Naming things is complicated.
On the one hand, it shouldn’t really matter. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, they say. And as many of our parents told us, after finding us in tears after school, it doesn’t matter what people call you: sticks and stones, etc. It only matters how you feel about yourself.
It can work the other way around too. For example, the name ‘feminist’: some women don’t want to be called a feminist, and they wouldn’t call themselves a feminist, but spend five minutes talking to them and it’s pretty clear that they’re feminists.
But on the other hand, it can really matter what people call you. It can say a lot about them and a lot about you, and what you ask people to call you can have far reaching effects on the way they perceive you. ‘Caring’ for example: it’s a lovely word, a warm and loving word, but not one that we usually associate with work. But it IS work and carers are all too often suffer the consequences of our inability to make that connection.
So this WRAP we’re talking about name-calling (no, not the Section 18C kind), we’re calling out for more recognition that caring is work and then we’re spending 60 seconds with an amazing carer, Dolly Atchia, one of the 12 fabulous women from Southern Cross Care Vic who MCWH is proud to be training as Multicultural Women’s Liaison Champions in their organisation.
Until next time,
The WRAP Team
Apparently the most common Australian baby names of 2013 were ‘William’ and ‘Charlotte’, a far cry from the ‘Bear Blaze’ or ‘Blue Ivy Carter’ of some celebrity offspring. It has to make you wonder why parents choose the names they do for children, because, as we all know, names matter. What you choose to call others or how you choose to describe yourself and others can conjure up images and associations you may never have intended (just look up the popularity of the name ‘Adolf’). Names can also communicate what you find meaningful and connect to or represent your values.
At MCWH, we’re often asked why we choose to use ‘immigrant’ and ‘refugee’ to describe ourselves and the women we work with and advocate for. The simple answer is this: because the act of immigrating to another country and being an immigrant has significant consequences on your health and wellbeing. Using the word ‘immigrant’, especially when you’re trying to advocate for improvements in health, helps to convey the impact of immigration and settlement policies on immigrant and refugee women’s everyday lives.
Immigrants in Australia (who are not, or not yet, Australian citizens) are often made vulnerable by policies that restrict their mobility and choice. Depending on their visa category, immigrants can be denied access to social benefits and entitlements, including owning a home; health services; educational and employment opportunities; social mobility; and the right to be with family. These are the consequences of being an immigrant and they all, in one way or another, have an impact on health and wellbeing.
Of course not all immigrant and refugee women identify first and foremost as ‘migrant’ or ‘refugee’ and this is the way it should be. The reality of immigrant women’s lives is far more complex than one label can cover and no one should ever, or forever, be defined simply by their migrant status. Nevertheless, it’s the complexity that demands attention: immigrant women’s issues aren’t just about ‘immigration’ or ‘women’ but cut across a whole range of areas—health, housing, settlement, education, employment, the law, and citizenship. ‘Immigrant’ and ‘refugee’ shouldn’t be read as fixed identities, but should be used as platforms for mobilisation around the practical, everyday implications of immigration policy in all areas of women’s lives.
While there are many other ways to describe who we are, terms like ‘ethnic’, ‘multicultural’ or ‘culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD)’ can keep hidden the structural and institutional injustices experienced by immigrant women. Moreover, they could just as easily be used to describe food, fashion or the latest dance craze.
It may not seem as big a deal as naming your children, but consciously identifying our work with ‘immigrant and refugee women’ is not a decision we have made lightly: it’s not to force women to identify themselves as immigrants and refugees. It’s to empower women to recognise those injustices and inequities that are related to their immigration and settlement experience, and to change the thinking, the ideas and the associations about what it currently means to be an ‘immigrant or refugee woman’.
The National Ethnic and Multicultural Media Broadcasters’ Council journal is about to publish an extended article we’ve written on this issue in response to a piece in the latest issue of the NEMBC: ‘Ethnic and the problem of terminology’ (page 2). We’d love to hear your thoughts as well. Why not leave a comment!
‘…so you better treat her right…’ chanted pop icon Donna Summer in the 80s while her video shows us a woman juggling shift-work, long hours and tiring manual labour with single motherhood and unpaid domestic work. Summer’s song has since become a rallying anthem for working women in the western world. But the bigger picture of women shouldering enormous paid and unpaid workloads hasn’t really changed. So how do we treat her right?
