Saturday, 26 December 2015

ASPIRE: A multi-site community-based participatory research project to increase understanding of the dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women in Australia



One in three women around the world are or have been subjected to violence. This includes in Australia, where violence against women is an urgent public health and human rights issue. Immigrant and refugee women who have resettled in Australia are known to face barriers accessing services aimed at preventing and responding to family violence. However there is little evidence about the contexts, nature and dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women to inform appropriate responses to enhance their safety and well-being. The ASPIRE project will address this gap by identifying opportunities for the development of responsive local and community-based interventions for family violence against immigrant and refugee women, contributing to the currently limited Australian research in this area.


This participatory research project will work with communities in eight geographic locations (two inner-city, three outer-suburban, and three regional) across two states (Victoria and Tasmania), to generate evidence about immigrant and refugee women’s experiences in a range of settings. The project will engage stakeholders and communities through extensive consultation prior to data collection and by facilitating community members’ participation in generating and analysing data. A mix of qualitative methods will be used to generate rich data about the family, cultural and place-based contexts that shape the prevalence and dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women; women’s prevention and help-seeking efforts; and community attitudes about and responses to violence across a range of cultural groups. Methods include in-depth interviews with women who have experienced family violence, key informant interviews with local community service providers, focus group discussions with men and women from predominant cultural groups that have migrated to areas covered by the research sites, and Photovoice with community leaders. Bilingual health educators will contribute to development of the research approach, the collection and analysis of data, and the dissemination of findings.


Findings from this two-year study will be disseminated to communities, service providers and policy-makers, providing evidence to inform culturally-appropriate prevention and support interventions, and building local communities’ awareness and capacity to respond to violence against immigrant and refugee women.
Keywords: Family violence, Immigrant, Refugee, Community-based research, Participatory research, Qualitative methods, Intersectionality, Australia


Violence against women is a public health, human rights and social policy problem that occurs in all communities and cultures. The prevalence of violence against immigrant and refugee women in Australia is unknown, with non-English speaking women under-represented in available quantitative data sets such as the Australian Personal Safety Survey. Surveys also underestimate violence against women with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds because of women’s varied perceptions of what constitutes violence, reluctance to discuss sensitive issues with unknown interviewers, and non-reporting of sexual violence in particular [13]. However it is known that a large proportion of people who have resettled in Australia since the 1980s have come from the three WHO regions with the highest lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence and/or non-partner sexual violence – Africa, South and South-East Asia, and the Eastern Mediterranean [4, 5].
While prevalence data is incomplete, there is no evidence at this time that women who have resettled in Australia as immigrants or refugees experience higher rates of family violence than other Australian women. However the experiences associated with migration and resettlement are thought to increase the complexity of family dynamics and complicate the provision of effective support [68]. Available evidence suggests women who have resettled in Australia face barriers to services following family violence, including language barriers, logistical barriers, limited awareness of legal rights and of services, fear of police or that families will be broken up, social isolation, and shame [811]. Locally available services may be inadequately responsive to immigrant and refugee women’s needs [12, 13].
Literature on the dynamics of violence against immigrant and refugee women in Australia is limited. Research has highlighted how changing gender norms post-resettlement may increase women’s vulnerability to violence [7, 8, 14, 15]. Relationships between particular cultural values, violence-supportive attitudes, and violence against women have been analysed in some individual cultural communities [8, 9, 16]. Other factors shaping immigrant and refugee women’s experiences of violence, help-seeking, and access to services are less understood. In particular, little attention has been paid to the role of place – that is, to examining differences and similarities in the experiences of women who have resettled in Australian inner-city, outer-metropolitan, or regional settings; the local resources available to them; and the capacities of local communities to respond to violence.
Research elsewhere has highlighted the violence-protective effects of supportive neighbourhoods, and that local circumstances of socioeconomic disadvantage can potentially amplify risks of violence for women [17, 18]. Community members’ perceptions about their neighbourhood are known to impact upon women’s help-seeking behaviour [19], as does actual availability of responsive local services. However little evidence is available on Australian contexts. This project aims to address this gap by developing an in-depth understanding of the intersection of women’s migration experiences, place of resettlement, and experiences of violence and help-seeking in different settings. Findings will describe opportunities for supporting community-led responses to violence, informing violence prevention and support interventions and policy.