The good, the bad and the silent

Women in Bangladesh marching to spread the word against violence, April 2012. Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia & the Pacific on Flickr.

Women in Bangladesh marching to spread the word against violence, April 2012. Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia & the Pacific on Flickr.

The fact that Victorian police attended more than 50,000 family violence incidents in 2011 – 2012 is no cause for celebration. But, according to their Annual Report, the dramatic rise of 43.3% in the number of reported family violence related assaults should actually be seen as a positive, because “it indicates greater confidence and willingness on the part of victims to report such incidents”.

Given some of the truly shocking statistics on violence against women in Australia, the police may have a point. In a recently published report the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) reminded us that almost every week in Australia one woman is killed by her current or former partner, often after a history of domestic violence. If an increase in reporting leads to a decrease in family violence then count us all in — particularly considering that one in three women has experienced physical violence and that three quarters of these assaults occur in the home.

But hang on, are we all in? Are we all counted? The statistics are shocking but, on some subjects, they are also silent. One of the key issues raised by the AHRC Report is the number of barriers migrant and refugee women face in reporting their experience that place them outside the reach of ‘mainstream’ services. Lack of awareness that the violence they are experiencing is unlawful, fear of consequences for their community or for their place in it, fear of authority, racism and a lack of culturally and linguistically accessible information and services are all factors which make reporting among migrant and refugee women an even greater issue. Without reporting, the real statistics on violence against migrant and refugee women, and on women in Australia as a whole, remain mere speculation.

Women’s confidence and willingness to report is one side of the story. Structural and policy mechanisms that support more vulnerable women to report is the other. Both make up the whole picture that, combined with our old friend prevention, will pave the way for a future free of violence against women. That will really be something to celebrate.

60 seconds with Elizabeth Mazeyko


59, mother of 2, grandmother of 4 and bilingual health educator

If you had a magic wand what would you use it for?
I’d like to empower women and build up their self-esteem, so that they don’t feel like second class citizens just because we’re women or migrants.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new in Australia, what would it be?

Be strong and not be afraid because you can make things happen and make changes.

When was the last time you laughed out loud?

I take any opportunity to laugh, it’s part of being a woman, even in circumstances when life doesn’t give you good things, I think it’s still important to laugh.

What would you work for instead of money?

I think it’s very rewarding when I help someone to solve problems. Although I think women should be paid for the work they do, I think as human beings we need to not be motivated by money and chase the material things all the time. In this time of my life, I wish I could spend more time on an issue like child labour, exploitation and abuse. Children are our future and we need to ensure a healthy future for them.

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?

I really enjoy my family and seeing my two daughters becoming women and I’m very proud of the way they run their own families. I enjoy my cooking and I enjoy my work as a bilingual health educator at MCWH. This work gives me an opportunity to explore so many issues important to women—to talk, to discuss and to share so much with them. In the last five years doing this work, I’ve felt so enriched and I love that.

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.