NSW Labor’s pledge of $158 million for frontline domestic violence services is a step in the right direction but risks leaving refugee and migrant women in the cold, according to a community organisation that supports newcomers to Australia.
Settlement Services International (SSI) Strategic Policy Manager Astrid Perry said she very much welcomed any increase to funding in this area but hoped the investment would also include provisions to meet the unique needs of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“NSW as a state has very limited targeted domestic and family violence services that focus on migrant and refugee women. Other states, such as Victoria, have explicit funding for services working with culturally and linguistically diverse communities,” she said.
“We have a pressing need for a dedicated service that helps women who are new to Australia safely escape domestic and family violence.”
The key feature of Labor’s proposal is an $18 million investment in new beds for women escaping violence at home. Ms Perry welcomed the pledge but warned investment must go beyond accommodation to ensure these spaces consider the needs of all women.
“Often, the available accommodation is not ideal for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds because there are rarely 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 these 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 on temporary visas have little or no independent 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 both the NSW Government and NSW Labor to consider funding services that will ensure 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.