Making the Links: Building Safer Pathways for Migrant and Refugee Women in Regional Victoria
Multicultural Centre For Women’s Health (VIC)
What is the project about?
Making the Links – Building Safer Pathways for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Women in Regional Victoria is an innovative and collaborative project that helps CALD women living in regional Victoria to access mainstream family and domestic violence and sexual assault services. The project is adopting MCWH’s existing successful cross-cultural training, in-language education training and resources. These resources are tailored for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) women and service providers who work with them, across five Victorian Local Government Areas (LGAs): Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, Mildura and Swan Hill.
Making the Links takes a two-pronged approach. First, the project engages relevant service providers, and builds their capacity to deliver a more culturally appropriate service. Links are forged between family violence and sexual assault services, other relevant support services not traditionally associated with family violence or sexual assault issues, and local multicultural services. Simultaneously, the project encourages CALD women to better understand family violence and sexual assault and links them to local services. Group activities, service visits and tailored education sessions are conducted by a bilingual peer educator team in women’s preferred languages, through an outreach capacity, at accessible local venues.
Action research focus
The Project identifies and reduces barriers to accessing support services for CALD women living in regional locations. The project works with existing service providers to identify and test lasting ways to work together with other services, community organisations and government agencies to ensure that CALD women experiencing violence access the support that they need.
- Ongoing evaluation and conversation with services is conducted throughout the course of the project through quarterly meetings with the advisory group and phone call meetings and face-to face meetings with services in each LGA. Project processes and findings are regularly shared with stakeholders.
- Ongoing conversations with services while raising awareness about issues affecting migrant and refugee communities in Community of Practice meetings and steering committee meetings in each LGA.
- Feedback questionnaires collected after training for service providers and before and after information sessions for community members. Project staff collected 19 feedback questionnaires from participants in service provider training in Ballarat. Staff also collected feedback forms from the 21 participants in information sessions from the Karen and Afghan communities in Bendigo.
- Consultation with community members in education sessions through a bi-lingual health educator.
- Travelling to each LGA to visit stakeholders and community groups for consultation and recording observations, conversations and suggestions on how to involve the whole community in the project.
- Consultation with community members through conducting meetings about what they want to be informed about in project sessions.
- Observation and recording findings and challenges highlighted in feedback from community members, reflections from bilingual health educators and questionnaires.
- Studying demographics in each region using online government data and local government resources.
Where was the project conducted?
The project has been conducted in
- Ballarat, in partnership with Ballarat Community Health;
- Bendigo, in collaboration with Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Service, LCCASA (Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault) and the Centre for non-violence (Loddon Campaspe Principle Strategic Advisor);
- Geelong, working with The Orange Door (Barwon Support and Safety Hub) and Barwon Principle Strategic Advisor; and
- Mildura and Swan Hill, in collaboration with Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council Inc (SMECC), Mallee Family Care Swan Hill, and the Mallee Sexual Assault Unit (MSAU), Mallee Principle Strategic Advisor.
The project has been planned and conducted in consultation with Strategic Principle Advisors in all regions.
October 2017 – June 2020
How has this project impacted communities, organisations and the region?
The project is building the capacity of the service providers to better support CALD women who access the services.
The project provides cultural and gender awareness training for family and domestic violence and sexual assault service providers, whose roles are vital in early intervention. In communities, peer educators facilitate sessions on healthy relationships, types of family violence and where to access services, in the languages preferred by women.
So far, women of Karen, Kenyan, Iranian, South Sudanese, South Sudanese-Ethiopian, Serbian, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other backgrounds have attended the sessions. They reported increased knowledge about how to seek help when confronted with abuse.
As one woman who attended the information sessions shared, “I feel confident to pass on phone numbers and contact information. I have already told Vietnamese friends about power and control and said you don’t have to live like this. I have friends worried about their visas. They think they need to stay for 4 or 5 years [with their partner].”
Through Making the Links, the LGAs have developed a plan to ensure that their services are culturally, psychologically and physically safe and supportive of the women in migrant and refugee communities. They have also developed a community and service map outlining existing migrant and refugee communities and service providers. Altogether, these provide women with clearer pathways to getting help.
What worked well?
- Building partnerships with other organisations resulted in collaboration in delivering co-facilitated sessions, which opened up opportunities for more services to meet and discuss immigrant and refugee women’s access to services. This also created trust and strengthened service relationships through working together.
- Building relationships with some of the faith communities and organising consultation sessions with them is enabling us to talk with them about the prevention of Violence Against Women, gender equality and family violence.
- Engaging community leaders and local services made it possible to reach out to the community members and involve them in education sessions.
- Conducting consultation sessions with community groups gave them a voice to decide on their needs for the education sessions and more community engagement resulted from that.
- Engaging MCWH Bilingual Health Educators made it easier to communicate with communities in their own language and understand their culture, needs and what works best for them.
- Training on intersectionality for service providers opened up discussions on looking at workplace policies that do not reflect equity and equality and on how to start reviewing the policies.
- Travelling to the regions and having face-to-face meetings with services and community members strengthened the relationship, trust and understanding of the regions.
What did not work?
Some regional services are under resourced for the extra staff hours and resources that working with other projects demands. This resulted in slower responses and some community disengagement.
What did you learn from the project?
- There is still the need to develop in-language resources for the CALD community.
- Communities should take the lead and have decision-making power over prevention activities within their communities.
- Working in the prevention space requires patience and persistence. It is best to start with the people who are ready to hear about the prevention of Violence Against Women but never stop talking to people who ‘are not ready’ – be persistent, but respectful and considerate.
- More can be done to highlight the importance of bi-lingual health educators in community work and to address their challenges and safety concerns.
Do you have suggestions for policy-makers, educators or service providers?
- The prevention of Violence against Women cannot be achieved in a short period of time and there is nothing more important that continuity in this space. A co-ordinated, structural and long-term approach is required.
- Allocate ongoing funding to recruit community members to be champions in supporting their own community for a lasting impact.
Where to from here?
- MCWH is assisting in establishing a Community of Practice with members from family violence, sexual assault, community health and legal services.
- The project team will be inviting community leaders and community members to the Community of Practice to speak about their community and identify the needs.
- The project team will be developing in-language resources in collaboration with services.
People and organisations to thank:
Mallee Sexual Assault Unit Inc. Mallee Domestic Violence Services, Ballarat Community Health, Mallee Family Care Swan Hill, Swan Hill Health District, Sunraysia Community Health, Centre for non-Violence Bendigo, InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Centre, Sunrasiya Mallee Ethnic Communities Council, Women’s Health Loddon Mallee, Bendigo Community Health Services. Principle Strategic Advisors of Barwon, Loddon Campaspe, Mallee and the Central Highlands.