The WRAP #57: Marriage equality, reframing research and 60 seconds with Solmaz Yavari

This WRAP arrives in your inbox on a sad note with the passing of Victorian Minister for Women, Fiona Richardson last week. We have lost a fearless advocate for women across Victoria and everywhere. We’d like to share our deepest sympathy to the Minister’s family, friends and colleagues. A State memorial service will be held this Thursday.

It also arrives at a time of anticipation over the possible upcoming vote on same-sex marriage. So we’ve decided to offer our take on how the vote might impact immigrant and refugee women as well. Still feeling inspired by our national two-day Evidence for Equity: Multicultural Women’s Reproductive and Sexual Health Conference with TRUE Relationships Queensland, we’ve got something to say about researching immigrant and refugee women’s issues. Finally, best for last, we’ve got our regular 60 seconds with another wonderful WRAP reader, Solmaz Yavari.

Until next time,
The WRAP Team

Saying ‘Yes’ to equal rights and health


If you’ve been following the national news lately you’ll be aware that next week there will be a High Court decision which will advise Australians about whether we will be heading to the (postal) polls to register our views about marriage equality.

If the postal survey goes ahead the question before all of us will be about whether we agree that all Australians should have the equal right to marry.

From an immigrant and refugee women’s health perspective, MCWH wholeheartedly supports equal rights on all matters for all women. That means of course, that we also support marriage equality in Australia. Besides the compelling question of equal rights in and of themselves, the links are manifestly clear between discrimination and poor mental health, and that holds for all forms of discrimination, whether on the basis of sex, race or sexuality.

Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, and the combination of all three, prevents immigrant and refugee women from accessing the health services they need freely and without fear of negative repercussions. Immigrant and refugee women from LGBTIQ communities should not have to worry about the homophobia they might encounter when they visit a health practitioner; they should access health care confident that their intimate partner will be recognised by the system.

As Audre Lorde has stated, no woman lives a single issue life. As a result, our politics must be multi-faceted.

We support our LGBTIQ sisters and we care about their equal rights. We want all immigrant and refugee women in Australia to enjoy the greatest possible health and wellbeing throughout their lives and to share those lives with whoever they choose.

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.

60 seconds with Solmaz Yavari: Queen fan, case manager and aspiring rodeo rider

Multi Cultural Hub Portraiture

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I do enjoy advocating for people rights and
I feel fortunate that I am in the position of being able to do so.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand, I would have used it to change the negative perceptions towards migrants, refugees and specifically asylum seekers.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I’d love to be rodeo rider!

What is the best part of your job?
As a case manager, I love it that my clients feel comfortable enough to share the personal challenges in their lives with me and that I can support them through their journey to make their decisions on what works for them best.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
I would say what one of my teachers told me while ago. He said: “If you plan to migrate to a country, you do need to know the history of your country and the country you migrating to, perfectly.

What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
I do not have a favourite word in English but one expression I love is “and I mean it this time”, probably because I do mean it this time!

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
It has been quite challenging, in fact it has given me a lot of pain to prove what technical and professional skills I have brought to this country. I seem to have to prove myself over and over.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
Being a woman from a different background has enabled me to be more thoughtful of the challenges other women from other backgrounds are facing. It helps me to understand them more and be able to build rapport more quickly with them. I understand.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My friend Beverly, a retired primary school teacher. She was our first Australian friend in Australia who welcomed my family and I in a very sincere natural way. Bev included us as her family from the first day she met us. She is also amazing in what she has done in her personal life, a life full of giving and caring for others, and accepting others as they are regardless of their races.

What are you reading right now?
I am currently reading ‘No Man’s Land’ by David Baldacci.

Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
The song “Show Must Go On!” by Queen always makes me keep going however recently listening to the song “Despacito” inspires me a lot, specially this version by 2cellos.

What could you never be without?

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
Stopping the wars.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
I would let him know how painful it can be to witness that families, children, single adults, fathers, mothers suffering day to day as a result of the current policy in place not being able to reunite with their families.

60 Seconds with Doseda Hetherington

Profile DosedaWomen’s health worker and gender equality advocate

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I’ve recently been inspired by a documentary on living minimally – it really resonated with me and I’ve since been slowing getting rid of the stuff in my life that I no longer use or need. It’s such a great feeling to be able to let go of things, because at the end of the day they are just things.

What is the best thing that has happened to you today?
Feeling part of an inclusive workplace – enjoying the company of my beautiful work colleagues.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
Gender equality, of course.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I would love to have the talent to end gender-based violence.

What is the best part of your day?
Seeing my kids when I pick them up from school – I always miss their little faces

What do you most value in your friends? 
In my friends I value our differences – everyone is different and we can learn so much from each other. I also value their time, because time is so precious!

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be? Or what has been the biggest challenge of living in Australia so far?
When I arrived in Australia 30 years ago (our family moved from New Zealand, and previous to that we were refugees from Cambodia), what I found the most challenging thing to deal with was the racism that I encountered. Being a young girl, it was really hard to understand why people felt hatred, purely based on the way I looked. The one piece of advice I would give to someone new to Australia is reach out to people in your community. If you’re doing an English language class – make sure you do things outside of class together.

Can you describe a time where you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant and refugee background?
I distinctly remember when I was about 12 walking to the shops with my older sister and being racially abused by about five men from a van. I remember them shouting out disgusting things to us and fearing for our safety. We got home and I just burst out crying.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant refugee/ background?
Over the years, I’ve really learned to love who I am and the differences I bring to people around me. In my previous role as a media adviser, I was fortunate enough to work with refugee and migrant students – one moment that stood out for me was when I met with a young Cambodian student, who said she was really inspired by what I had achieved as someone from a refugee background. I later learned that she became an ambassador for migrant students, which was so awesome to hear!

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
Definitely my mum. I baffles me to this day how she and my dad could escape a war-torn country by foot, pregnant with two young children. She has instilled strong values in all of her three children, prioritising our health and safety, but also ensuring that we had an education.

Name a book or a film that changed your life.
I’m currently reading ‘First They Killed My Father’, a book based on a five-year old’s account of her time in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge. As I read the book, it’s so hard for me to imagine the horrific experiences people had to suffer through. I was only a baby when we were sponsored to go to New Zealand, so I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up in countries where there was no war.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
To me, multiculturalism means embracing different cultures and having the opportunity to learn more about cultures that are not your own. It means recognising the benefits of a society that is inclusive.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
People are scared of the unknown. It would be so great if people could just take the time to understand and learn more about people and cultures before they judge.

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would you like to tell him?
Stop taxing tampons

Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because….
In 2017, women and men should have equal rights, full stop.

The WRAP#54-Achieving reproductive justice: a case of intersectional thinking, the costs of motherhood and 60 Seconds with Sasha Sarago

The month of May is inherently woman focused with the celebration of mothers everywhere on Mother’s Day and through raising awareness of women’s sexual and reproductive rights on International Day of Action for Women’s Health.

Using an intersectional approach, we unpack what exactly reproductive justice means, particularly in relation to immigrant and refugee women and women of colour. We also question what the true cost of being a mother is: it seems we all have a bit of gender equality work to do if we’ve yet to show how much we value and appreciate the unpaid work that mothers do.

Last but not least, we chat with Ascension magazine founder Sasha Sarago about celebrating your culture and being true to yourself.

Until next time,
The WRAP team.