Although immigrant and refugee women in Australia face particular barriers to accessing services aimed at preventing and responding to family violence, the understanding of the character and context of this problem is limited. Through research into local experiences and responses, ANROWS’s ASPIRE project aims to contribute to the development of responsive and accessible community-based interventions and increase the understanding of the nature and dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women in different Australian contexts.
Led by researchers from the University of Melbourne, the Multicultural Centre for Women’s Health and the University of Tasmania, ASPIRE asked:
1. What are immigrant and refugee women’s experiences of family violence and of help-seeking in selected geographic communities in Australia?
2. What are local barriers and facilitators to immigrants and refugees accessing violence prevention and support services in different settings?
3. What opportunities exist for supporting community-led responses to family violence against immigrant and refugee women?
Immigrant and refugee women born in 21 different countries, as well as key informants and focus groups, from eight sites across urban and regional settings in Victoria and Tasmania participated in the research. The women interviewed about their experiences of family violence had diverse migration pathways and varied socio-economic and other circumstances. Analysis of data highlighted that immigrant and refugee women’s experiences of family violence, help-seeking and access to information and services are situated within four overarching contexts: immigration, family and community, service system and place-based.
Among the recommendations from the research includes a number of key messages for service providers, policy-makers, and researchers.
Action from service providers and policy-makers is required to:
- Amend immigration policy to recognise that perpetrators of family violence can include any family member; and remove barriers to Centrelink income support and Medicare-funded services for any victim of family violence regardless of visa status.
- Increase linkages between family violence responses and agencies relevant for immigrant and refugee populations.
- Ensure family violence definitions and risk assessment tools across Australia are relevant for immigrant and refugee populations.
- Train and resource services that come into contact with immigrant and refugee women to understand and respond to the dynamics of family violence and facilitate referral pathways to specialist support.
- Recognise interpreters as an integral part of the family violence system, and support reform of the interpreting industry through development of interpreter capacity and mechanisms for interpreter support, monitoring and feedback in relation to family violence interpreting.
- Create multi-language written and audio resources for broad dissemination in places that are central to daily life to provide information about family violence, where to access support, and what to expect from police, courts, family violence and other relevant services.
- Provide options for women to access “mainstream” as well as specialist multicultural family violence services, and ensure availability of refuges that are funded to provide intensive and long-term support for immigrant and refugee women and children.
- Develop a robust bilingual, bicultural family violence services workforce that is reflective of local populations and adequately trained and clinically supported to respond to the needs of immigrant and refugee families.
- Provide ongoing training to all parts of the family violence system about the additional risk factors, immigration issues and support needs of immigrant and refugee women and their children.
- Ensure family violence prevention programs engage with multicultural women’s services and women leaders from immigrant and refugee communities, and are based on evidence about the contexts in which immigrant and refugee women experience family violence.
Future research should include:
- Investigation of the experiences of women who have no connection with service providers while dealing with family violence. (Most women participating in ASPIRE were already connected into the family violence system.)
- Collaboration with police to examine their capacities and experiences responding to family violence in immigrant and refugee communities.
- Analysis of the effectiveness of family violence risk assessment tools when used with immigrant and refugee women, and potentially the piloting and evaluation of adapted risk assessment processes.
- Bilateral comparative studies with researchers in major source countries for migrants settling in Australia, to improve supports available to women experiencing family violence in both their homeland and in post-migration diasporic contexts, including family violence facilitated by communication technologies.
- Rigorous evaluation of programs that address the primary prevention of violence against immigrant and refugee women.
- Strategies to ensure that research to establish the prevalence of family violence in Australia involves collection of sufficient data from immigrants and refugees to generate robust estimates of prevalence in this particular population.
- Longitudinal investigation as to how acculturation affects the prevalence of family violence and violence-supporting attitudes in communities.