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.

Our Voices, Changing Cultures Project published in Australian Mosiac magazine


Monique Hameed is the Project Officer for the Our Voices, Changing Cultures Project currently being run at the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health. This fantastic project works with young same-sex attracted women from culturally diverse immigrant and refugee backgrounds running theatre workshops around themes including mental health and wellbeing. Monique has written a fantastic article on her experiences running the project, and reflects on the difficulties in traversing  the homophobia and transphobia from within cultures whilst also navigating racism and religious intolerance from within LGBT communities. (Starting from Page 23)


‘Cultivating Culture, Unravelling Racism.’

Positioning, pitching and promoting a cultural training program

Earlier this year MCWH was pleased to sponsor a group of highly motivated students from the University of Melbourne’s Graduate Certificate in Advanced Learning and Leadership program (GCALL).

The GCALL program is taken alongside doctoral study and aims to develop students’ skills in leadership, project management, cross-disciplinary problem solving and communication. An important component of the program involves working collaboratively as an interdisciplinary team to manage solutions to ‘real world issues’.

This is the third year in a row that MCWH has sponsored GCALL students to undertake a specific project related to our goals, as we also gain a lot from providing the opportunity to work collaboratively to plan, develop and manage an important project.

This year, the team was asked to explore different ways to position and pitch MCWH’s unique cross-cultural training program and promotion of our training philosophy. After an initial consultation with MCWH about our training approach, the students developed a number of key objectives and outcomes for the project. Over a number of months, the students researched and reviewed cross-cultural training programs both nationally and internationally and produced various visual prototypes that MCWH could develop as a promotional tool for the course.

Thanks to the fabulous team: Marek Cmero, Irina Herrschner, Jyh Liang Hor, Rebecca Jordan and Wei Tong for their commitment, creativity, enthusiasm and inquisitiveness. We are currently exploring ways we can build upon their fantastic work.

You can view some of the prototypes that came out of their work here and here.

‘Dealing with it myself': A new project to support working carers

MCWH has been funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services for an important new initiative focusing on people from an immigrant or refugee background who are in paid employment at the same time as informally caring for a family member or family members at home.

The project is called ‘Dealing with it myself’ and aims to raise awareness about the health impacts of being a working carer and to support working carers to manage their multiple responsibilities and maintain their health and well-being.

Regardless of their cultural backgrounds, many people prefer to receive care in the comfort of their home. However recent research suggests that immigrant and refugee Australians probably rely more heavily on family members to provide care services, such as housework, transport and cooking, than Anglo-Australian groups, who show a greater dependence on formal service providers.

While responsibility for family members can sometimes be shared, in many ageing Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities, due to cultural and gendered expectations, family circumstances and language barriers, the burden of informal caring often falls on the women of the family, many of whom have multiple caring responsibilities including caring for children, grandchildren, children with disability, elderly parents, spouses with chronic illness and paid employment.

In the future, working carers are expected to become even more prevalent in CALD communities, as women increasingly continue in paid employment for longer, workforce opportunities for older women grow, economies tighten and superannuation opportunities narrow.

There is strong evidence that combining paid employment and unpaid caring has a substantial impact on working carers’ health and well-being. Managing multiple responsibilities arising from paid employment and unpaid caring is challenging and confronting. While there are resources available for carers, none are specifically tailored for the needs of working carers from CALD communities.

Dealing with it myself will aim to improve the physical health, psychological well-being and social connectedness of CALD working carers through the development and broad dissemination of tailored resource kits, the delivery of peer education sessions, and the establishment of ongoing Working Carer Support networks.

One voice

Jessica Lea DFID flickrPreventing the Practice of FGM/C in Primary Schools. Image by Jessica Lea/UK DFID

We’ve all been guilty of it: voicing our dissatisfaction and anger at the things that are unfair and unjust and then proceeding to do nothing about them. Or, perhaps worse, trying to do something about them in a way that turns out to subvert, undermine or undo some of the good work already being done to fix the problem.

An issue such as female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is something that usually incites feelings of horror and anger among those not affected directly by the practice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Injustices, particularly those that are an abuse of human rights, need loud and visible activism. But it’s how we go about acting on our words that really counts, especially when our actions impact on people experiencing those abuses. When the issue is as complex as FGM/C, it would be wise to do some homework and find out about what is being, and could be, done to prevent and eradicate the practice.

The most recent International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM marked 13 years of activism and campaigning to ensure that FGM/C remains on the global agenda. During this time, in Australia and internationally, there have been countless initiatives that, together, have laid a solid foundation for generational change. Much of what we know now has been the result of the tireless efforts of women advocates from communities where FGM/C is practiced, community organisations, policy makers, governments and legal institutions around the world. A truly collaborative affair.

While there is still much work to be done, especially in countries of migration like ours, the international evidence suggests that we are still in a good position to know what can work in helping to prevent the practice. Involving the whole community and fostering women’s leadership are both key markers of success and this includes acknowledging the huge amount of prevention work already being done, often quietly and modestly, within the communities where FGM/C exists.

Whether you call it ‘being on the same page’ or ‘singing off the same song sheet’, it takes a united stance to ensure that change does happen. The National Standards Framework for FGM/C-related Educational Resources is one such song sheet, highlighting the best resources currently available for community education. Many of the resources have been developed by and in collaboration with women and their communities, so we can confidently use them as a platform for change, without hitting too many wrong notes along the way.