In Brief

Networking nightWe hosted our first networking night at the MCWH office in Collingwood on the 25th May and it was a great success!
Read more about the knowledge we shared and what you can expect next time!

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Delegate visitOn April 7th, Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health  warmly welcomed 19 Australian and international delegates into our Collingwood office for a field visit during the World Congress on Public Health.

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Netfa forum 2017The third NETFA forum Foundations for Change was held in Melbourne on the 24th March.Over 70 people attended to
discuss women’s rights, health and prevention of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

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Keeping busy

Health Education Program (HEP)

MCWH Multilingual Health Education Programs have been delivering important health information to women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds since 1978. Programs are conducted in industry and community settings by highly trained and qualified Bilingual Health Educators, from an immigrant or refugee background. These programs are uniquely successful because health information is provided in:

  • the preferred language of the women attending the program;
  • location and at times that are most convenient for women; and
  • ways which respect women’s experiences and knowledge and understand their cultural context.

This woman-to-woman approach is our peer education model, and is based on the belief that sharing health information and experiences is the best way to increase women’s health knowledge and wellbeing.

A highlight  this year has been working with Nestle to bring health education into places of work, and with AMES Australia and Melbourne Polytechnic to conduct sessions in places where women learn. Find out more about our Health Education Programs.

Grant updates

We are so pleased to announce that we have recently been successful in our funding application to the Victorian Government to deliver a violence prevention project in partnership with Southern Cross Care Victoria. We look forward to commencing the project on July 1st, 2017.

Board news

We warmly welcome two new board members: Catherine Ross and Tamara Kwarteng. Catherine comes from a philanthropic background and is passionate about grassroots community and generosity. A fundraiser for over 15 years, she studied International Politics and Development at the University of Melbourne (2012) and is now proudly Fundraising Manager for The Reach Foundation. Joining the MCWH Board in May 2017, Catherine is focused on sustainability and creating awareness for the valuable programs and community created for women by women.

Tamara comes to MCWH with an extensive background in public health, having had experience overseeing and leading numerous HIV & AIDS programs in Australia, Asia, the Pacific and Africa. Since January 2010, Dr Kwarteng has been an independent consultant providing technical advice in public health program design, monitoring, and evaluation.We warmly welcome her experience in organisational capacity-building, applied research, policy analysis and development, and training and education programs.

Around the office



We farewell our National Training Officer, Maria Hach. Maria joined MCWH in 2011 as a Health Promotion and Project Officer before beginning her training role in 2012. During her time at MCWH, Maria developed and implemented the nationally accredited Bilingual Health Education Program. She was also responsible for various projects, including the Common Threads Sexual and Reproductive Health Research Report and Best Practice Guide  and Culturally Responsive Palliative Care Community Education Project. Maria leaves us for a good reason – she is completing a PhD thesis in Cultural and Gender Studies, which explores inter-generational trauma and affectivity of historical violence among Cambodian-Australian women. All the best Maria!


We also farewell Zubaidah Shaburdin, our NETFA Project Officer. NETFA achieved many milestones in its three year period, not least of which were the annual NETFA forums. Read more about the highlights of the 2017 forum in the link above. You can also access an array of resources in English and many other languages, plus the National Education Toolkit on the NETFA website. 

Rosi Wedding_small

We warmly congratulate our Project Officer Rosi Aryal-Lees, for her recent Nepali-Australian nuptials to now husband Steven Lees. As per Nepali tradition, a priest guided the couple through the ritual steps of worshipping Ganesh and the nine planets, exchanging rings, repeating seven sacred vows and sharing a short peace meditation with guests. A delight to witness for the 150 guests who had travelled from all over the country and the world to celebrate this truly memorable and special day.

MCWH Inaugural Networking Night

We held our inaugural Multicultural Women’s Network meetup on 25th May.  It was great opportunity to meet with other women from immigrant and refugee backgrounds who are engaged with, or working in the multicultural women’s space.  The afternoon allowed us to socialise, share research, knowledge, and information about each other’s work across different areas.  Another networking event is in the pipeline, and we hope to see both returning and new faces.

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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.

Achieving reproductive justice: a case of intersectional thinking



The concept of choice, like the language of human rights, is essentially a good thing. Having choices (or rights) implies that you also have the freedom and ability to act on every option (or right) available to you. However, when it comes to women’s reproductive health the issue of rights, (just like choice), becomes decidedly tricky.

Today in many parts of the world it’s International Day of Action for Women’s Health (28th May). As with previous years, the call for action has focused on the need to uphold women’s sexual and reproductive rights. However, there has also been a marked shift towards using the term ‘sexual and reproductive justice’ in appeals to ensure women’s rights to sexual and reproductive health are upheld. Rights? Justice? Is there a difference? Over and above the dictionary definitions, the difference is unequivocally intersectional.

As with intersectionality, it is important to note that it was also black feminists who originally coined ‘reproductive justice’ as a way of highlighting the issue of ‘reproductive choice’ for women of colour. Women of colour who do not have the resources and who are not publicly supported to ‘choose’ their reproductive options.

