New Alliance Amplifies Voice of Migrant and Refugee Women
12 October 2017 at 8:36 am
Issues affecting refugee and migrant women are set to be championed by a new national women’s alliance being backed by not for profits from across Australia.
The Harmony Alliance: Migrant and Refugee Women for Change, led by the Migration Council of Australia, was launched in Adelaide on Wednesday.
The policy and strategy body aims to consult with migrant and refugee women nationally to bring about positive change on the issues that affect them.
The work will be carried out by an inaugural Alliance Council, which comprises community representatives and organisations that either represent or work with migrant and refugee women.
Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of not for profit Settlement Services International (SSI), which is on the council, told Pro Bono News it was the culmination of several years of advocacy by women’s groups across Australia.
“For many years immigrant women and refugee women have seen the benefit of having a national structure that can really amplify their voices, from the grassroots up, influencing policy both domestically and internationally,” Roumeliotis said.
“There has been different permeations of organisations over the past three decades but for different reasons, usually policy shifts by federal government that have defunded those national structures, we haven’t really had anything significant for the past five years.
“Those of us who have been in the sector a long time have really been talking to a number of stakeholders and to government to try and reestablish some sort of alliance that really amplifies grassroot women voices, immigrant and refugee women.
“So we are so thrilled that this has now happened.”
She said it was “really important” that the particular needs of immigrant and refugee women could be identified and addressed.
“It goes to the heart of access and equity issues really,” Roumeliotis said.
“Immigrant and refugee women have the same issues as all women, [but] there are certain things that can exacerbate those issues for them, so if you are a refugee woman, obviously being able to get access to information around health, around qualifications, childcare so you can actually retrain or get a job, all of that is exacerbated if you don’t know the service system and your english is not good.
“So there are some vulnerabilities and deficiencies that with some intervention… [can] rectify it and then they go on to lead great lives and meet their full potential.”
She said the establishment of the alliance marked a “critical first step” to migrant and refugee women taking the lead in conversations with decision makers about the issues that directly affect them.
“Whether that be employment, education or health and wellbeing,” she said.
“Migrant and refugee women have always been active within the Australian community, and there is strong appetite for community representatives themselves to advance migrant and refugee women’s participation in economic, social, cultural, civic and political life.
“The formation of a policy and strategy body just amplifies the reach of those voices, enabling migrant and refugee women to better engage in driving change.”
The alliance is supported through the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy, and is now one of six National Women’s Alliances that give voice to women, particularly those from marginalised or disadvantaged groups.
Roumeliotis said it was important to have an alliance that worked in with other women’s alliances.
“There are a number of gender issues that go across the board, and collectively our voices can be amplified as women,” she said.
“It is important that there is a mechanism where you can actually address those systemic and policy issues and collectively find solutions.”
Minister for Women Senator Michaelia Cash, who launched the alliance, said it would amplify the voices of Australia’s migrant and refugee women.
“The Harmony Alliance will empower migrant women to directly influence the issues that impact on their safety, health and wellbeing, and their economic empowerment,” Cash said.
“Removing barriers to inclusion and participation has both economic and social benefits and as a society we become enriched with the knowledge and experience of these women.”
The launch coincided with the International Day of the Girl Child.
Cash said the day marked a chance to reflect on the future being built for young women.
“The International Day of the Girl Child recognises endemic issues which prevent young women and girls around the world from living lives of equal opportunity,” Cash said.
“Increasing women’s participation in the workplace is a key driver of equality. I am so proud today that a record number of women are in work in Australia and that female workforce participation, for the first time in our nation’s history, has reached 60 per cent.”