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16 October 2013: FARREP Statewide Planning Meeting

Maria Ibrahim, from North Yarra Community Health; Aisha El-Hag from Doutta Galla Community Health and Wemi Oyekanmi from Mercy Hospital for Women contributed to the Statewide FARREP Planning day at MCWH.

Multicultural Centre for Women's Health was pleased to host the Family and Reproductive Rights Education Program (FARREP) statewide planning meeting last week. Funded by the Victorian Department of Health, FARREP is the Victorian program that works with communities that are affected by FGM/C. FARREP provides support to women and conducts FGM/C prevention programs with affected communities across the state, creating links to services and improving sexual and reproductive health.

Apart from the obvious pleasure of catching up with old friends, the day was a great opportunity to make better use of our resources by sharing our plans for the year. A series of working groups were established to better share our expertise in providing professional education, school-based programs, community education, direct support to women, and evaluation.

6 August 2013: Launch of the Culturally Responsive Palliative Care Community Education project

MCWH is very pleased to be part of the Culturally Responsive Palliative Care Community Education project, a collaborative project headed by Palliative Care Victoria and launched by the Health Minister, Hon. David Davis. The project will use best practice approaches to raise awareness about palliative care and improve access to palliative care services, focusing on the Chinese, Italian, Maltese, Turkish and Vietnamese communities.

In collaboration with the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, MCWH will run around 90 peer education sessions using our bi-lingual educators, as well as raising awareness through ethnic media. The launch was a great success, and MCWH looks forward to working with communities on this issue. (Pictured: Hon David Davis, Minister for Health, Sir James Gobbo, Patron of Palliative Care Victoria and representatives of ECCV, MCWH and Palliative Care Victoria at the launch.)

1 August 2013: MCWH hosted Australian Human Rights Commission Melbourne Roundtable on increasing CALD women's voic

In 2011 the Australian Human Rights Commission hosted a successful study tour undertaken by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in Australia. You can read about the some of the outcomes of that tour, including the AHRC Report, in a previous WRAP. Following on from that study tour, MCWH was extremely pleased to host the AHRC Melbourne Roundtable on 'Working together to address issues affecting women from CALD backgrounds', led by Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick and attended by many wonderful women representing organisations that support immigrant and refugee women across Melbourne and nationally including the National Ethnic Disability Alliance, Australian Muslim Women's Centre for Human Rights, Spectrum Migrant Resource Centre and Small Giants (featured).

The roundtable was a wonderful opportunity for women working in the field to share their expertise and experience and to identify existing opportunities to raise the national profile of migrant women's concerns.

MCWH thanks the Commissioner and her team for their initiative and looks forward to continued discussion about many of the issues raised, and further opportunities for migrant and refugee women's increased visibility at a policy level.

23 July: Dr Anu Kumar to speak at MCWH

Variation in abortion law among the states is not the only issue at stake for women in Australia.

Today MCWH will host a visit by Dr Anu Kumar, Executive Vice-President of Ipas, a global nongovernment organisation dedicated to ending preventable death and disability from unsafe abortion.

Dr Kumar's visit marks the beginning of MCWH's partnership with researchers from the Social Sciences and Health Research Unit, Monash University on a research project investigating the contraceptive and reproductive choices of immigrant and refugee women.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that while abortion law continues to be a matter for the states, both state and federal governments need to ensure that abortion is accessible and available to all women.

Twenty six per cent of the world's population still live in countries where abortion is generally prohibited, so in that regard Australian women are in the fortunate position of living in a country where induced abortion is legally available. However, access to abortion is still restricted to different groups of women in various ways. It is already well-known that immigrant and refugee women have limited to access to sexual and reproductive health for a range of reasons including visa status, economic reasons and lack of access to culturally sensitive programs.

A recent report has found that living in a rural or regional area can also severely restrict your access to abortion because of the lack of services in certain regions. There's a triple disadvantage then if you're an immigrant or refugee woman living in one of these regions.

In many respects there are overlaps with the human rights work being done at an international level. In Australia, immigrant and refugee's women access to abortion is still determined by such things as visa status and other policies, which can indirectly impact on women's right to free choice.

Women's rights aren't just a matter for the law, although legal reforms are crucial - we'd like to see government make the necessary policy changes, and fund appropriate services, to improve women's access to abortion.

22 July Media Release: National project to assist FGM-affected communities

MCWH is focusing its national efforts on improving support and assistance provided to women and girls affected by female genital mutilation (FGM). The development of a national website and best practice guidelines for the abandonment of FGM are at the core of MCWH’s latest initiative.

Executive Director of MCWH, Dr Adele Murdolo said that the National Education Toolkit for FGM Awareness (NETFA) Project will ensure a more targeted approach to community education that will help FGM-affected communities move toward abandonment of the practice.

The NETFA Project is one of 15 projects funded through the Federal Government's Health System Capacity Development Fund-FGM Support Targeted Round and will be carried out over the next twelve months.

Read the full media release ...

