A new alliance has formed in Victoria that will aim to address family violence in multicultural communities and seek funding for culturally-specific support services.
The Multicultural Alliance of Women Against Family Violence launched today at Parliament of Victoria and comprises multicultural family violence organisations, advocates, academics and community members from Victoria’s culturally diverse communities.
The alliance has formed in response to the lack of awareness and action being taken around family violence in Victoria’s culturally diverse communities.
Despite record investment in the family violence sector on the back of the Royal Commission, multicultural communities and support services continue to be under-resourced in Victoria. For instance, while NSW has several and QLD recently set up its first, Victoria currently has no culturally specific women’s refuges for women escaping family violence.
Because of this, many women from multicultural communities experiencing family violence are unable to access the support they need, as there are a number of specific issues they face that require specific support. This includes isolation, immigration abuse, post-conflict trauma and violence and forced marriage.
And without access to tailored support, the consequences can be dire. In 2020, there was a Whittlesea cluster of suicides linked to migrant women who were experiencing family violence and isolation. And just this year there was the tragic news that a mother and her daughter were murdered in Mill Park in an act of family violence.
After the Whittlesea cluster of suicides, the Victorian Coroner recommended that the Department of Health identify opportunities to improve South Asian women’s access to support services, yet very little has happened since.
The Multicultural Alliance of Women Against Family Violence hopes that by bringing together key experts and organisations in the field, as well as impassioned community members, they can amplify their advocacy and work to ensure more state and federal support for what is too often ignored when it comes to addressing family violence.
In her opening address at the launch event held at the Parliament of Victoria on Wednesday, May 11, alliance member Dr Sabitra Kaphle said, “Any woman can become a victim of family violence in any stage of their life – regardless of their backgrounds, culture or colour.
“I don’t want our young girls to grow and live in fear of being abused or victimised while making decisions about their relationships. I believe that the alliance will give a safe space and opportunity for all women to work together to end all forms of violence against women.”, Dr Kaphle added.
Saleha Singh, alliance member and President of Indian Care, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to address the welfare and wellbeing needs of people of South Asian origin living in Victoria, told NRI Affairs, “The needs of our community are wide and diverse and one shoe doesn’t fit all. It’s time for the government to have a closer look at what multicultural women are going through and set up culturally appropriate refuges with in-language support to tackle this insidious problem.”
Molina Asthana, National President of the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, stressed that the Government support for family violence initiatives needs to be nuanced for women of multicultural backgrounds. She said, “Lawyers of diverse backgrounds also need to be consulted in the drafting and amending of legislation that deals with family violence and violence against women so that these nuances can be understood.
“The implementation of this legislation should take into account the impact it may have on the victims’ legal rights not only in Australia but their country of origin, if they are a migrant, and how isolation and family structures play a role in them accessing support.”, Asthana added.
“Family violence is equally devastating across cultures, but the idiom of family violence is culturally shaped. To prevent and address family violence, services need to be culturally literate.”, Professor Supriya Singh said in her address.
The event was hosted by Samantha Ratnam, MP and the Leader of the Victorian Greens, who is also a member of the alliance. Kaushaliya Vaghela, first Indian-born member of the Victorian Parliament, was also present to support the initiative.
The initiative has received support from a broad spectrum of Victorian Members of Parliament. MPs present at the launch included Fiona Patten, Bruce Atkinson, Bronwyn Halfpenny, Wendy Lovell, Will Fowles, Katie Hall, Clifford Hayes, Gayle Tierney, Suzanna Sheed, Peter Walsh and Cathrine Burnett-Wake.