This was the same question that 200 women from 19 nations asked during the International Congress of Working Women in 1919. The questions and issues raised back then revolved around the identity of ‘working woman’ and how to find a set of policies that would best serve her interests. As the Donna Summer video illustrates, the challenge continues to lie in the connections and overlaps of women’s paid and unpaid work and the ways in which society places value on the work women do.
Women still continue to carry the bulk of caring responsibilities in the home and are more likely to be employed in ‘caring’ professions. In fact, these are professions which continue to be undervalued (and therefore less paid) than other occupations. Just take, for example, Australia’s aged care workforce: in 2012, over 90% of the 352,000 employees in the sector were women, a growing proportion of whom were born overseas and from countries where English is not the primary language (an average of 32%).
In fact the statistics also show that 65% of all aged care facilities employ personal care attendants and community care workers who speak a language other than English. In a sector where over half of workers report a workplace injury (in 2012, 35% of employees were on Workcover) and where household responsibilities and management issues are the main reasons for staff loss, the high proportion of immigrant workers should be a critical focus in improving working conditions in the care sector. There is evidence to show, for example, that women who speak a language other than English are less likely to seek Workcover arrangements.
Caring isn’t any easier just because you’re paid for it. Caring as a profession can be even more difficult if you’re in a position of having to negotiate more flexible hours; renew a contract; or question unsafe work practices. But caring for yourself isn’t any easier if you’re from an immigrant or refugee background. Continuous education and training in the sector should include education about health and wellbeing as a way of supporting working women, and especially immigrant working women, in all aspects of their lives and the lives of their families.
We’re not getting any younger. We’re past the 1980s and definitely way past the 1910s. As the needs of our ageing population become more complex, it’s increasingly important that we properly define the ‘working women’ of the aged care sector, that we find working conditions and policies that also serve their interests, and that we equip them with the knowledge and confidence to define what caring means in the future.
60 seconds with Dolly Atchia
Nurse and trainee bilingual health educator
What are you enjoying doing at the moment?
I’m enjoying the bilingual health education course–it’s a good example that women are very good at supporting other women.
If you had a magic wand, what would you use it for?
To better the lives of women
What talent would you most like to possess?
To be a good counsellor and to be an advocate and a voice for women who can’t speak for themselves.
If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
A human rights lawyer.
What would you work for instead of money?
To know that I’ve improved the lives of immigrant and refugee women.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone new to Australian culture, what would it be?
People should have awareness and an understanding of the differences between the two cultures.
What’s your favourite word in the English language? Why?
Love. Between husband and wife; same-sex couples; mother, father and child. Even with animals there is an element of love between creatures. It may be a small word, but it’s something a lot of us in this world need.
If you could invite anyone (dead or living) to dinner tonight, who would it be?
My father has been a role model and mentor. There are a lot of things that he’s told me that still stay with me and have been beneficial to my life: if there’s a will there’s a way and education is the key to success.
Your most cherished memory?
When my daughter was born. It was a big day when my identity changed from being a young, married girl to a parent.
Tell me about an amazing woman you know.
My daughter is amazing. When we arrived as migrants she was 4 years old and I was a single mother. I had this one child, a suitcase and $300. I gave whatever I could to my daughter–working full-time so she could have the best education I could afford. At a young age she was doing volunteer work with refugees and I’m very proud of her academic achievements–she never fails to surprise me. She completed a double degree in arts/law and is now a barrister. She’s brave, intelligent and to see her do so well when there was just the two of us when we arrived in this country … she’s everything I have great admiration for.
What are you reading right now? (e.g. blogs, books, magazines, or anything else!)
You’ll laugh but it was ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’! I loved the books. I’ve been single for a long time and I’m always open-minded about those things, so the books didn’t shock me. I’m in awe of the author for writing about things we only fantasise about– it’s brave and I think it’s great for women’s sexual liberation.
Do you have a song/music that inspires and motivates you?
‘Respect’ by Aretha Franklin
What does multiculturalism mean to you?
I’ve travelled a lot and Australia is a perfect example of being multicultural and of difference being accepted. As a new migrant, I’d like to see more of Aboriginal culture in everyday life, which would make the idea of multiculturalism even better.
Finish this sentence: “We need feminism because…”
“…men need to understand what it’s all about.”