Media Release: Reflecting Victoria’s diverse population: what the Royal Commission into Family Violence Recommendations need to ensure

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) commends the work of the Royal Commission into Family Violence and is pleased to hear there will be increased capacity for organisations to prevent and respond to family violence.
Violence occurs across all communities and cultures, but it’s important to remember that family violence can also manifest differently and can have different effects in specific cultural settings.

‘Immigrant and refugee women’s social and economic marginalisation certainly adds another layer of complexity to their experience of family violence and this includes ways they seek assistance’, said Dr Adele Murdolo, MCWH Executive Director.

‘Prevention and early intervention programs, for example, are rarely accessible or appropriate to women from immigrant and refugee communities, and as a result, we often see these women over-represented in the crisis system,’ Dr Murdolo said. ‘But it’s also the case that women don’t know what support services are available in the first place.’

Of the 227 recommendations outlined in the Report, 48 refer to ‘family violence and diversity’, with 7 recommendations relating to ‘people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities’ (with 4 of these relating to use of interpreters). According to Dr Murdolo, it’s too early to know whether the majority of the other recommendations could potentially address the service needs of immigrant and refugee women.

‘There are some excellent and much-needed recommendations that recognise the gaps and challenges. However, there’s a danger of undermining everyone’s hard work if the recommendations aren’t given the proper context and detail. ‘Cultural and linguistic diversity’ isn’t simply a matter of speaking another language, it’s also about recognising differences in people’s experiences. Immigrant and refugee women’s experiences of seeking support are affected by a whole range of factors including social isolation, stigma, and stereotyping.’

MCWH urges the Government to commit to resourcing a skilled bicultural and bilingual workforce across Victoria that matches the demographic make-up of the community in order to meet the needs of specific communities.

‘Given Australia’s diverse population, it is essential that the report be read and understood within the context of ethnic and cultural diversity’, said Dr Murdolo. ‘What we need to ensure now is that the recommendations are truly universal in their reach and can make improvements across the whole community.’

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.

Media Release: Sharing Our Strengths National Symposium on Best Practice Approaches to the Prevention of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

There is no single approach to eliminate female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C), but there are many approaches that do work best to end the practice.  This is the message at the core of the ‘Sharing Our Strengths’ symposium being held today.

Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) and Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights have worked together to stage the ‘Sharing Our Strengths’ symposium, a gathering of best practice approaches to FGM/C prevention.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that it is also important to recognise the work being conducted around Australia to support the abandonment of the practice.

‘Many of these programs, some of which have been running for over 16 years, are community based and conducted by women from the communities most affected by FGM/C.’

Dr Murdolo said that women affected by FGM/C, as the group most directly impacted by the practice, need to recognised as leaders and change agents.

‘We only seem to hear about stories that are designed to make us feel us shocked, angry or pity, but such sentiments don’t and won’t do anything to prevent and stop the practice.’

Dr Murdolo said many of the speakers at the symposium are working at the front-line of community awareness and education and already demonstrate international best practice approaches to preventing the practice.

‘The international evidence on FGM/C prevention is clear: it’s essential that women most affected by FGM/C lead the charge to bring about its demise, but they can’t do it alone.  All communities and all levels of government need to support women’s leadership efforts in this area.’

Minister Cash will be launching MCWH’s National Education Toolkit for FGM/C Prevention at the Symposium.

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.’

 

Media Release: International seminar highlights invisibility of abortion as a federal election issue

Variation in abortion law among the states is not the only issue at stake for women in Australia.

Today MCWH will host a visit by Dr Anu Kumar, Executive Vice-President of Ipas, a global nongovernment organisation dedicated to ending preventable death and disability from unsafe abortion.

Dr Kumar’s visit marks the beginning of MCWH’s partnership with researchers from the Social Sciences and Health Research Unit, Monash University on a research project investigating the contraceptive and reproductive choices of immigrant and refugee women.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that while abortion law continues to be a matter for the states, both state and federal governments need to ensure that abortion is accessible and available to all women.

Twenty six per cent of the world’s population still live in countries where abortion is generally prohibited, so in that regard Australian women are in the fortunate position of living in a country where induced abortion is legally available. However, access to abortion is still restricted to different groups of women in various ways. It is already well-known that immigrant and refugee women have limited to access to sexual and reproductive health for a range of reasons including visa status, economic reasons and lack of access to culturally sensitive programs.

A recent report has found that living in a rural or regional area can also severely restrict your access to abortion because of the lack of services in certain regions. There’s a triple disadvantage then if you’re an immigrant or refugee woman living in one of these regions.

In many respects there are overlaps with the human rights work being done at an international level. In Australia, immigrant and refugee women’s access to abortion is still determined by such things as visa status and other policies, which can indirectly impact on women’s right to free choice.

Women’s rights aren’t just a matter for the law, although legal reforms are crucial – we’d like to see government make the necessary policy changes, and fund appropriate services, to improve women’s access to abortion.

Media Release: National project to assist communities affected by FGM/C

MCWH is focusing its national efforts on improving support and assistance provided to women and girls affected by female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). The development of a national website and best practice guidelines for the abandonment of FGM/C are at the core of MCWH’s latest initiative.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that the National Education Toolkit for FGM/C Awareness (NETFA) Project will ensure a more targeted approach to community education that will help communities affected by FGM/C move toward abandonment of the practice.

The NETFA Project is one of 15 projects funded through the Federal Government’s Health System Capacity Development Fund FGM Support Targeted Round and will be carried out over the next twelve months.

Read the full media release …