Helping prevent family violence in migrant communities

Helping prevent family violence in migrant communities

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

A two-year project involving Victoria’s migrant communities has found it is often difficult for first generation Australians to get the legal help they need to help prevent family violence.

To help overcome this problem, Victoria Legal Aid has launched a new training package for organisations which help migrants settle in Victoria and local legal services to use.

Victoria Legal Aid family violence program manager Ms Leanne Sinclair said the training will increase awareness of Australian laws and build stronger connections in the community to help keep families safe.

‘We know that, without the support of earlier generations, new arrivals may not know where they can get help and are often unaware of laws within their new country,’ Ms Sinclair said.

‘By supporting settlement workers and local legal service providers to deliver the training, we can help increase knowledge of family violence and provide more effective support early on.’

The training package was developed through Victoria Legal Aid’s Settled and Safe project, which worked with community organisations in Dandenong, Morwell, Shepparton, Ringwood and Melbourne.

The project found that:

  • people from new and emerging communities find it difficult to understand the legal system and do not generally access legal services
  • many people starting new lives in Victoria arrive from countries with very different laws and systems governing family relationships and family violence
  • adjusting to a new life in Australia is often challenging and puts family relationships under pressure, and this is heightened where families have experienced trauma and dislocation.

Settled and Safe has involved communities from Iraq, South Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Burma. It was funded through the Legal Services Board Grants Program.

‘Legal problems often arise just from simple misunderstandings about Australian law, which then spiral because people don’t know their rights or where to get help,’ Ms Sinclair said.

‘By working with settlement organisations we have been able to get people through the door – people who might not have received legal advice. It has also helped our lawyers learn a lot more about the clients we are representing.’

The training package includes stories tailored to specific communities, using different family contexts and scenarios to unpack sensitive issues around family violence, parenting and separation, and child protection.

Samantha Ratnam of Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre said that Spectrum supported Settled and Safe because it wanted to improve the capacity of its staff to respond to complex client needs.

‘What we find is that after the first three to five years, relationship issues and family dynamics start to change,’ she said. ‘Children are growing up in a culture that is very different to their parents, and that is when clashes arise, with totally different cultural expectations and demands from each side.’

About the project

Read the transcript

More information

For more information about the project see Settled and Safe or call Family Violence Education Co-ordinator Allyson Foster on (03) 9269 0467.

Was this helpful?