HEAR OUR VOICES WOMEN’S GATHERING 2015: “STEPPING OUT”

Our Senior Research and Policy Adviser Regina Quiazon was a guest speaker at the Hear Our Voices Gathering 2015. She spoke to over 100 migrant and refugee women at the annual event that encourages women to share stories, ideas and challenges faced with settling in Australia. Senator Lisa Singh spoke highly of the event in a speech to parliament, highlighting the importance of such events and the importance of the issues of CALD women in Australian society. Congratulations to the Migrant Resource Centre Southern Tasmania​ for hosting this fantastic event!

The WRAP #34: Caring, Contemplating the Commission and 60 seconds with Mi Nguyen

Time is truly whizzing by Wrappers.

It’s July and as we see out the old financial year and welcome in the new, it’s hard not be preoccupied by budgets, balance sheets and generally asking ourselves how things are adding up. Some of us are dreading doing our tax return while others are dreaming of getting back a little extra cash to splash on a long-desired treat!

Money is definitely on our minds but this is also a good time to reflect back on the first seven months of the year and ask ourselves what we should really value.

So this WRAP we are talking about what we have cared about this year, starting with the work of immigrant and refugee carers. Their work is unpaid but it is certainly immeasurable. We have also valued the increased conversation Australians are having about stopping violence against women. We look optimistically to how this can change in the future, and hope that by the time the tax person calls again in 2016, we will have some positive reflections on strategies and programs that have been implemented to prevent violence against all women, but particularly including refugee and immigrant women.

And of course we couldn’t let the month go by without valuing another fantastic 60 seconds with Mi Nguyen!

Until next month,
The WRAP team

Caring for our unsung heroes

Image//istockphotos

As the nomination period draws to a close for our next Australian of the Year, we at MCWH would like to acknowledge the great 2015 line-up.  There have been multiple factors lifting the visibility of violence against women and children, and the work of Rosie Batty as the 2015 Australian of the Year has been a prominent one.

Following the theme of acknowledging the unsung heroes of our community, this year we will be barracking for the award to go to a carer. Carers are such an important part of our community, helping loved ones manage everything from chronic pain, loneliness, anxiety and personal care, to shopping, housework, and accessing health services. Anyone who has been a carer for a spouse, child, family member or friend knows that caring can be a deeply rewarding and enriching experience. But it can also be emotionally, physically and financially challenging. With the health and wellbeing of their loved one as their main priority, carers often find little time to think about their own wellbeing, isolation or grief.

The act of caring is gendered in almost all societies, and often the primary burden of caring falls on women. Our population is ageing at the same time as more women enter the workforce and as we collectively delay retirement age. These trends have placed rising demands on women to juggle paid employment with caring duties.

And with approximately 20% of people aged 65 or more born overseas in non-English speaking countries, it is clear that a significant proportion of our working caregivers also come from immigrant and refugee communities. For this group, the challenges intensify: health service systems in Australia can be formidable to navigate, and often do not provide in-language or culturally-appropriate services that resonate with diverse cultural understandings of what it means to genuinely “care”. Carers are often hesitant to use respite facilities where these diverse models of caring are not manifested, staff do not speak the same language, serve appropriate food, or take the time to provide attentive and tailored care. This can leave them with few breaks from their demanding caring roles.

We are excited to announce that MCWH has started work on our newest project, ‘Dealing with it myself’. The project is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services (DSS), and provides support for immigrant and refugee working carers.
If you would like more information on ‘Dealing with it myself’, or would like to be involved in the project, please contact Rosi Aryal (Project Officer) on rosi@mcwh.com.au.

Reflecting the past and the future

Mohd Hafizuddin Husin Yana flickr

The middle of the year is always a good time to reflect. The weather’s icy, the open fire beckons and a big mug of something warm has to be the best thinking drink. But the cosiness melts away a little when the issue you are reflecting on is violence against women. It has taken us only 7 months to reach the figure of 52 Australian women killed, and not surprisingly a good many of these women are from immigrant and refugee communities. So far here at MCWH we have counted seventeen.

Last month we talked in the WRAP about the fact that due to structural impediments, immigrant and refugee women are much less likely to seek assistance or intervention at an early point in their experiences of violence. If and when they do access early intervention services, the available programs are unlikely to be tailored to women’s cultural needs, or structured to assist women to overcome the specific systemic barriers they face. More often than not, the situation escalates and intensifies, and immigrant and refugee women find themselves likely candidates for domestic murder. We have at least 17 clear testaments to that trajectory this year.

If we can clearly see the past, what does the future hold for immigrant and refugee women with respect to violence against women? In Victoria, we have had the privilege of hearing some brilliant plans and strategies to improve services, and ultimately women’s and children’s lives, through the Royal Commission public hearings this month.  But so far, disappointingly, there has been little discussion about how any proposed strategies will work for immigrant and refugee women. And when it comes to much needed programs in primary prevention and early intervention within immigrant and refugee communities, the discussion has been completely absent. We are hoping that the final week of the hearings will highlight immigrant and refugee women’s voices on these issues, and that the Commission will give due consideration to primary prevention in immigrant and refugee communities in particular.

If our future is going to change for the better, and for all, we need to be guided by the past. The past tell us that while we must ensure that properly-resourced response programs are crucial, we also need to be putting our energies into future, long-term and sustainable change. Primary prevention programs in immigrant and refugee communities, conducted with inclusiveness as a central tenet and with expert, capable women leading the way from within their own communities, will bring about the change we all want to see reflected.

60 Seconds with Mi Nguyen

Mi large

Program Administration Officer at MCWH, occasional hiker and public transport user

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
The power to speak any language (including sign language!). Imagine being able to communicate with every single person in the world!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
I have always felt measured and judged by my physical or social background (such as my sex, looks, name, ethnicity and culture) than my academic achievements or career goals.

If you could invite any woman (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
Frida Kahlo and Aung Sang Suu Kyi – she smiled at me once and it was captivating!

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I was running for the tram this morning and I wouldn’t have made it if someone didn’t hold the door for me. It’s a small gesture that saved me from having a bad morning.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
I often feel like I have to negotiate the tensions between my heritage and nationality, and am always having to excuse or explain myself to others on certain cultural behaviours and values. There’s a huge expectation for immigrants to assimilate, to meet others 75 per cent of the way rather than half. All the while, I’ve had experiences of being an exotic novelty – “I’ve never dated an Asian girl before”, “An Asian born in New Zealand living in Australia?!” (Though it often does through people off!).

What’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
I think it’s empowering to embrace my heritage because I feel rooted and expansive at the same time. I’m able to appreciate the best of both worlds (and all the customs and delicious food that come with them) and am part of a greater society of humankind.ptivating!

Name a book or film that changed your life.
The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer. It’s about a 9 year old boy who witnesses his father hit his mother. It’s about religion, domestic violence and fear. It sounds grim, but it’s a delightful children’s book that highlights the strengths of women in conservative times.

What does multiculturalism mean to you?
The acceptance, inclusion and celebration of all cultures in a harmonious space.

If you could change one thing about the world what would it be?
For everyone to act on kindness, not politics.

ReMINDer Resource Kit – A Handy Guide for International Students

MCWH were happy to be recent sponsors of Monash University’s Student Placement Program. We welcomed two international students, Tiffany and Yan, who were working on their 4th year project, “Mind your Mind”. As one of the project deliverables, Tiffany and Yan, with contributions from MCWH staff, developed a fantastic resource kit aimed to help newly arrived international students adjust to life in Victoria.

This fantastic resource is a one-stop guide to assist in everything from setting up a bank account to understanding Aussie slang! You can download the kit here.