Reframing research

Evidence for Equity - this image features eight smiling women, standing together in a row with their hands on their hips at the Evidence for Equity conference.

Some of the fabulous MCWH and True Relationships staff members who organised the Evidence for Equity conference

 

The answers we seek are often limited by the questions we ask. No, we’re not talking about spiritual enlightenment. We are talking about the challenges of research when issues of race, gender and culture are involved.
For example, research on immigrant and refugee women’s sexual and reproductive health needs is frequently framed either in terms of vulnerabilities, risks and barriers to accessing services, or in terms of differences in immigrant and refugee women’s attitudes or habits as compared with what is considered the ‘norm’ in Australia.

Don’t get us wrong, these questions are important. But framing research about immigrant and refugee women solely in these ways runs the risk of painting immigrant and refugee women (and their cultural differences) as the problem that needs researching. Immigrant and refugee women, their attitudes and behaviour become the scapegoats for other questions we could be asking about inequity in our health system.

This is why we think an intersectional approach to research is so valuable. As we’ve mentioned before, immigrant and refugee women aren’t naturally more vulnerable (or deficient) than other women. They are made vulnerable by the systems and structures in which their lives and experiences are embedded. An intersectional approach that looks at the impact of structures on individuals can shift the focus on immigrant and refugee women’s health from pointing at ‘cultural difference’ to addressing the problem of inequality in our health systems. Going even further, intersectionality can expose the processes that create categories such as race and culture, and how they are used to categorise people.

This month at the Evidence for Equity: Multicultural Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Health National Conference, we heard in so many different ways that how we approach research about immigrant and women has real implications for women’s lives. Researchers need to recognise that their mode of inquiry will, to some extent, determine how their questions are answered. Research can only be socially transformative if the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of immigrant and refugee women’s experiences are equally examined. By framing our questions in this way, we can expect to hear answers that more accurately reflect the lives and needs of immigrant woman in Australia today.

Sexual and Reproductive Health Data Report

This national data report summarises the latest available data across a range of areas that impact on the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) of immigrant and refugee women. The data in this report has been obtained from a variety of sources ranging from national, population based studies to small community-based studies. As a national report, ideally all data reported would be population-based. However, where national, disaggregated data sets are not available, state and territory based research has been used. Where Australian data or research is not available, international research is used. Community-based-studies have also been included to highlight the issues relating to immigrant and refugee women’s health.

You can read the report here. 

Who cares for our carers?

Nurse, doctor, teacher, lawyer: professions many of us and, no doubt, our parents would have typically cited as the things ‘to be’ as a grown-up.  But aged care worker? For many immigrant and refugee families, caring for the elderly isn’t something you aspire to be let alone be paid for.

If you’re from a migrant background (and especially if you’re also a woman), caring for an elderly family member is part of family life, it’s something you just do. What must it be like then, for the many overseas born workers (34% in 2012) who make up Australia’s aged care workforce? Does the cultural imperative of caring for the aged necessarily make the job easier for them? These were some of the questions arising from research MCWH recently conducted in partnership with the University of Adelaide’s WISeR research centre and Southern Cross Care Victoria (SCCV) into supporting the professional development needs of SCCV’s culturally diverse workforce.

We’ve mentioned before that caring isn’t any easier just because you’re paid to do it and our research certainly confirmed this. The majority of migrant aged care workers who participated in the research cited workload pressures and lack of teamwork and miscommunication as the things that made their jobs more difficult. Not surprisingly, the factors that made work easier were not only the exact opposite of whatever made things difficult, but also individual factors such as enjoyment of their work, a positive disposition and good health. Over half of the workers interviewed cited the residents as the main reason for what they like most about their work: being appreciated and feeling that a difference is being made to the quality of their lives.

These findings suggest that despite the stereotypes, migrant women workers don’t possess an innate quality that makes them want to do aged care work or that they’re naturally skilled for it because of their ‘culture’. Rather the findings highlight the important role played by personal values in care work and how these come into play when they intersect with the work-day reality of many immigrant and refugee women.

The majority (74%) of the workers interviewed cited one or more systemic issues relating to gender, migration, settlement and employment, which led them to pursue a job in the aged care sector because of their limited employment opportunities. This reason alone points to the need for immigrant and refugee women to be supported in all aspects of their professional development so that their jobs aren’t seen as an opportunity born solely of luck, but as a profession and an opportunity for advancement.

For further information about the research project, please contact Dr Regina Quiazon, Senior Research and Policy Advocate, email regina@mcwh.com.au or call 03 9418 0912

New international evidence on violence in immigrant and refugee communities

ASPIRE Flyer 2015 SEP with sites
A review of international evidence published today has confirmed that migration helps make immigrant and refugee women more vulnerable to men’s violence against women. Violence occurs in all communities and cultures across Australia, but immigrant and refugee women face structural disadvantages that exacerbate and intensify their experiences and makes it harder for them to act.

The comprehensive review of international and Australian research finds that factors such as immigration policy, temporary and dependant visa status, along with social isolation and economic insecurity flowing from the settlement process, all play a role in making women more vulnerable to violence.

The State of Knowledge report, prepared by the Analysing Safety and Place in Immigrant and Refugee Experience (ASPIRE) research team, finds that perpetrators of violence are enabled to use women’s precarious, dependant and temporary visa status to wield control and power, and to restrict women’s access to services and knowledge, including about their rights and entitlements.

Chief investigator, Dr Cathy Vaughan from the University of Melbourne states, “the literature indicates that this synergy between the system and the perpetrator means that immigrant and refugee women endure violence for longer periods before seeking help, and require more contacts with the service system before getting the help they need.”

The Review also finds that immigrant and refugee women experience the same kinds of violence as all other women, but that in addition they appear more likely to experience multi-perpetrator violence from extended family and community members. Co-investigator, Dr Adele Murdolo from the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health states, “there seem to be key points at which our system makes immigrant and refugee women more isolated and dependent, which increases the power that others have over them, and limits their options for safety.”

Download or read the report online.

 For more information or to arrange an interview, contact an ASPIRE spokesperson

 Dr Cathy Vaughan, University of Melbourne: 0417 116 468
Dr Adele Murdolo, Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health: 0438 823 299

The ASPIRE research project, funded by the Australian National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), is a partnership between the University of Melbourne, University of Tasmania and the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health.

Research Project: Contraceptive Technologies and Reproductive Choice Among Immigrant Women

 

Professor Lenore Manderson (front, left); Associate Professor Andrea Whittaker (front, right) and Ms Azam Naghavi (back, right) from Monash University with the MCWH bilingual educator interview team.

Professor Lenore Manderson (front, left); Associate Professor Andrea Whittaker (front, right) and Ms Azam Naghavi (back, right) from Monash University with the MCWH bilingual educator interview team.

Last week researchers from Monash University conducted an interview training workshop with a group of MCWH bilingual health educators.  Our bilingual health educators were trained to conduct research interviews for the Contraceptive Technologies and Reproductive Choice Among Immigrant Women ProjectThe research will identify how immigrant and refugee women access information and advice about contraceptives; their use of sexual and reproductive health services; and how providers ensure women’s informed choice.  The research team will interview 70 women from at least four different countries, including India, China, Afghanistan and Sudan.  The Project is being conducted in partnership with Monash University, the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health and Family Planning Australia Alliance.

The research project is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant 2013-14.