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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.



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Safer Pathways for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Women in Townsville

Townsville Multicultural Support Group (TMSG)


What is the project about?

The Safer Pathways for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Women Program (SPW) is a Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) and sexual assault primary prevention program that explores how understandings of human rights by men and women of CALD backgrounds influences women’s safety and settlement in Australia. The program is based on the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and TMSG’s linkage funded project, The Meanings of Rights Across Cultures: An Exploration of the Interpretation of the Human Rights Framework in Refugee Settlement. The SPW Program utilises the Human Rights Training Package, developed to provide education to people from CALD backgrounds on human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights.


The SPW program’s overarching aim was to support CALD women and men living in Townsville, regional Queensland, that are experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, DFV and sexual assault to be informed and able to access the support that they need. Through the SPW program we aimed to:

  • address barriers CALD women face when accessing mainstream DFV and sexual assault services and increase the capacity of service providers to work more effectively with refugee and migrant women and men;
  • build the capacity of CALD communities so they can take leadership over prevention activities in their community and recognize, respond and refer DFV and sexual assault cases to support services;
  • contribute to positive settlement outcomes for refugees through exploring interpretations of human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights in refugee settlement;
  • address the gendered drivers of violence against women in migrant and refugee communities including promoting and normalizing gender equality, women’s independence and decision making while strengthening positive, equal and respectful relationships; and
  • challenge language or behaviour that condones violence against women.

Action research focus

The Action Research element of the SPW program will explore how understandings of human rights influence women’s safety and settlement in Australia. By providing educational opportunities to CALD communities about DFV from a human rights framework we will work to determine and address the:

  • service barriers encountered by people in culturally and linguistically diverse communities who have/are experiencing DFV – difficulties and unconscious biases that community organisations may have in engaging with people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities;
  • understand the client’s perspectives about the gendered drivers of violence against women; and
  • identify how many people in culturally and linguistically diverse communities have experienced or are experiencing DFV and their experiences of seeking support in Townsville.

The Action Research has included a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods including: the collection of demographic data, pre-and-post-training feedback forms, trainers’ reports, observations, anecdotal evidence, and interviews with trainers and a random selection of participants. This data will be subject to thematic analysis.

Research and project activities

There were seven major components of this project: Train the Trainer, Train the Service Provider, Worker Exchange, Reference Group, Forums, Digital Story and community-led engagement activities. These activities are described, below.

Train the Trainer:
  • Ten culturally and linguistically diverse community members were recruited, employed and trained as Community Human Rights Trainers (Trainers).
  • Trainers delivered education sessions on human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights and DFV to their communities in their first language.
  • All of the Trainers came to Australia as migrants or refugees and were able to add culturally relevant examples that helped participants connect with the project.
  • Trainers delivered 3 sessions each to 13 different cultural groups. This encompassed 220 participants from 29 different countries of origin and 31 different languages.
  • Sessions were divided into men’s and women’s groups so participants were able to speak openly and ask questions in a safe space.
  • Trainers acted as co-researchers and contributed to the design of the program, data collection tools and the collection of data across their training groups. After completing the training sessions, Trainers became mentors in their communities.
Train the Service Provider:
  • Training was delivered to six different organisations about working with people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and DFV, including bystander intervention and becoming an accidental helper after a disclosure of violence.
  • Organisations were asked to make a commitment to cultural inclusion by incorporating a cultural inclusion policy into their policies and procedures. These organisations were provided with a Safe Place Poster in multiple languages to demonstrate that they are a welcoming and inclusive service.
  • This initiative came out of extensive community consultation where many participants from the training program reported feeling that they are not treated with dignity and respect when they access mainstream support services.
Worker Exchange:
  • Developed in conjunction with the North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service (NQDVRS), TMSG and NQDVRS completed a worker exchange to increase knowledge and awareness of each service.
  • Six staff from each organisation exchange places for a day to experience what it is like to work in each service.
  • This mutual learning experience equipped both services with a better understanding of working in the multicultural sector and of frontline DFV support.
Reference Group:
  • A working group was established to act as a local advisory committee to support and oversee the program.
  • The reference group was made up of representatives from TAFE North, North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, Sera’s Women’s Shelter, Diversicare, the Department of Human Services and multicultural community members and leaders.
  • The reference group provided advice in regards to effective ways of co-designing the action research, barrier mapping and working through challenges.
  • Two forums were delivered with key services and culturally and linguistically diverse community members to exchange learnings and provide a platform for community consultation.
  • The first forum was held on Harmony Day (21/03/2019) at the Museum of Tropical Queensland. This event was attended by the North Queensland Hindi Society, Indonesian society, Diversicare, Amnesty International, TMSG, Anti-Discrimination Council of Queensland and engaged people from all different cultures and backgrounds.
  • Running the forum in conjunction with Harmony Day developed a sustainable model that will be able to be continued beyond the funding of the Safer Pathways Program.
Digital Story:
  • A short video overview of the Safer Pathways for CALD women program was developed to provide an accessible and clear message to multicultural communities that it is okay to speak out against DFV.
  • Titled: Speak Out: Safety is Your Right; the video looks at the importance of seeking help if you or someone you know is experiencing DFV.
Community Engagement Activities:
  • A series of community engagement activities were run as a bridging step to help participants learn more about DFV, available support services and help participants build confidence to access them.
  • Activities included craft events, International Women’s Day and family fun days with DFV services.
  • These activities helped build collaboration between organisations.


