Investment in accommodation alone is not sufficient to help women who are new to Australia safely escape domestic and family violence, according to a community organisation that supports refugees and other newcomers to Australia.
Yesterday’s federal government announcement of $78 million in funding for women and children escaping violence at home included a $60 million grants program to provide emergency accommodation.
Settlement Services International (SSI) Strategic Policy Manager Astrid Perry said while she very much welcomed any increase to funding in this area, women from newly arrived communities were still falling through the gaps.
“Investment must go beyond accommodation in order to ensure these spaces are welcoming and consider the needs of all women. Often, the available accommodation is not ideal for newly arrived women because there are no interpreters, limited responses to cultural needs and few spaces for large families,” she said.
“In many cases, this accommodation also does not include sufficient support from a social worker or domestic violence specialist. Settlement workers in our community are increasingly reporting that women come out of temporary accommodation without having resolved any of their issues related to their relationship or secured ongoing housing.”
This is disappointing given the additional challenges newly arrived women must surmount in order to leave a violent home situation in the first place, said Ms Perry.
“Women of migrant or refugee background are less likely to seek assistance due to barriers like lack of knowledge about their rights, fear of deportation and removal of children, lack of English language skills, or shame and the need to maintain family honour. In other cases, women are on temporary visas that do no enable them to earn an income,” she said.
There is a real and pressing need for funded domestic violence services that are tailored specifically for women from migrant and refugee backgrounds, Ms Perry said.
“We must ensure all women have access to safe accommodation, regardless of their visa status,” she said.
“While we welcome the release of funding to keep more women and children secure, we call on the government to consider funding ancillary services that will ensure this support is appropriate for all women.”
SSI is a community organisation and social business that supports newcomers and other Australians to achieve their full potential. We work with all people who have experienced vulnerability, including refugees, people seeking asylum and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities, to build capacity and enable them to overcome inequality.