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IWSA Chairperson Report 2004-2005

Chairperson: Vivi Germanos - Koutsounadis


The year 2005 has been a productive one for Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association (IWSA). One of the highlights was the CALD (Culturally and Linguistically Diverse) Rural Women’s Speakout, which was held successfully in Coffs Harbour and was attended by 110 women from many ethnic, linguistic and cultural backgrounds. A Working Party of CALD local women under the leadership of Jorgette Sonter organised the conference and co-ordinated by Jane Brock our Executive Officer and the Management Committee of IWSA. Many people contributed to make the conference memorable, powerful, and dynamic as we all recalled our migration experiences, shared information about our cultures, learned from personal experiences of some of the most recently arrived migrant and refugee women and the many speakers who shared their knowledge and information which is useful to all of us. By the end of the conference, the rural CALD women had formed a network, tentatively named as Rural CALD Women’s Strategy Group, which will be meeting and engaging other CALD women in various rural areas. Some of the participants were recruited, trained and will be employed as Casual Ethnic Workers by the Ethnic Child Care Family and Community Services Co-operative to assist children’s services in the rural areas, to become more culturally and linguistically relevant to meet the child care needs of CALD families.

Internal Consolidation

The Management Committee facilitated planning sessions with the staff and together developed a Plan of Action for the year giving an opportunity to all to look at structural and procedural issues, reviewing policies and the work undertaken at present and the future in order for all of us to have a common understanding of its work to provide an efficient, effective and quality service to our consumers, immigrant and refugee women in New South Wales. Several staff members for various reasons resigned during the year and new ones have been recruited and are working with the various projects. We thank those who have left and welcome the new ones.

Campaign and Lobby Work

Immigrant Women’s Speakout is the peak body representing the interests of Immigrant and Refugee women. It took a leading role and in partnership and collaboration with many organisations and individuals held and joined the various activities advocating for justice for the two migrant women,

Cornelia Rau and Vivian Solon Alvarez, the two are permanent resident and Australian citizen respectively, the first being detained for many months and the second wrongfully deported four years ago. During the inquiry it came to light that these were not isolated incidents, some 200 other Australian citizens were wrongfully detained and deported by DIMIA. Out of this a Roundtable was convened with involvement of many academics from the University of Technology, many organisations and individuals and WARM (Women and Reform of Migration) was born with a commitment from all participants to change the flawed and unjust immigration policies of the government. A comprehensive policy submission was compiled by members of the Roundtable and presented to the Senate Inquiry on the Implementation of the Migration Act (1958).

The government released all the children from detention and most of the families from Nauru. However, there are still some 52 women who are in detention in different detention centres in Australia. We urge the government to release these women and place them in the community as some who are single and unaccompanied are in a vulnerable position in the detention centre environment.

Resourcing Other Organisations

Through staff and Management Committee member participation in various committees, working groups, interagencies and action groups IWSA contributes to the formulation and review of policies, reviews of government and community programs which affect immigrant and refugee women and makes input to these bodies on issues of concern which are encountered with consumers who use our services. It is through these issues that community development is initiated with the various ethnic communities in different geographic locations and together with them to develop strategies to deal with these, to deliver relevant outcomes for the consumers, the ethnic communities and the general community as a whole.

We know the issues, some remain the same for years but we need action to achieve concrete results for individuals affected and preventative long-term measures for the whole community. Giving opportunities to immigrant and refugee women individually, and collectively through their organisations, empowering them with knowledge and skills of negotiating the various systems in the community to overcome their isolation and lack of involvement, has been and would continue to be a main focus of our work in the future.

National Voice of Immigrant and Refugee Women

Another positive development during the year has been the re-establishment of a collective national voice for immigrant and refugee women in the National Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Association of Australia (NIRWA). Since the collapse of ANESBWA (Association of Non-English Speaking Background Women in Australia) where many of us were involved in its activities, there was no collective national voice to represent immigrant and refugee women’s issues in the government and community. NIRWA will fill this gap and all of us need to work together to ensure that our issues are listened to, included and considered in the various policies and funding allocations by the government and the community. We need to work with the mainstream women’s organisation and as a united force progress the women’s issues, which at the moment have been relegated by the various governments at state and national level.

Future Prospects

In the next year IWSA needs to:

¨ As a peak organisation representing immigrant and refugee women’s interest in NSW, it is our role to advice the government on the needs of these women, to advocate with and for them, especially in relation to systemic advocacy, on issues relevant to them, and to formulate policy. This is a high level specialised work and IWSA has no funding for this function. We are requesting that consideration be given to providing funding for a position for IWSA to perform this role more effectively.
¨ Engage and encourage immigrant and refugee women’s organisations and provide assistance and resources for them to come together to participate and collectively present their issues for consideration by government and the community.
¨ Build up and consolidate our membership.
¨ Encourage more CALD younger women to become involved with issues, provide mentoring and develop leadership skills for our second and third generation women
¨ Develop a program and continue to assist rural CALD women and work with them and their issues to become an integral part of IWSA’s work. There is a need for funding for a position to work in this area.
¨ Employment, education and training are most common issues presented by immigrant and refugee women, and IWSA with its limited resources is endeavouring to deal with these issues, however, it is beyond our capacity to deal with the unmet needs, therefore, governments should allocate resources to deal with these issues.
¨ Preparations are underway for the 25th anniversary of IWSA, in 2007. This would be an exciting time as we reflect on our past efforts and celebrate our achievements and
the contribution the organisation has made in the NSW in raising awareness on the issues of immigrant and refugee women in the government and communities, providing culturally/linguistically appropriate service delivery to our consumers and has developing some innovative service delivery models, policies, activities and represented their issues at all levels of government and the community and most importantly encouraged these women to speakout about their needs and rights.

The Management Committee would like to thank the staff of IWSA who are our most valuable asset for their commitment, dedication and for assisting the hundreds of service recipients in presenting issues. Thank you to our Executive Officer, Jane Corpuz-Brock for co-ordinating the organisation’s programs, and activities. To my colleagues in the Management Committee, thank you for their valuable contribution, experience and skills to the efficient governance of the organisation.

Thank you to the Department of Community Services for funding various programs, the Local Governments (Parramatta and Burwood), for CDSE (Community Development Scheme Expenditure) funding that made possible the programs with immigrant and refugee women in different localities, to the many partners, individuals, organisations with whom we form valuable collaborative working relationships with various projects, the many consumers who use our services, to Camille Moldrich for her advice and support with the finances, to Sandra Grollmus who audits our books, the members and all of you who has contributed in any way to the work of IWSA throughout this year.