new life to blossom, there needs to be the proper care in place. This month we look at the factors that prevent women, especially from migrant or refugee backgrounds, from accessing crucial antenatal care within the first few months of pregnancy.

We also consider findings from a recent study that indicate that non-Anglo populations are highly underrepresented in leadership positions across Australia and in government. We know from our own PACE (Participation, Advocacy, Community, Engagement) women’s leadership program, that immigrant and refugee women make great leaders and this underrepresentation needs to change.

Speaking of other changes that need to happen: gender, race and age need to be considered in tandem when improving the lives of women.  For example, older women, particularly those in aged care, are susceptible to financial, physical and sexual abuse. You can read our recent submission to the Australian Law Reform Commission Inquiry on Elder Abuse for solutions on how we can overcome the language barriers and social isolation that can leave immigrant women in aged care vulnerable to abuse.

Finally, we also feature Carmel Guerra, CEO of Centre for Multicultural Youth in this month’s 60 seconds who is working on improving equality in education for women across the globe.

Until next time,
The WRAP Team

Media Release: Voices of Change-Marking International Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation

Women from countries where female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is practiced are the best agents to put an end to the harmful practice.  This is the message at the core of the ‘Voices of Change’ event being held today to mark International Zero Tolerance Day to Female Genital Mutilation.

Women’s Health in the North, Mercy Health, Monash Health, North Yarra Community Health, Doutta Galla Community Health and Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) have worked together to stage the ‘Voices of Change’ event.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that it is important to recognise the pivotal role women from affected communities play in preventing and eliminating FGM/C.

‘The global evidence is quite clear that community-based approaches are the most effective.  Our event is a rare opportunity to listen to and learn from women who have been working very hard with their communities to stop the practice.’

Dr Murdolo said that women affected by FGM/C, as the group most directly impacted by the practice, are at the core of successful programs.

‘We rarely hear about the good news stories and successes of the work being done in relation to FGM/C and it’s our intention to celebrate and recognise the tireless activism and engagement of women from the community, who are leading the way for the rest of us.’

Juliana Nkrumah AM, one of the guest speakers at the event, said that any effort to put an end to FGM/C should be motivated by the need to help women in affected communities speak for themselves.

‘It’s essential that we support women and girls by investing in awareness-raising as a way of increasing their decision-making power.  It’s the only way cultural change will come about.’