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.