Migrant women to lead way against family violence

Natalie Hutchins. Photo: Supplied

Westside women are rising. A plan to train 12 women to lead multicultural communities marred by domestic violence has been put to the government.

Westside Women Rising will be auspiced by the Migrant Resource Centre North West Region, which has applied for a $100,000 human services department grant to train women to be the voices and guides of people suffering family violence.

It will encourage women of Bosnian, Turkish, Macedonian, Vietnamese, Horn of African and Samoan backgrounds to take on leadership roles after completing a four-day workshop and 12 information sessions to help them identify different forms of family violence.

MRC volunteer co-ordinator and access support worker Arzu Kayhan said the specific needs of multicultural women in the western suburbs are compounded by cultural and religious factors.

“[These] act as systemic barriers to services in the community,” Ms Kayhan said.

“Multicultural women are far less likely to report violence than their Anglo-Australian counterparts, due to limited English skills and lack of education about services, cultural and religious beliefs, fear of authority, and financial dependence on their husbands.”

“[The program] will allow the women to be the key component of breaking down the cultural barriers, as well as the first point of contact for women and children in accessing information, gaining knowledge.

“We want them trained, prepared and linked to available services. They become somebody the community can trust.”

Anecdotal evidence from MRC staff found there was a lack of knowledge about the help and support available to women.

“In the five-year period from 2009 to 2014, the rate of reported family violence has increased by 66 per cent,” the group’s grant application states.

“Of the 9045 reports of family violence made in Brimbank in this period, children were present in more than 30 per cent of those cases.”

This comes as Sydenham MP Natalie Hutchins told the Star Weekly one or two new people call her office each week seeking help with domestic violence issues.

The MRC will hold a domestic violence forum to coincide with International Women’s Day in March next year via a $9000 grant from Brimbank council.

The forum will feature a panel of culturally and linguistically diverse women from Victoria Police, service and crisis agencies, plus contributions from survivors.

More than 10 per cent of the latest round of the council’s community strengthening grants have gone to family violence projects, seven of which received $41,911 from a pool of $330,045.

with Sarah Black