Understanding the barriers to migrant women’s economic and social participation

Cultural diversity matters: Optimising outcomes for migrant and refugee families
Wednesday 25 July, 1210 – 1230


Wendy Cisar

Refugee and migrant women’s individual experiences are often complex and are informed by a variety of factors – such as exposure to torture and trauma, racism, sexism, and poor mental and physical health and wellbeing. Women’s economic participation is influenced by these experiences, alongside their access to formal education, English language training, income and family support, social networks and transport.

In Australia, 17 per cent of migrants and refugees speak languages other than English. Recent arrivals are less than half as likely to actively participate in civic and political groups as those who speak only English. Difficulty with communication is the biggest single factor affecting health and wellbeing during resettlement. Language is vitally important to a positive settlement outcome.

In order to reduce the barriers to refugee and migrant women’s economic participation in Australia, it is important to understand women’s perspectives and experiences. There are many ‘myths’ about women from refugee and migrant backgrounds that have produced a “one size fits all’ approach to participation and engagement programs. However, there are complex barriers at play that arise through internal and external factors and it is these barriers that result in further marginalisation of refugee and migrant women.

Using case studies, her presentation will highlight the barriers to economic and social participation that migrant women in Australia face.