09 June 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (20:18):Living with domestic abuse is harrowing for anyone. For some members of our community, with language and cultural differences to negotiate, it can seem impossible to find a way out. In my role as shadow Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and shadow Minister for Women, I recently hosted in Parliament House a roundtable forum to focus on the particular challenges faced by victims of domestic violence from multicultural communities. The roundtable gathered 30 women representing more than 20 frontline services, as well as staff from several domestic violence peak bodies, including DVNSW and Women's Safety NSW. I was assisted by Dr Sabrin Farooqui, President of the Cultural Diversity Network, who co-hosted the event with me. Dr Farooqui and I received an overwhelming response to our invitation. Workers in frontline services were ready and keen to discuss how the Government can better support migrant women and children facing domestic violence. Everyone agreed this was an urgent discussion to have and an area that needs careful attention because of its unique challenges. We also agreed that current systems and structures have to change to include all women, regardless of culture and race.

Aware that we were tapping into a goldmine of wisdom, experience and knowledge, we invited participants before the event to let us know their key challenges and priority issues. We wanted to ensure that their concerns would drive the agenda. Four major themes arose, which we unpacked during the roundtable. First, was the challenge of getting information about domestic and family violence support services out to migrant and refugee women. This is not just about disseminating information but cultivating a deeper understanding about what domestic abuse is in all its complexity. In some cultures, "domestic violence" is a negative phrase and invokes shame and stigma. We explored what steps can be taken to improve communication with women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Secondly, we discussed the myriad difficulties surrounding the reporting of abusive relationships. The first challenge identified was how to encourage women and their children to come forward in the first place. Many flaws in the system were identified, one example being inappropriate police responses. It is vital that police and first responders are trained to be aware of cultural sensitivities in specific communities and to respond in a trauma‑informed manner. Thirdly, we discussed the need for increased support for women on temporary visas. Too often, access to services is dependent on one's visa status. As a result, many victims of domestic violence are falling through the gaps. The refugee settlement sector is not funded to manage domestic violence issues and workers are not trained. We asked what steps can be taken to better support those on temporary visas to secure safe housing and become financially independent.

Finally, and crucially, the urgent need for a culturally appropriate case management service was identified as a priority. It is important to acknowledge that cultures are different and there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Caseworkers need domestic violence specific training to be able to work holistically, with a wraparound service that joins the dots from early intervention to resolution. Participants of the roundtable worked in teams to delve deeper into these four themes. They drilled down to identify the gaps and ways to overcome them. The roundtable was buzzing with the passion and energy of women committed to finding solutions. We saw robust discussion as participants shared experiences from the grassroots and stories of victim-survivors. We are now in the process of formulating a report to present to the Government that summarises the recommendations and action points arising from the roundtable. We hope to gain a meeting with the Minister to present the report.

As members of Parliament, our job is to listen to those working at the coalface who know what their communities need. It was an honour to meet those hardworking, passionate women and acknowledge their important work supporting domestic violence victims from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. I have been inspired by many of these women and have had the opportunity to witness their work. For example, I acknowledge Kittu Randhawa from the Indian Crisis and Support Agency, who did amazing work on the dowry abuse project in Blacktown. I also acknowledge Maha, Nemat and the incredible team from Muslim Women Australia for the work they put into the COVID-19 research project about domestic violence and culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

The roundtable also provided a wonderful opportunity for those working to support victim-survivors of domestic violence to sit down together to learn more about each other's work and how we can support each other in this important work of advocacy. I will take the recommendations and actions formulated at the roundtable to the Government, and I will continue to demand better support for women on temporary visas, better case management services that are culturally appropriate and better ways of breaking down the barriers to providing information to migrant and refugee women. I offer special thanks to the determined Dr Sabrin Farooqui and the peak organisation representatives who came to participate, especially Delia Donovan and Hayley Foster. I thank all those fantastic, inspiring women who attended and who work so hard in this space of preventing and responding to domestic violence. Each and every one of them plays a crucial role in bringing about long-overdue positive change.