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Executive Officer Report 2004-2005

Executive Officer: Jane Corpuz-Brock

The cases of Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon Alvarez shocked the immigrant and mainstream communities in the whole of Australia. The Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association of NSW held and joined the various activities advocating justice for the two migrant women and other permanent residents, citizens and other people who were detained. Indeed, a substantial number were alleged to have been deported and some are Australian permanent residents and citizens.

Almost at the same time that various communities are questioning the horrendous cases of detention and deportation, the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs (DIMIA) have introduced changes to the Domestic Violence Provision (DVP). These changes presented uncertainties to all women in temporary spouse visas who are experiencing domestic violence and are in need of services.

WARM (Women and Reform of Migration)

The above is the context in which IWSA convened the Roundtable on Detention, Deportation and Violence Against Women. Key members of the academe from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) supported and joined the continuing activities of the roundtable.

WARM (Women and Reform of Migration) was formed from this roundtable. It is a network of individuals who are committed to undertake activities to change flawed and unjust immigration policies and programmes. WARM members have written and compiled a policy submission on detention, deportation and the domestic violence provision, and lodged this to the Senate Inquiry on the Implementation of the Migration Act (1958). This policy submission is now available on the Federal Parliament’s website.

WARM’s key recommendations on the DVP changes are:

(1) the DIMIA Minister to accept the alleged victim has suffered domestic violence and consider the application on that basis; or if not satisfied the alleged victim has suffered domestic violence grant a visa independent from the sponsor/spouse whilst the independent expert determines whether or not the alleged victim has suffered domestic violence, after which the Minister determines the application on the basis of the independent expert’s assessment

(2) the DIMIA Minister exercise her powers accordingly in less than 48 hours from the receipt of a complete application and if practicable and less than 5 days for the independent expert to decide from the date of the DIMIA referral
(3) adverse claims or statements about an alleged victim or her application under the Domestic Violence Provisions must be in the form of a statutory declaration or the Minister may not refer an application to an independent expert
(4) suitably qualified experts and non-government organisations should be statutorily appointed and contracted (with adequate funding) to act as independent experts
(5) Centrelink and its staff should not act as an independent expert
(6) Publicly available regulations and a code of conduct must govern any independent expert under the DVP
(7) and if the decisions of Centrelink social workers are adverse to a woman this must be completely reviewable by the Migration Review Tribunal.
The following activities are highlights of our major achievements this year and other outcomes have been reported by other staff members on the other sections of this Annual General Meeting report.

Rural CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Women’s Speakout

This year IWSA also organised the Rural CALD Women’s Speakout (RCWS) in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales. The RCWS facilitated the linking of rural CALD women with each other, and the rural CALD women to urban–based CALD women and to service providers.
Participants explored strategies to sustain the links among rural CALD women and their urban counterpart. Participants hoped that these links could be developed as support networks. The participants have had proactive discussions. It is hoped that results of these discussions will be used as reference for policy and program development.
The concurrent workshops on the second day provided practical hands-on skills and knowledge to access community services, which rural CALD women participants took home and hoped to utilise after the conference.
New Project: Community Education on
Domestic Violence – Pacific Communities (Production of Resources)

IWSA has just commenced this project with a worker from the Pacific communities. The project will produce educational resources on domestic violence and it is aimed at

Pacific communities. Eleanor Chang, of Tongan background, who has close links with the Fijian community presented her initial programme of activities and held focus groups with targeted Pacific communities. Leaders of the target communities, Tongan, Fijian, Samoan and Maori welcomed this effort on raising awareness of their communities on issues of safety and domestic violence.

New IWSA Workers

This year IWSA faced very fast turnover of its workers. Many have left for various reasons. We recently welcomed our new members of staff: Yani Mariyani-Squire, Rahile Cakir, Mariam James, Rukhshana Sarwar, Eleanour Chang, Amela Polovina, Kyungja Jung and Mitra Khaleghian. We are operating on full capacity now and hope to deliver better services for CALD women for years to come. We also have engaged relief and short-term contract workers who have helped in various areas of work: Maria Eva Tingson, Domestic Violence Project and Viji Satkunanathan for Admin.

Participation in working groups, committees, interagency and action groups

This year the IWSA participated in various groups that reviewed and proposed policies on key issues of the community, to various government bodies. We have participated in the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Assistance Program Advisory Committee, Ethnic Advisory Group of DoCS Multicultural Service Unit, NSW Office for Women – peak organisation’s meetings, NCOSS (New South Wales Council for Social Services)/FONGA (Forum of Non-Government Agencies), Multicultural Advisory Committee, Cultural Working Party – Inner west (Sydney) and the National Advisory Group on Anti-trafficking Communication Strategy.

NIRWA

It is also a great honour to be one of the organisations that have re-established a national body that represents the issues and needs of immigrant and refugee women in Australia, the NIRWA (National Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Association of Australia. The national conference that gave birth to NIRWA was held in Adelaide, South Australia and was hosted and organised by the Migrant Women’s Lobby Group (MWLG) – the network of immigrant and refugee women in South Australia.
In this conference Rosa Colanero from the MWLG provided us with historical overview of the achievements and success of the previous national NESB women’s association, the ANESBWA (Association of Non-English Speaking Background Women in Australia). The participants held a simple ceremony symbolising the transformation of anesbwa to nirwa.

Thank you

On behalf of the Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association I wish to thank the following for their support: Amrit Versha, Community Projects Officer (CPO) Department of Community Services (DoCS), Marilyn Fischer (CPO) Families First-DoCS, Mark Drury (Senior Project Officer) Multicultural Services Unit (MSU) DoCS, Than Nguyen (Senior Project Officer) (MSU) DoCS, Billie Sankovic (CPO) DoCS and David Poulier (CPO) DoCS.

With grateful thoughts, I wish to thank the IWSA Management Committee members for their support, to my co – workers at IWSA, our community partners and our service recipients who have put their trust on us to make representations on their behalf. We all look forward to a more fruitful and a year full of goodwill.