The WRAP #41 – Mainstream Multiculturalism, Human Rights and 60 Seconds with Shabnam Daliri

Greetings WRAPpers!

April has brought us the highly anticipated findings from the Royal Commission into Family Violence. As an organisation that works to promote women’s health, safety and well-being, we couldn’t be prouder that research we’ve undertaken has contributed to the report identifying how family violence impacts on immigrant and refugee communities. Given that the vast proportion of women in Victoria were either born overseas or are first generation Australians, we certainly hope that the findings will support the development of easily accessible multilingual and culturally appropriate services and information as part of the mainstream response.

We also re-visit the issue of international students’ rights, and find that not only do they continue to face exploitation, racism and discrimination, but that female students in particular continue to be severely under supported in accessing equitable and affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare.

As strong advocates for immigrant and refugee women’s rights, MCWH will be discussing the impact of the Royal Commission findings on immigrant and refugee communities at our upcoming panel.

We hope to see you there!

Until next time,
The WRAP team

Family violence in Victoria: a mainstreamed multicultural response

Image via theage.com.au

Image via theage.com.au

This month family violence prevention came a long way here in Victoria. Not only were the 2000+ pages of the Royal Commission into Family Violence findings handed down, the government took immediate action by allocating half a billion dollars to address 65 of the 227 recommendations. Many of us have sighed with relief. Many of us have celebrated. The decisive cultural shift that brought us to this watershed moment is going to be translated into practical strategies.

We can now see a future in which women and children are valued enough that they can find redress and safety if they are subjected to violence. We can even look forward to a future in which family violence is eliminated altogether.

The most urgent actions that flow from the Commission’s report are in the area of crisis response for women and children in danger and in need of emergency and transitional housing. There will be a more effective and immediate response in the area of support, police and housing, as well as a coordinated approach to information sharing across services.

Less immediately, but equally importantly, women will have better access to information about family violence through an expanded website, and a new support system through support and safety hubs across Victoria. These hubs will provide single-entry points into all of the services that women and children need, from specialist family violence support to perpetrator programs.

The myriad initiatives (and so far in this little summary we’re only up to recommendation 37) will transform the policing and service landscape over the coming years of implementation. Longer term, the Commission requires a significant investment and focus in the area of gender equality and violence prevention.

How will all of this imminent change impact on immigrant and refugee communities in Victoria? The Royal Commission found that immigrant and refugee women are disproportionately affected by family violence and that there exist serious barriers to family violence service access. Drawing heavily on our ASPIRE research, the Commission report identified that family violence is facilitated and exacerbated in the lives of women and children from immigrant and refugee communities by factors such as immigration policy, social exclusion and isolation, poor interpreting services and a lack of culturally appropriate support.

It is incumbent on us now to join the dots between the process of transforming the family violence system and knowing what will work well for immigrant and refugee women. In multicultural Victoria – with 46.8% of the community either born overseas or with one or both parents born overseas – we clearly must see the needs of immigrant and refugee communities as being a central part of a mainstream response. In fact, it should be the mainstream response.

A new web site, for example, must be multilingual and culturally meaningful if it hopes to meet the needs of all women. We should recognise too that for many women and for many reasons, a website can be as difficult to access as a real life service: complementary ways of providing information must also be developed if we hope to reach all Victorian women, regardless of their education, financial position, age and ability.

Similarly, we must ensure that safety and support hubs are accessible and equitable for every woman. This is more than the hubs being open to all: women need to know what and where a safety hub is, and need to trust that they will find cultural, as well as physical, safety. To ensure this, we must harness the expertise of Victoria’s multicultural women’s specialist services and the vital linking work of the bicultural and bilingual workforce. This is not only key for response, but will pave the way for wins in the area of gender equality and primary prevention in the near future.

At this amazing juncture we are proud to be a part of the positive change happening in Victoria. The community has expressed a recognition of the value of women and children’s health and safety, and the importance of gender equality. It is our profound hope that this point in time is inclusive and intersectional – a point in time that transforms lives for all women and children in Victoria.

What does the Royal Commission into Family Violence mean for multicultural communities?

International students’ rights: it’s time for change

Image via map.my

Image via map.my

It’s a little known fact but an important one: there are more people arriving into Australia as temporary migrants than there are recently arrived permanent migrants. As of December 2015 there were over 1 million people living in Australia on temporary visas, compared to about 190,000 migrants who settled in the country as part of the 2014-2015 Migration Program.

Statistics also show that more than 40% of new permanent migrants are not so ‘foreign’, ‘international’, or ‘temporary’ at all and have already been in the country under some type (or in many cases, other types) of visas for several years. Many have successfully overcome the challenges of precariousness in order to secure permanency and stability. But at what cost? The answers are strikingly clear if we take the case of international students.

Since last recorded (December last year), there were about 352,000 immigrants on student and temporary graduate visas. That’s almost twice that of our total yearly permanent migrant intake. You would think that, given their numbers, they must by living it up in Australia: enjoying all the privileges, advantages and benefits of a student on an international holiday. Not so. Despite the negative stereotypes of cashed up international students stealing jobs, there is actually more evidence that shows temporary residency status can impact negatively on international students’ health and wellbeing.

While all students face the mounting expenses related to education, as well as the general cost of living, international students also face exploitation in employment and accommodation, and experience social isolation, racism and discrimination. International student’s situation is only worsened by their temporary visa status, which limits their access and entitlement to services and support.

