Women of migrant and refugee background who are victims of family violence find it harder to access services and are more vulnerable when it comes to reporting the crimes committed against them.
This grim reality was brought to the fore at the Royal Commission into Family Violence by InTouch the only Multicultural Centre against Family Violence in Victoria which provides support services exclusively to women of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds in Victoria.
With the Royal Commission continuing its public consultations this week, InTouch submitted its 42 recommendations for the Commission to consider and act upon.
The recommendations cover a number of issues, with the need for the provision and funding of interpreting, as well as culturally and linguistically sensitive legal services, at the heart of them. The need for the government to support service providers to centre the needs of CALD women and children when designing programs and services for people affected by family violence is the overarching principle that the recommendations are based upon.
The recommendations point out that there is a lack of community-led family violence prevention initiatives in settings such as faith groups, schools, ethno-specific organisations and migrant resource centres: primary social locations for women and men of CALD background when they are newcomers to Australia.
InTouch CEO Maya Avdibegovic, pointed out to Neos Kosmos that while the experiences of migrant and refugee women are similar to women in the wider community, there are additional challenges to overcome when seeking protection from a violent partner or family member such as: lack of knowledge about the Australian legal system; extreme social isolation; a fear of people in positions of authority; and limited English skills.
Similarly, the experiences of their children may differ to the experiences of children in the wider community who suffer family violence, because of trauma related to their pre-migration and migration experiences, racism and discrimination, and the normalisation of certain cultural beliefs.
According Ms Avdibegovic if undertaken the recommendations would greatly enhance the capacity of CALD women and children to access effective family violence support services, and thereby assist the government to achieve its aim of combating family violence.
“While we recognise there have been a number of systematic advances in relation to assisting victims of family violence, migrant and refugee women and children still face a range of barriers and service gaps when it comes to accessing mainstream broader services” said Ms Avdibegovic.
The Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence started public hearings in Melbourne last Monday. The Victorian Government established the royal commission earlier this year, describing family violence as a national emergency.
According to crime statistics in 2013 there were 44 family violence-related deaths in Victoria and more than 65,000 family violence incidents reported to police.