New study reveals reform for migrant and refugee women’s safety is needed

The findings of a nationwide survey are drawing a nuanced picture of what reality is like for migrant and  refugee women in Australia, focusing on their experiences of violence, victimisation, perceptions of  policing and trust in communities and institutions. 

Migrant and Refugee Women in Australia: The Safety and Security Study will be released today by  Harmony Alliance and Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre at a National Press Club address.  

Drawing on responses from around 1400 women across Australia, surveyed amid the 2020 pandemic, the  study offers key insights to inform policy and practice that may best support migrant and refugee women  into the future. 

Chair of Harmony Alliance, Ms Nyuon said the timing of the study is critical as the findings are directly  relevant to the current development of the next National Plan to end family, domestic and sexual  violence in Australia. 

“It is acutely important that our policy makers carefully consider the findings – and implications thereof – of this significant study of migrant and refugee women’s safety and security.” 

The study holds national and international significance. It is the first national study that captures the  diversity of migrant and refugee women, including residency and visa status, in relation to their safety  and security. It is also among a handful of surveys in the world to comprehensively focus on migrant and  refugee women’s experiences with victimisation, perceptions of policing, and trust in communities and  institutions. 

Ms Nyuon said, “Some of the report’s findings echo the experiences of Australian born women. Others  speak to the unique experiences of migrant and refugee women, although there are important  intergenerational differences.” 

The study revealed that 1 in 3 respondents had experienced some form of domestic and family violence  (DFV), with controlling behaviours being the most prevalent form of DFV followed by violence towards  others and/or property and physical or sexual violence. More than half of the women in the sample had  experienced at least two types of harm. Temporary visa holders consistently reported proportionately  higher levels of DFV, including controlling behaviours and migration-related abuse and threats.

Ms Nyuon said, “This is an important finding, requiring policy makers to move beyond the fragmented  supports for women on temporary visas and towards more structural reform that truly prioritises women’s  safety, regardless of the visa they hold.” 

Another striking trend across the survey is the generational differences in relation to trust in institutions.  Significantly, not only do younger women lack trust in so-called ‘mainstream’ organisations, this cohort in  the study also reported lower trust in institutions within or close to their own communities, with nearly a  third of participants aged under 44 years reporting no trust in religious institutions. 

Ms Nyuon said, “This necessitates careful rethinking of the reliance on religious leaders as community  touchstones and key sources of information and support.”  

“The finding also suggests that there is far more complexity around the sense of belonging and the sense  of home while often feeling rejected and isolated.” 

“It is our sincere hope that the significant findings of the study are used to inform the development of  comprehensive and inclusive responses that may best support migrant and refugee women,” Ms Nyuon  concluded. 

Harmony Alliance is one of six National Women’s Alliances working to promote theviews of all Australian women, to ensure our voices are heard in decision-making processes.

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