Speak Out: Migrant Women Tell Their Stories
In 2012, thirty women bravely shared their stories of struggle, survival and empowerment in Speak Out, a publication produced by Immigrant Women’s Speakout Association. The following are 3 abridged stories from that work.
Some names have been altered to protect the identity of our clients.
“They [migrant and refugee women experiencing domestic and family violence] should not lose hope. And they should fight for their rights. They should not allow anyone to abuse them.” – Aarya, Pakistan
When her ex-husband brought Aarya to Australia after their marriage, she says she was surprised by how different Australia was to Pakistani society. She had no problem with English but felt the culture was markedly different in its treatment of women. She dreamed of working as a doctor, but things took a turn for the worse when she found herself living with an abusive husband.
On top of this, complications with her pregnancy meant that Aarya also faced healthcare concerns and hospitalisations costs.
Aarya reached out to Immigrant Women’s Speakout for advice and assistance, seeking help to navigate the immigration, social services and legal issues around her situation. She also found much-needed emotional supports from her case worker and from networks within Speakout.
With Speakout, Aarya was able to access support from other services including mental health and financial help, which helped her on the road to freedom and empowerment. Aarya continues on her path to a career in medicine.
“There’s always someone to help you… ask for advice and get counselling to find a solution out. Everyone has the right to live, to be happy. It’s you who decides. One stop forward will make a big difference in your life, so just take that step!” – Sangeeta, Fiji
Sangeeta was just 20 years old when she left Fiji, and all her family and friends, for Australia with her new husband. Although Sangeeta spoke fluent English, she struggled to find a way to fit in to this new country, and was confronted by the culture shock of her new lifestyle. She hoped to study to become a nurse and was eager to meet and get to know new people.
When her marriage turned abusive, Sangeeta was able to find support from the local police, who helped her connect with Immigrant Women’s Speakout. Sangeeta attended a women’s support group to rebuild her confidence and to share her struggle with other women who might have had similar experiences to her own. “All the suffering, everything changed”, she says. Sangeeta began her studies as a nurse, looking forward to the rest of her life
“Nobody will hit me, nobody will punch me. That was my past… New chapter, new life. I got something back.” – Warren, Philippines
Warren moved to Australia to be husband and wife with her partner “though we are the same sex”. Although she missed her family, Warren says she had given her life to her partner and looked forward to finding work and settling down. She made new friends and enjoyed learning about their various countries of origin and cultural practices.
Warren began working as a nurse at an aged care home but it wasn’t long until her relationship with her partner began to change. He began having issues with addiction and would often take his issues out on Warren, who weathered the abuse and threats on her life.
When Warren refused to give her partner money, he threatened to retract his sponsorship, so she continued paying their rent and giving him money until she received a letter from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship stating her sponsorship had been withdrawn. Tired of the abuse, Warren realized her hopes for change were not going to be fulfilled, so she moved in with a friend.
Through the collaborative efforts of Speakout and other organisations, Warren was able to navigate the legal system to apply for permanent residency; and access emotional and financial supports throughout the process.
Today, she continues work at the same nursing home. The people in her care remind her of her grandparents in the Philippines.