Where was the project conducted?

Townsville, North Queensland.


Time frame:

November 2018 – June 2020


How has this project impacted communities, organisations and the region?

The SPW program has had a significant impact on the main refugee and migrant groups in Townsville including, but not limited to, Congolese, Somali, Filipino, Indonesian, Karen, Papua New Guinean, and people from the Central African Republic. By working with women and men of the different cultural groups the SPW program has increased education about DFV, sexual assault and how settlement in a new country can change traditional gender roles.

From this program, women have reported feeling more confident to ask for help when dealing with DFV and access support services independently. The Women’s Centre and NQDVRS have reported an increase in CALD clientele seeking support for DFV and sexual assault since the training and have also reported feeling more confident to access interpreters.

Through the provision of training to TMSG staff and other organisations, more services have a greater awareness of the prevalence of DFV in Australia and are feeling confident to respond if a CALD client disclosed family violence.


What worked well?

A key success factor overall in the Safer Pathways program was that the program built and extended relationships with existing multicultural communities and emerging communities. By employing members of the community to deliver the information and training sessions, participants felt comfortable in attending the sessions and were able to develop and adapt the sessions and materials to meet their communities’ needs. As this was a community-led program, participants were able to pick an accessible time and location for the training.

Using a gentle approach, such as craft activities, meant that clients were slowly able to transition into discussions about DFV and could engage with the information. Framing the sessions as human rights training sessions meant clients were more open to attending as the material engaged them with the program at the right level.


What did not work?

Over the projects there were several challenges. One of the main challenges was that the Human Rights Training Package resources developed by UNSW were not translated into all the relevant languages and due to a lack of funding we were unable to have them translated. Although this was a big challenge the Trainers still delivered the training in the group’s first language and helped with the translation of the materials.

Another challenge revolved around some of the trainers being younger then the participants. These trainers were criticized by some participants for not having enough experience to understand issues around women’s rights or children’s rights.

Finally, some community groups were experiencing community fatigue from being targeted for “too many” information sessions. This caused some participants to withdraw from the program.


What did you learn from the project?

  • Primary prevention work needs to be community led and more work needs to occur at the community/family and school level.
  • More work needs to be done with DFV service providers and community organisations to ensure CALD clients feel safe and supported to access their services.
  • It is important to engage with men to stop misinterpretations of human rights to justify disrespect and violence against women.
  • Programs need to stem from an intersectional approach, be flexible and willing to change and adapt. Respect and compromise are essential!
  • Sessions need to be framed in a context other than DFV so participants do not feel targeted.
  • It is important to emphasise that there is no cultural excuse for violence against women.


Do you have suggestions for policy-makers, educators and service planners?

  • Primary prevention projects need a longer term of delivery to ensure significant changes to attitudes and behaviours that contribute to violence against women are addressed at a community level.
  • Primary prevention programs need to be community-led and programs need to be budgeted to include incomes of community members that contribute heavily to the program.
  • More work needs to be done with police to ensure a culturally safe and trauma informed response when attending call outs for DFV.
  • Phone numbers and links to websites need to be made more accessible for local DFV services on the Department of Social Services – Family Safety Pack website. Women reported that they had trouble accessing DFV services information, including 1800RESPECT, and preferred to seek services in-person. Some of the reasons for this include concerns for safety as their technology use can be traced and discomfort due to language barriers. They also mentioned that information about DFV services was difficult to access in the resources they received on arrival and that knowledge of these services was not common in their communities.


Where to from here?

TMSG has made a strong commitment to continue to work on issues surrounding DFV and has incorporated the lessons learned from the SPW program across all programs, policies and procedures. We have made strong partnerships with community groups and organisations and these will continue to be built upon through other programs at TMSG. Finally, three of the CHRT have been employed as Bicultural Support Workers at TMSG and will continue to act as mentors in their communities to help raise awareness about DFV and support members of multicultural communities to speak up about violence against women.


People and organisations to thank:

This project would not be possible without the community members who generously participated in the human rights training and provided their feedback and recommendations to the program. We would also like to thank the Community Human Rights Trainers and the members of the Safer Pathways Reference Group representing: TMSG, North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service, TAFE North, Department of Human Services, Sera’s Women’s Shelter, Diversicare, Townsville Intercultural Centre, and Community Leaders from the Townsville Congolese, Somali and Karen communities. Finally, we would like to thank TMSG Management Committee, Staff and volunteers and the Australian Government Department of Social Services.

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