It’s now four years since the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) first articulated the human rights of international students and more than five years since MCWH first identified the challenges female international students face in relation to accessing equitable pregnancy-related care. During this time, after four changes of prime minister, the precarious situation for international students, particularly those who find themselves pregnant in the first 12 months of arrival, remains unchanged.

Why are we struggling to uphold international students’ human rights? A recent review of the AHRC’s Principles to promote and protect the human rights of International Students suggested that the challenge can arise because human rights principles are seen to be too broad to advocate for change.

We can rise to this challenge. MCWH’s advocacy position on advancing the rights of international students to pregnancy-related care is practicable and specific: remove the 12 month waiting period for pregnancy-related care from the terms of the Overseas Student Health Cover Deed, so that international students can access equitable and affordable sexual and reproductive health care whenever it is needed. It’s not the only step, but a first step to eliminating discrimination against female international students and their partners.

60 seconds with Shabnam Daliri

Shabnam 2

Community worker, international student and equality advocate

What is the best thing that happened to you today?
I talked to my big sister on Viber. She is my only sister, I do love her and she means everything to me. I just wish we didn’t have to live so far away from each other.

If you were a super-heroine, what powers would you like to have?
I would like to eradicate poverty and racism. I’d make sure every child had equal access to education and health care.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
On a personal level, I would like to use it to see my father once again as he played an absolutely crucial role in my entire life and all my achievements. More generally, I would like to remove all the world’s borders, so people could live in peace together.

What talent would you most like to possess?
I would like to be good at playing the santoor (a Persian musical instrument) so I could chill out and relax whenever I was feeling stressed.

If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
A scientist, in order to be able to discover an effective treatment for all types of cancers.

What is the best part of your day?
At night because it is calm and quiet and I can think thoroughly and be creative without any pressure and stress.

What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and loyalty. I am quite lucky to have two amazing and wonderful friends since I was 7 years old. Thanks to technology we are still in touch with each other even though we live in different parts of the world.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
To seize golden opportunities because it is very easy to lose them and also never give up working hard.

What’s your favourite word in the English language?
‘Yes’ because I am a positive person.

What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as a woman from an immigrant or refugee background?
There have been two major challenges: the first one is being away from your friends and families who are your best supporters and the second, is finding a job that recognises my skills and qualifications.

Can you describe a time when you felt discriminated against as a woman or as someone with an immigrant or refugee background?
I come from a country where the system of government is patriarchal and women are regarded as second citizens and where their life is literally valued as being half of a man’s life. However, I think discrimination exists everywhere and being able to advocate for eliminating discrimination is the most important goal and dream for me.

For you, what’s the best thing about being a woman from an immigrant/refugee background?
As a female immigrant I think it is valuable to know your native language and your own culture while at the same time learning about new culture and language. Because I believe that women are the best educators and teachers for the next generation.

Describe a time when you felt that being an immigrant or refugee woman was an advantage?
I work with the community. It is an amazing feeling when you understand people’s problems without being judgemental as you know their values, cultures and also sometimes you experience the same difficulties. Therefore, you can support, assist and advocate more effectively.

Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
I’ve always admired my mother. She is really a good role model for me and my sister. She sacrificed her life for us (my sister, me and my younger brother). Bringing up 3 little kids during the war between Iraq and Iran is not an easy job. She always protects, encourages and supports us in the best possible way. I also would like to say that I have met so many amazing women in my entire life who significantly influence me and I have been inspired by them.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
Equality, as I believe that everyone has the equal right to live the best possible life.

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

If you could meet the Prime Minister tomorrow, what would like to tell him?
I would like to talk to him about very unfair barriers for some hardworking and successful immigrants who apply for permanent residency.  For many, going back to their country of origin often means being placed in dangerous situations.

MCWH is recruiting for Board members

The Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health (MCWH) is inviting applications from suitably skilled and qualified women who are interested in joining the Board of Management.

We would welcome applications from women with specific expertise in the areas of:

  • Strategic business development;
  • Key stakeholder relationship development (government);
  • People and workplace culture management.

Board members are appointed for a period of up to two years with the opportunity for reappointment after the two year period.

Duties and responsibilities

  1. Governance of MCWH, including legal and financial accountability, compliance and risk management;
  2. Definition and achievement of financial targets;
  3. Formulation, implementation and review of MCWH strategic direction;
  4. Oversight of the organisation’s achievement of its objectives;
  5. Oversight of and contribution to Committees as required;
  6. Active contribution to developing a strong profile and broad support base in the community;
  7. Willingness and ability to expand the networks of MCWH.

Skills and Attributes required

1. Specific skills in one or more of the following:

  • Financial management
  • Strategic development
  • People and workplace culture management
  • Strategic communications
  • Advocacy

2. Key stakeholder relationship development;
3. Membership of, and/or a strong connection to, immigrant and refugee communities;
4. Demonstrated commitment to social justice, taking a feminist approach to achieving equality for immigrant and refugee women, and respect for women’s diverse voices, identities, cultures, rights and aspirations;
5. Passion for immigrant and refugee women’s health and wellbeing;
6. Capacity and willingness to apply specific skills and expertise to the implementation of Board responsibilities;
7. Capacity to commit to the following:

  • Attendance at 6-weekly Board meetings
  • Participation in committee meetings and email discussion between Board meetings
  • Annual Board development activities
  • Annual General Meetings
  • Other Board-related activities as required from time to time

For more information, or to express an interested in Board membership, please contact the Executive Director, Adele Murdolo on email: director@mcwh.com.au or phone: 9418-0923.