Celebrating immigrant and refugee women


We think immigrant and refugee women are generally pretty amazing, so it’s never really a surprise to see them succeed, even when the pathway to success has not been smooth.

This week MCWH was privileged to complete a wonderful journey with a group of twenty women from as many diverse cultural backgrounds, as they successfully graduated from the MCWH Multicultural Women’s Health Course. The women completed the accredited 12-day training program in women’s health, acquiring the skills and knowledge required to provide bilingual health education to women in their communities and workplaces. Twelve of the graduates are aged care workers from the Southern Cross aged care facility who have been supported by the facility to participate in the training and to become women’s health mentors in their workplaces in the future. The remaining eight graduates, we’re proud to say, have been recruited to work as new MCWH Bilingual Health Educators, making a wonderful addition to the range of languages we can offer to the community in health education. We heartily congratulate all the graduates and look forward to an ongoing working relationship.

We extend our appreciation to the wonderful trainers and supporting staff, to Ian Barton from Southern Cross Care, and of course to the graduates who worked so hard to successfully complete the course.


Media Release: International seminar highlights invisibility of abortion as a federal election issue

Variation in abortion law among the states is not the only issue at stake for women in Australia.

Today MCWH will host a visit by Dr Anu Kumar, Executive Vice-President of Ipas, a global nongovernment organisation dedicated to ending preventable death and disability from unsafe abortion.

Dr Kumar’s visit marks the beginning of MCWH’s partnership with researchers from the Social Sciences and Health Research Unit, Monash University on a research project investigating the contraceptive and reproductive choices of immigrant and refugee women.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that while abortion law continues to be a matter for the states, both state and federal governments need to ensure that abortion is accessible and available to all women.

Twenty six per cent of the world’s population still live in countries where abortion is generally prohibited, so in that regard Australian women are in the fortunate position of living in a country where induced abortion is legally available. However, access to abortion is still restricted to different groups of women in various ways. It is already well-known that immigrant and refugee women have limited to access to sexual and reproductive health for a range of reasons including visa status, economic reasons and lack of access to culturally sensitive programs.

A recent report has found that living in a rural or regional area can also severely restrict your access to abortion because of the lack of services in certain regions. There’s a triple disadvantage then if you’re an immigrant or refugee woman living in one of these regions.

In many respects there are overlaps with the human rights work being done at an international level. In Australia, immigrant and refugee women’s access to abortion is still determined by such things as visa status and other policies, which can indirectly impact on women’s right to free choice.

Women’s rights aren’t just a matter for the law, although legal reforms are crucial – we’d like to see government make the necessary policy changes, and fund appropriate services, to improve women’s access to abortion.

Position Paper on International Student Access to Pregnancy-Related Care

Through the On Your Own research project we undertook in 2011 with international students in Melbourne, we found that the minimum requirements of the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Deed pose significant obstacles to female international students who fall pregnant unintentionally. Through further consultation with services and students across Australia, we have found that this is an issue that affects international students nation-wide and has already led to detrimental health outcomes for some women. Our new position paper outlines the reasons why the OSHC deed needs to be changed, and points to wider issues for international student health. We believe that the issue creates further ambiguity about the rights of international students to access health services and could potentially contribute to misunderstandings in health service delivery settings.

Our position has been endorsed by over 20 organisations and we encourage you to read it, talk about it and pass it on.

You can read and download the paper here.

Launch of the Bbkayi Report

Bbkayi means Baby plus two in Cantonese. It’s the title of a report which outlines the enablers and barriers for Chinese women in the City of Whitehorse to access antenatal, maternal and parent support. The study found that family and Chinese cultural practices such as the 30 day confinement period play an important part during pregnancy and childrearing and influence how Chinese women access programs and services. Many factors, including the resettlement experience, lack of familiarity with the Australian health system, and differing health and spiritual beliefs of different cultures can make it difficult for immigrant and refugee communities to access health services.

The study, commissioned by Whitehorse Community Health Service, is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in improving the cultural relevance of health services. Congratulations to Megan Wong, the project leader and author of the report and special thanks to MCWH Chinese BHEs, Dongmei Zhang, Rebecca Heli and Yuki Murdolo, who made invaluable contributions to the project with their experience and knowledge.

You can read the full report here.