Audre Lorde has highlighted that ‘there is no such thing as a single issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives’ and this is exactly the case with women’s health. Women are not just biological bearers of babies- they’re also siblings, students, workers, leaders, lovers and many other things unconnected from their uterus. This is the meaning of reproductive justice: it shifts the focus of improving women’s health from one based solely on ‘choice’ and ‘rights’ to one that recognises the political contexts of women’s lives.

For immigrant and refugee women this means ensuring that public policy and institutions, such as immigration and health systems, uphold women’s rights to access good quality medical care, free from ill-treatment such as discrimination and forced medical intervention. The violation of immigrant women’s rights during pregnancy, childbirth and the post-partum period has been described as obstetric violence, which is a form of violence against women that is often overlooked.

A reproductive justice framework can be a means for highlighting the intersections of different forms of institutional violence and violence against women. It’s a framework that includes a woman’s right to not have a child as well as her right to have children and parent them in dignity in safe and supportive environments. If we want to ensure these rights are upheld, the choice is clear: we should work towards achieving reproductive justice to fix the structural changes needed for addressing the wellbeing of all women.

The costs of motherhood

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May is a special time of year for many mothers, when children and partners take the time to acknowledge how much we owe to the mums in our lives. Of course someone has taken the time to figure out how much Australians spend on Mother’s Day (just over $2 billion including $200 million on flowers). But the cost of motherhood – the emotional, physical and financial investment that women make as mothers – continues to be relatively unquantifiable.

The flowers may have faded, the breakfasts and lunches and chocolates well and truly digested, but this May, along with the federal budget, there have been a few more reasons to think about mothers and what it costs to be one.

Even if we don’t have a clear bottom line about the costs of motherhood, we can definitely look to research for some indications. A recent study found that in families with young children, mothers do a great deal more unpaid work than fathers, even when they are not the ‘stay-at-home parent’. Stay-at-home mums devote 74 hours per week to housework and child care, compared to 47 hours for stay-at-home dads, a difference of 1,404 hours per year. When paid work comes into the picture, paid-working mothers do an extra 104 hours of unpaid housework and childcare per year in addition to their paid work than their dad counterparts.

Physical labour is one thing, but the mental load of motherhood is another, as is beautifully illustrated in a recent visual think piece from Emma. For most mothers, the common expectation that they will be in charge of household management does not shift when women take on additional roles including paid work. And of course, we all know how this translates into financial costs: the gender pay gap, the fight for access to maternity leave and discrimination against mothers in the workplace, to name a few.

Mothers are expected to work for love, not money, but cost is often the bottom line, and motherhood is very much a user-pays system. In the forever shifting landscape of temporary visas for example, motherhood now has a new price-tag. As part of the proposed federal budget this year, the government outlined a new temporary visa – which allows migrant parents to stay in Australia for up to 10 years for $20,000 and the cost of private health insurance. Migrant mums and dads who can afford the visa will not be allowed to conduct paid work. However, there is an expectation that they will make up an unpaid workforce of ‘Granny Nannies’. As Assistant Minister for Immigration Mr. Hawke said, ‘Grandparents will be available and able to, under this visa, care for their grandchildren while the parents work.’

Mothering is priceless and no-one wants to live without it. But economics are deeply gendered and it’s clear that despite the huge contribution to the economy that mothers and grandmothers make, the cost is largely carried by individual women. Social policy that is based on a user-pays ideology only makes women pay even more to be mothers and entrenches women’s disadvantage.

Mothers need to see their work valued. If we could develop social policy that recognises the intrinsic value that mothering brings to society as a whole, we would see more productive, gender equitable and sustainable outcomes. Forget the flowers, all our days would be mother’s days.

60 seconds with Sasha Sarago

Sasha Sarago

Editor and co-founder of Ascension magazine and proud Aboriginal woman

What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
Right now I am enjoying my research of Indigenous feminism and Australia’s colonial frameworks for a documentary I am producing.

If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
If I had a magic wand, I would use it to help the masses realise and utilise their true potential.

What do you most value in your friends?
I value my friend’s generosity. I love my friend’s capacity to love with all their heart. I admire how they offer their knowledge freely and support my dreams. I marvel at their ability to challenge me to be the best version of myself. And I adore how they nurture my emotional and spiritual growth.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australia, what would it be?
The most important piece of advice I would impart to someone new to Australia is to protect, maintain and celebrate your culture and identity with every fibre of your being.

What’s your favourite word in any language? Why?
My favourite word is “Girgorou” which means beautiful in Jirrbal my grandmother’s language; we are the Rainforest people of Far North Queensland. I love this word because it describes my people and our language, country and culture.

If you could invite any woman, (dead or living) to dinner, who would it be and why?
It would be my grandmother. Firstly, I would love to meet her. Unfortunately, she died long before I was born. I would ask her about our Jirrbal culture and what it was like living as an Aboriginal woman in her time. I’d also ask her to share every piece of wisdom she could pass on to me for the next generation.

What are you reading right now?
Skin Deep: Settler impressions of Aboriginal women, by Dr Liz Conor.

If you could convince the world of one thing, what would it be?
We are all human beings. Nothing more, nothing less.