A new national plan to end domestic and family violence (DFV) has taken steps towards addressing the needs of an often overlooked group of women who sit at the intersection of gender, and race and culture, according to non-profit Settlement Services International (SSI).
The National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, released yesterday, provides a comprehensive blueprint to end family, domestic and sexual violence, including strong recognition of refugee and migrant women who have been largely left behind by previous efforts to counter DFV in Australia, according to SSI, which provides services to 52,000 people each year, with a particular focus on migrant and refugee communities.
SSI Head of Women, Equity and Domestic Violence Dr Astrid Perry OAM said it was particularly heartening to see the government’s commitment to working towards equal access to services for victim-survivors on temporary visas.
“Temporary visa holders subjected to DFV are very vulnerable as they have few support networks and have no right to income support. The needs of victim-survivors must be the primary consideration, not their visa status,” she said.
“We see many cases of women where their visa status is weaponised by perpetrators who will, for example, threaten deportation unless they remain in the abusive relationship. The risk is even higher for women seeking asylum, who have the added challenges of trauma and prejudice to overcome.”
Dr Perry said she welcomed the plan’s acknowledgment of the critical role settlement and multicultural services play in recovery through integrating victim survivors into the workforce and developing meaningful engagement towards achieving independence.
“There is an opportunity to go beyond this and commit to specialised services for these communities, including investing in bilingual workforces. DFV services need specialist skills and capacities to detect, understand and respond to the dynamics in CALD families and facilitate pathways to specialist support,” she said.
“Multicultural and settlement service providers regularly support women experiencing family violence. However, our capacity to respond effectively is constrained by limited funding and service scope.”
Dr Perry said the plan’s focus on pattern-based violence, as opposed to incident-based violence, would assist with the misidentification of victim-survivors as perpetrators, which is a prevalent issue among migrant and refugee women.
“All communities in Australia experience DFV, but this is often exacerbated for women from migrant and refugee background due to language barriers and the inconsistency in access to interpreters. They are less likely to report DFV due to these barriers, along with cultural stigma, lack of trust in mainstream services, financial insecurity, and visa status.
“Unfortunately, this means that women from migrant and refugee communities most often only seek assistance at the point of crisis,” she said.
“Through the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commission and its leadership we hope to see the development of strategies to target migrant and refugee communities, acknowledging their unique needs and the necessity of specialist support.”
Dr Perry said refugee and migrant communities had a particular requirement for further education to develop a more nuanced understanding of gender equality.
“It is heartening to see the government prioritise broader education on gender equality, and we look forward to collaborating on community design programs aimed at enhancing understanding of and attitudes towards gender equality in multicultural communities,” she said.
Dr Perry said there was a strong opportunity for change, with the anticipated release of a complementary DFV Action Plan next year, along with anticipated budget announcements in the October budget.
Settlement Services International 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.