2 July: Position Paper on International Student Access to Pregnancy-Related Care

Through the On Your Own research project we undertook in 2011 with international students in Melbourne, we found that the minimum requirements of the Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC) Deed pose significant obstacles to female international students who fall pregnant unintentionally. Through further consultation with services and students across Australia, we have found that this is an issue that affects international students nation-wide and has already led to detrimental health outcomes for some women. Our new position paper outlines the reasons why the OSHC deed needs to be changed, and points to wider issues for international student health. We believe that the issue creates further ambiguity about the rights of international students to access health services and could potentially contribute to misunderstandings in health service delivery settings.

Our position has been endorsed by over 20 organisations and we encourage you to read it, talk about it and pass it on.

You can read and download the paper here.

3 June 2013: Continuing the Discussion about Feminism

3CR Community Radio has recently broadcast parts of our March seminar 'Does feminism speak for all women?'

The national women’s current affairs program, Women on the Line, featured discussions from all three of our speakers: Durkhanai Ayubi, a Senior Policy Analyst for the Federal Government; Juliana Qian a writer and media-maker and Dr Odette Kelada a lecturer at the University of Melbourne who researches and publishes on whiteness, race, colonisation and feminism.

You can listen to the broadcast here..

17 April 2013: Launch of the Bbkayi Report

Bbkayi means Baby plus two in Cantonese. It's the title of a report which outlines the enablers and barriers for Chinese women in the City of Whitehorse to access antenatal, maternal and parent support. The study found that family and Chinese cultural practices such as the 30 day confinement period play an important part during pregnancy and childrearing and influence how Chinese women access programs and services. Many factors, including the resettlement experience, lack of familiarity with the Australian health system, and differing health and spiritual beliefs of different cultures can make it difficult for immigrant and refugee communities to access health services.

The study, commissioned by Whitehorse Community Health Service, is a fantastic resource for anyone interested in improving the cultural relevance of health services. Congratulations to Megan Wong, the project leader and author of the report and special thanks to MCWH Chinese BHEs, Dongmei Zhang, Rebecca Heli and Yuki Murdolo, who made invaluable contributions to the project with their experience and knowledge.

You can read the full report here.

18 March: Invitation to 'Does Feminism Speak for All Women' Public Forum

Feminism is making a comeback. In Australia, feminism is increasingly becoming a part of pop culture, politics, and a dominant topic in the world of social media. Internationally, struggles by women all over the world are adding to the significance of feminism. Women are reclaiming feminism for a new era and applying it to the context of their lives.

But does feminism today speak for all women?

One of the critiques of feminism is that it does not represent the diversity of women’s experiences, by making sweeping assumptions of what feminism means. In particular, feminism can be seen to disregard the complexities of racialised/gendered identity.

With the resurgence of feminism, now more than ever, it is important to ensure that feminism gets it right.

What areas of feminism need to be challenged to ensure it truly works to further the interests of all women, regardless of background? What would this new feminism look and sound like?

Featuring a panel of 3 amazing young feminists, this not to be missed forum will raise key questions about feminism today.

For tickets and details click here or download the poster

6 February 2013: Release of the MCWH Position Paper on Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting

February 6 is the International Day of Zero Tolerance to FGM, and an important opportunity for us all to affirm our commitment to improving the rights, safety and health of women and girls around the globe.

To mark the day, we are releasing our Position Paper on FGM/C, which was produced with the help of many wonderful women already working to ensure that the practice is not continued in Australia and that migrant and refugee women who have experienced FGM/C have access to services and support which meet their needs.

We'd like to thank again the women who have contributed to this document and the organisations who have endorsed our position. We hope that it provides a solid foundation for the abandonment of FGM/C in one generation in an Australian context.

Common Threads Report and Best Practice Guide Launched by Maria Vamvakinou, Member for Calwell

The Common Threads Report is the culmination of a national and cross-cultural initiative to understand and articulate the issues, needs, values and experiences of immigrant and refugee women in relation to their sexual and reproductive health.

By focusing on the stories and experiences of women from four different cultural and linguistic groups (Chinese, Indian, Sudanese and Middle Eastern) alongside consultations with key health providers in the field, the Common Threads report is a compelling illustration of why definitions of health must incorporate the social determinants which affect wellbeing: factors such as gender, culture, language, and socio-economic situation. It is equally, a testament to the voices of immigrant and refugee women, and why these voices need to be heard and shared in a national forum.

Because of stories such as those in Common Threads, our new vision for MCWH is to be the national voice for immigrant and refugee women’s wellbeing in Australia.

The Common Threads Report and Best Practice Guide are essential reading for health practitioners working with migrants and refugees.

August 2012: Points of Departure Tasmanian Follow-up Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Advocacy Project 2011 - 2012 Final Report

This new report by Ms. Yabbo Thompson is part of a national Points of Departure project with MCWH and was funded by the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services.

The Tasmanian Project aimed to further increase advocacy skills through workshops with a further 105 women of immigrant or refugee backgrounds, and to support Tasmanian input to a United Nations strategy.

This report makes an important contribution to immigrant and refugee women’s research and advocacy in Australia, and MCWH sends our warmest congratulations to Yabbo Thompson, the project manager and report author.

The project could not have happened without her long connections with the community, especially immigrant and refugee women, and her skills as a facilitator. Yabbo won the Tasmanian Human Rights Week award in 2012 for her significant contributions towards CALD communities.

You can read the full report here.

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