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Migrant women find independence and more rights in Australia

8 March 20240 comments

Migrant and refugee women in Australia are finding more independence and opportunity in Australia as well as a healthier and wealthier life than in their home countries, according to a new survey.

An overwhelming majority of women migrants find life in Australia ‘better’ than in their home countries and believe they have more rights than at home.

Most say they have more opportunities here than at home and are more financially independent.

And overwhelmingly they say they have more control over their daily lives here in Australia and believe men and women should have equal access to opportunity.

But they have been impacted by the current cost of living crisis, the survey found.

The survey of 120 new women migrants and refugees from 25 non-English speaking countries, commissioned by refugee and migrant settlement agency AMES Australia, also found that migrant women in Australia have more access to a range of services and activities including education, work, women’s health, child care, driving a car and political and religious activity.

Time to coincide with International Women’s Day 2024, the survey asked ‘As a woman, is life in Australia better for you than in your home country?’ Seventy-one per cent of respondents said ‘yes’ and eight per cent said ‘no’ while 21 per cent said there was no difference.

Eighty-four per cent of women said they had more rights in Australia than in their home country while 9 per cent said they did not.

Seventy-eight per cent of the survey respondents said there were more opportunities for women in Australia than at home while 15 per cent disagreed.

Asked about particular services or activities that could be accessed in Australia, around 70 per cent said both education and women’s health services were easier to access in Australia.

Fifty-three per cent said work was more accessible in Australia, while 55 per cent cited driving a car as being easier in Australia and 54 per cent said child care was more accessible.

Meanwhile 31 per cent said religious activities were more accessible in their home countries and 21 per cent said work was easier to come by.

An overwhelming 78 per cent of respondents said Australian women were more independent than women in their home countries.

Sixty-three per cent said they were more financially independent in Australia while 20 per cent said they were less financially independent and 17 per cent said there was no difference.

Seventy-seven per cent of women said they had more control over their daily lives and six per cent said they had less control while 17 per cent said there was no difference.

But the cost of living crisis has taken a bigger toll on migrant women than the general community. Sixty-nine per cent of women said they had been impacted financially by the cost of living crisis.

Syrian refugee Norma Medawar, who has been working to support migrant families in Melbourne’s north, says Australia has given many new migrant and refugee women opportunities, especially in terms of work and career.

“For many of the women we work with, having a job in their home countries would not be possible,” Ms Medawar said.

“In Australia there are many opportunities for women to work and study,” she said.

But she said the cost of living crisis had had an impact on many migrant and refugee women.

“For many people it has been a difficult time – exacerbating the dislocation or isolation they may have experienced leaving their homeland. And for people with little English, it is harder to access support and services,” Ms Medawar said.

AMES Australia CEO Cath Scarth said the survey showed that women migrants and refugees new to Australia were optimistic about their new country and were striving to become part of the wider society.

“What the survey tells us is that women migrant and refugees who come to this country appreciate the level of equality we have and then opportunities that are available to women here,” Ms Scarth said.

“It shows that most migrants value our services and institutions and want to make the most of what this country offers them,” she said.

“But it also shows that migrant and refugee women are also vulnerable to the effects of crises and downturns such as we have seen with the current cost of living squeeze,” Ms Scarth said.