Multicultural experts are concerned women and children from linguistically diverse backgrounds have been ignored in the State Government’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Dr Irene Bouzo, executive officer of the Ethnic Community Council of Victoria, said the limitations in the commission’s report relate to bilingual support services and early intervention strategies.
“The report has overlooked the language barrier that is preventing incidents from being reported and the stresses these families feel post-migration,” she said.
“More focus is needed on the root causes of domestic violence in migrant communities: lack of education about human rights and the language barrier that exists for victims.”
Pasanna Mutha, policy manager of Women’s Legal Service Victoria, also raised concerns about the awareness of domestic violence in culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
“It’s worrying for the women who cannot gain access to quality interpreters. Imagine being stuck in a violent relationship and not being heard or having a way to seek help.”
A media advisor for Robin Scott, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, said through the Royal Commission they are aware that their services are not adequately responding to the problems.
The Andrews Government has committed $2 million over two years to support women and children from culturally diverse communities who are experiencing or may be vulnerable to family violence.
Ms Mutha said: “There is a lack of funding for quality interpreting services, the biggest challenge is catering for the increasing amount of small language groups in Victoria.”
The report found Victoria is one of Australia’s most linguistically diverse states with 26.2 per cent of the population being born overseas from over 200 different countries.
Molly O’Shaughnessy, general manager of Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre, said the language barrier is creating communication challenges for victims, preventing them from getting help.
“Addressing the communication issues for victims is the first step in creating awareness on family violence, this will promote a broader and safer message throughout the community,” she said.
“A lot of these incidents occur in small CALD communities where everyone knows one another, so there are also social and religious reasons that prevent victims from seeking help.”
Dr Bouzo also believes strong family dependence and religious beliefs in CALD communities are preventing victims of family violence from accessing aid services.
The report indicates correctly educating faith leaders will allow them to reach out and engage with victims to help them approach family violence aid providers.
“Victims feel uncomfortable going to the police, they instead go to faith leaders and sometimes the leaders try to resolve the issue without intervention and the problem goes unreported,” she said.
The report also identifies that faith leaders occupy a position of authority within their communities and may have the ability to change the behaviours of perpetrators.
Dr Bouzo said the family dynamic changes upon arrival to Australia and there can be a gender role change which leads to a loss of male domestic dominance within the household.
“Feedback shows these incidents among ethnically diverse communities are not normal behaviours of the perpetrators and they can be associated with migration stresses.”
“The ECCV is very pleased with the report commissioned by the government and look forward to the implementation of the recommendations,” she said.
Ms O’Shaughnessy praised former Victoria Police commissioners Christine Nixon and Ken Lay, identifying their work as influential to the government’s stance on family violence.
“Victoria currently has a once in a lifetime opportunity to tackle family violence and finally put an end to the unnecessary destruction that it brings to our community.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing or suffering with mental health issues contact Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14 or through www.lifeline.org.au
Similarly if you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, and/or domestic or family violence call 1800RESPECT or visit www.1800respect.org.au for information and support.