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Impact of COVID-19 on Migrant and Refugee Women and Children Experiencing DFV

Whilst research on the prevalence of violence against migrant and refugee women is limited, what is known is that cultural, language and systemic barriers serve to reduce access to safety and support for this group of women, and they are at higher risk of domestic homicide. (AIC 2020) This also corresponds with lower rates of reporting amongst migrant and refugee women experiencing domestic and family violence, as distrust for authorities, limited knowledge of rights and services and concerns about both material and cultural ramifications can serve as insurmountable barriers to accessing the supports needed. (AIFS 2018)

A number of research pieces have now been released, revealing a devastating impact of the COVID-19 social isolation measures on victims of domestic and family violence. Notable reports include Women’s Safety NSW, Queensland Domestic and Family Violence Service Network and Monash University’s surveys of frontline domestic and family violence specialist experiences in NSW, Queensland and Victoria, respectively, and most recently the Australian Institute of Criminology report which captured the experiences of 15,000 Australian women through the pandemic.

What has not yet been investigated, however, is the specific impact of COVID-19 on migrant and refugee women experiencing domestic and family violence. This report from Women’s Safety NSW offers the experiences and professional observations of multicultural domestic and family violence specialists supporting hundreds of these very women at this critical time. What they’ve reported is that migrant and refugee women who are experiencing domestic and family violence are at higher risk than they have ever been before and that urgent action is needed if we are going to save lives.

Last year, Women’s Safety NSW’s full members, Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service, supported close to 9,000 multicultural women across NSW after a police incident, offering them information, support, safety planning, court advocacy, case coordination and referral to other legal and social supports. Just 14 multicultural domestic and family violence specialists are employed across NSW to ensure these services are culturally safe and accessible.

In order to compile this report, Women’s Safety NSW undertook extensive consultation with these frontline multicultural domestic and family violence specialists through online surveys and discussion forums to ascertain how the COVID-19 outbreak was affecting their clients who are migrant and refugee women experience domestic and family violence (DFV).

Whilst the survey sample size is small (10 of these 14 specialists statewide), the findings capture the views and perspectives of a majority of these specialists across the state, supporting high volumes of multicultural women throughout the pandemic. They also capture the experience of multicultural women impacted by domestic and family violence across a range of geographical locations, with two being based in inner metropolitan locations, five being based in outer metropolitan locations and two being located in regional/rural centres.

Access the full report HERE.