Safer Pathways for CALD Women
Save the Children – Shepparton
What is the project about?
The aim of the Safer Pathways Project is to build the capacity of existing mainstream and specialist services in delivering a culturally safe, intersectional and focussed response to culturally and linguistically diverse women and their children experiencing, or at risk of, domestic and family violence and/or sexual assault. Further to this, we aim to build the capacity of CALD women and children through community engagement activities, which raise awareness of the family violence support services available.
Our project activities involve:
- working in partnership with family/domestic violence services and mainstream services in connection to the CALD community to identify gaps in service delivery and guide Professional Development;
- organising training to professionals and community members to develop their understanding and skills in working with CALD women experiencing family violence; and
- scheduling workshops/information sessions with CALD women to facilitate general conversations on gender equality, family violence, and to hear from Family and Sexual Assault support services about the role and availability of support services.
Action research focus
Our action research focusses on identifying service and training gaps and working with specialist and mainstream service providers in developing strategies for addressing these gaps. We are also engaging local CALD women to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and views regarding family violence and barriers to accessing family violence and/or sexual assault support services.
- Three interviews with specialist and mainstream service providers for our Safer Pathways Digital Story. These interviews related to learnings from training received from InTouch – Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence.
- 25 evaluations from participants across specialist and mainstream service providers that participated in training. Training focused on understanding family violence in migrant and refugee background communities.
- Ongoing engagement with stakeholders and community leaders to identify barriers and gaps in service delivery, and work towards addressing these through professional development and training.
- Surveys and informal conversations with CALD women incorporating the ‘Tree of Life’. The ‘Tree of Life’ is a metaphorical tool used in Narrative Practice to facilitate rich conversations on difficult topics, such as family violence. Participants draw their own Tree of Life, and each week we discuss some of the challenges in the women’s lives and different ways to respond. Specialist and mainstream services are invited to the workshops to provide information on their role and support available.
- Observation from the project team of project activities and critical reflection after activities.
- Critical reflection about community members’ pathways to family violence support.
During the rest of the project, we plan to deliver four workshops with approximately 10-15 participants in each group. Pre- and post-workshop surveys and interviews will be used to gather information about understanding and awareness on family violence, gender equality and available support services.
Where was the project conducted?
The project was conducted in Shepparton, Victoria.
October 2017 – June 2020
How has this project impacted communities, organisations and the region?
Our project has impacted the community through:
- bridging the gap between service providers and CALD women by incorporating information sessions during workshops; and
- benefitting organisations through CALD-specific family violence training, which has increased their awareness and understanding of issues specific to CALD women and children experiencing or at risk of Family Violence and enabled them to deliver a service system response with an intersectional focus.
What worked well?
- scheduling and facilitating workshops/information sessions for CALD women;
- receiving support from local organisations for the Safer Pathways project and Digital Story;
- having strong input from a bicultural project worker who could bring knowledge from lived experience and an in-depth understanding of communities to the process of community engagement; and
- developing a positive and collaborative relationship with an Afghani community leader, in particular, who has helped with engaging CALD women and delivering workshops/information sessions.
What did not work?
There has been limited time available to build relationships with CALD women. Despite our best efforts, there are also frequent delays and lapses in communication with relevant organisations, which has prevented aspects of the project from progressing.
There have been challenges as a result of a change in project staff and limited research done in the earlier stages of the project. This has created difficulties as we are limited in the number of community members we can engage within the time left in the project. As a result, our findings may not necessarily reflect the understandings and experiences of all the women in the communities with which we are working.
Due to limited earlier research, it is also more difficult for our project to build on previous knowledge that may have identified gaps in knowledge and service delivery to address.
What did you learn from the project?
- Positive and empowering language is important when discussing sensitive topics such as Family Violence and Sexual Assault.
- Services need to foster a greater understanding of collectivist values that some members of CALD communities hold and the challenges that collectivist values, such as family and community bonds, respect, and honour, pose for CALD women accessing services. Collectivist values may also prioritise family and community bonds over individual rights.
- Strong family and community bonds can also enable support for women who have experienced violence.
- Working from an intersectional framework can enable service providers to better understand the worldviews of CALD women and address barriers to their access to services. This is particularly important because some CALD women understand their experiences of family violence in the context of their pre-migration and migration experiences. For example, a woman may recognise family violence is wrong, but perceive persecution and war in her country of origin and a difficult migration experience as greater threats to her safety.
- CALD women are unable to access important information regarding available family violence support services. This is due to limited opportunities to receive the information in an environment and communication style that is comfortable for CALD women, such as through small gatherings and workshops, generalised conversations and indirect questioning.
- There are mutual benefits to collaborating with organisations as we have increased the shared understanding of our roles and the service system changes required to support CALD women and children.
- Further learning from the project includes the impact of forced marriage, dowry abuse and family abuse on some members of CALD communities. Some women experience multi-perpetrator abuse, threats to safety, and are ostracised by their family if they challenge cultural practices surrounding marriage. In this context, some women also experience significant mental health issues and require greater support around these issues.
Do you have suggestions for policy- makers, educators and service providers?
There is a need for service providers to build their knowledge of the collectivist values held by some CALD community members, such as family and community bonds and family honour, to enable more culturally safe practice. In our observation, organisations sometimes draw on theories, such as Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” (Maslow, 1943), which have an emphasis on individual rights and goals, to motivate action to safeguard women’s safety. These theories can cause challenges when they are put into practice as some women’s values may not necessarily fit neatly within these individualist theoretical frameworks. It would be more valuable to understand safety in this context within a collective framework, and work towards ‘community responsibility’, as an alternative to imposing individualistic definitions on concepts of safety.
This highlights the need for greater understanding and recognition of the challenges and tensions service providers face when negotiating between collectivist values, safety and risk, and the individual rights of women and children. Service providers require more support to undertake critical reflective practice to manage these tensions, and increase their understanding of the various worldviews informing CALD women’s families, values and beliefs.
Policy makers need to consider the multiple forms of oppression that migrant and refugee women living with family violence experience. For example, the oppressive nature of family violence is reinforced by visa policies that do not meet every woman’s needs. Visa policies, particularly for those on partner visas and temporary visas, may prevent women from disclosing family violence, place them in a more vulnerable position and increase risks to their safety. Women who are on partner visas experiencing family violence have greater risks to their safety, as they are unable to access social support services that women with permanent residency can.
There need to be more culturally safe crisis services available to support women experiencing the complex intersection between issues of forced marriage, dowry abuse, multi-perpetrator abuse and family violence. There is a need for mental health support services to build on their knowledge of the adverse impacts of these issues. More research is also needed to better understand the impact of family obligations on the rights and safety of young people experiencing forced marriage and dowry abuse.
Where to from here?
The project will continue to June 2020. We are developing community champions as well as champions in organisations. We are planning to work with organisations in developing basic tool kits and resources so that they can continue to develop champions beyond staff changes, making the program sustainable into the future.
We will continue to work with service providers to identify gaps in service delivery and work towards addressing these with relevant training.
In addition, we are engaging with CALD women in Shepparton, with the goal of building CALD women’s capacity to be informed of, and, access support services. We will continue to work with community leaders to provide appropriate support to community organisations so that they can circulate information about crisis and support services.
People and organisations to thank:
Primary Care Connect – Kim Scott
Greater Shepparton City Council – Sarmed Yassin
Family Care – Lyn Hewson
Community Hubs -Gowrie Street and St Georges road
Our biggest thank you to the CALD women in the community – we would like to acknowledge their incredible resilience.
Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370-396.