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TPV Project Report 2002-2003

Project Officer: Soraia Rocha e Sousa

This was a very important project for Speakout to undertake as the peak research and advocacy body representing the ideas of migrant and refugee women in NSW.

I was privileged to be the Project Officer and excited to have the capacity to advocate for refugees and especially refugee women on Temporary Protection Visas (TPV). This was crucial considering the current climate in Australia and the targeting of Muslim women in our community.

One of my first priorities was to challenge the negative stereotypes being associated with refugees on TPV. This was approached through various presentations given at forums. I was invited to be a speaker at the:

This provided Speakout with the opportunity to directly voice our concerns regarding the Government's policy of mandatory detention and the use of TPV as a deterrent measure in trying to deny asylum seekers their right to seek protection.

Speakout also organised a pre-election forum to raise awareness of the issues affecting migrant and refugee women in NSW. There were representatives from the major political parties; this provided a mechanism for their accountability to refugee women group in the community who had previously gone unheard.

A crucial part of the project was to document the issues that arose as part of my consultation and basic research conducted with service providers assisting refugee women on TPV. It became apparent that there existed major issues for refugee women that had previously gone undocumented and unheard, as there was no specific project to focus on this area.

The major issues highlighted through the project are:

While this list of issue could be endless, it is important to highlight the key issues, which often are not mentioned. I hope that not only the Government but mainstream services realise the urgent need to provide all the necessary services to refugee women in a culturally and linguistically appropriate way.

We all have a responsibility to advocate to eradicate the legislation that imposes TPV on refugees and to continue to lobby for access to all services by refugees on TPV. This is not just a Federal issue, it is a state issue and the NSW Government should consult the Queensland and Victorian Government on how to provide services to TPV holders in our community.

As an outcome of the project, Speakout proposes the following recommendations:

1. A full-time worker to be assigned and continue the project and also undertake outreach work to connect with women who would otherwise be isolated from the community and services due to financial difficulties and lack of knowledge and understanding of the Australian society.

2. Funding for a research project to completely document the experiences of women and families on a TPV, especially on the issue of childcare and violence.

3. Funding be made available to translate the referral manual produced as an outcome of this project so as to empower all refugees on TPV to access appropriate services and ensure their knowledge of services available.

4. Community education and training manual developed to provide training for service providers and the community on issues affecting refugee women on TPV and their access to services.

Lastly, I would like to say thank you to the NSW Department of Community Services (DoCS) for acknowledging the urgent need to work with refugee women and children on Temporary Protection Visas, and for providing this funding. We all hope that the project will not end with this report and that continued funding will be made available.

I would personally like to thank Jane Brock, the Executive Officer of Speakout and all of its staff members and the Management Committee who have provided unconditional and continued support and encouragement to the project. A big thanks to Arna from STARTTS and Cathy from the Refugee Council of Australia for their guidance and assistance in the project. This project would not have been so successful without the encouragement of all these women.