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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.


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Efficacy of current university policies: Representations of and responses to international female students experiencing intimate partner violence


Facing intersectional disadvantage(s), international female students like migrant and refugee women from different cultural backgrounds are vulnerable to intimate partner violence (IPV). The difficulties inherent in moving and settling in to a new environment, loss of social networks, lack of economic independence, lack of knowledge about support systems and fear of deportation if they report the IPV further compound the risk of IPV. This may be especially the case of international female students who come on a spouse visa with male partners who may try to reassert power through controlling behaviour and violence. These students are at greater risk of IPV. And yet, there is a lack of culturally responsive support service systems in place that could cater to the needs of these students in ways that promote social justice and human rights.


This project aims to explore how university policy discourses and key policy informants address international students’ wellbeing in relation to IPV. In doing so, the proposed study also seeks to inform university policy, procedures and support systems to cater to the needs of international female students experiencing IPV.


The study aims to invite 24 international student representatives and nine university policy informants (working in international student support services) from three public universities – the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University – for semi-structured interviews.

Grounded in feminist theory, this qualitative study will be guided by an integrated ecological framework and intersectionality theory.

The data will be collected in three phases:
1. critical discourse analysis of university policy documents to investigate how university policy discourses address international female students' wellbeing on IPV issues
2. semi-structured interviews with 24 international female student representatives
3. semi-structured interviews with nine key policy informants
The same set of questions will be asked of participants in phases 2 and 3 for triangulation purposes.

The data collected will be then analysed by using NVivo/ATLAS.ti software.


This project will add new knowledge on policy discourses affecting international female students’ wellbeing. It will identify specific needs of international female students from different cultural backgrounds and help shape university policy language to be inclusive of international female students’ wellbeing. Additionally, this study will inform university support services in order to make them more accessible to international female students to report IPV.

Project start date

June 2019

Expected completion date

September 2023
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