Migrant Women’s Advocacy Service, Tasmania
I recently attended a focus group organised by the Migration Council to seek information about the issues of migrant women in accessing the justice system of Australia. Through this session, I learned from the participants that there is a gap in services for migrant women. I was particularly moved by the experience of one woman who spoke of the difficulty in accessing various services and her anxiousness in seeking assistance from her own community. By the end of the session, I was determined to do something for migrant women and the Advocacy Service was born.
I initially met with the CEO of Women’s Legal Service, Susan Fey and the CEO of the Migrant Resource Centre, Alison O’Neill to discuss this prospect of creating the advocacy service. I then discussed this matter with Hon Elise Archer, Speaker of the Senate and the Premier of Tasmania, Hon Will Hodgman during the launching of the State Plan Against Violence of Women and Children. Through my discussion with various stakeholders, it was apparent that the Advocacy Service for Migrant Women is a service that is badly needed by the community. The service providers I spoke to all agreed that it is high time that this kind of service is created. They mentioned that although they have services for migrant women, it is lacking in that often times there is lack of cultural understanding. They also stated that some migrant women are sometimes confused due to the vastness of services that are offered to them; they sometimes do not understand what the services mean to them. It was mentioned that it would be helpful if there is an advocate for the women so that it will assist them in understanding the many ways and byways of accessing the various services.
So, on the 14th of August, the Migrant Women’s Advocacy Service, Tasmania (MWASTAS) was formed to promote the safety of migrant women
who have experienced or at risk of domestic violence. The Service will be the focal point of contact for migrant women for information, referral, assessment, safety planning, short term/crisis counselling and assistance for the access to government and non-government services.
Tasmania and Northern Territory are the only states that did not have this kind of specific service to migrant women. There are services for migrant women in various areas of the mainstream service providers, however, there is no specific group or organisation that caters for migrant women. In addition to this, migrant women are mostly not aware of the services that these service providers are offering due to the lack of linkage. It is envisaged that MWASTAS will provide this link by working closely together with relevant organisations.
I was pleased to see that the women who attended the meeting all agreed that the Service is needed in the community. Hon Lara Giddings, Shadow Attorney General and Shadow Minister of Women attended this meeting together with the CEO of Women’s Legal Service, Susan Fey who hosted the meeting by providing the lunch and venue. Hon Giddings suggested that the Service can be positioned in such a way that women’s voice are heard particularly about domestic violence. She further added that through this Service, government policies can be influenced. Ms Fey added that the Service will be of great benefit to the community, government and other organisations particularly in addressing domestic violence. She cited an example where she had difficulty previously in finding a focal point of contact to get information on migrant women who have experienced domestic violence. It is envisaged therefore, that MWASTAS will improve the ability to gain information on the issues and experiences of migrant women regarding domestic violence and other issues that affect them.
Attendees from eight different countries of Fiji, India, Philippines, Nepal, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Bangladesh were enthusiastic of the prospect of the Service. Apologies were received from the Chinese and Sri Lankan community.
I have created a facebook page called “Migrant Women’s Advocacy Service, Tasmania” as a means to interact with the women and the community.
The next meeting will be held on Saturday, 12 September at 1pm at the Women’s Health Centre as a means to Meet and Greet other Migrant Women in Southern Tasmania. This meeting will be a sharing of culture and experiences through sharing of cuisine since food seems to bring people together.
Migrant Women’s Advocacy Service, Tasmania