Migrant and Refugee Women

MigrantWomenWomen from diverse cultures, including newly arrived migrants or refugees, often experience a number of barriers when they are experiencing violence and abuse.

  • They may not know that domestic violence is wrong and a crime in Australia
  • They may not know that they can get help or what support services exist
  • They may fear authorities as a result of past experiences in their country of origin
  • They may be socially isolated and/or without support from family and friends
  • They may experience cultural or religious barriers that state they have to tolerate the violence from their husbands and/or that they would be shamed for leaving them
  • They may have been told they will be deported or that their children will be taken away.


In times of crisis or emotionally charged situations a person’s ability to understand and communicate may decrease, even if they are normally fluent in English. For accurate and unbiased translations it is vital to use an accredited interpreter. On-site interpreters can be booked to attend meetings and events like court and provide a more personal service. Telephone interpreters are more anonymous and can be used for immediate assistance. Ask for an interpreter trained in domestic violence. If possible ask for a female interpreter.

Do not use children, friends, family or neighbours as interpreters.

Community Relations Commission (CRC) Language Services
1300 651 500 (24/7)

Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS)
13 14 50 (24/7)

Health Care Interpreting Services (HCIS)
1800 674 994 (24/7)

Providing assistance:

When providing a service to a woman who speaks English as a second language:

  • Take the time to ensure she has understood you and that you have understood her
  • Remember interview situations may trigger memories of past interrogations, so make sure you provide an informal environment, allow sufficient time and tell her she is not in trouble
  • Don’t ask YES/NO questions
  • Recognise the barriers of language, custom and religion. Try to use words that don’t have confusing or judgemental connotations
  • Respect your client’s culture, the importance of family and community ties, the fears she may have about police, government or the legal system
  • Be aware that the woman may want support from services outside her culture, for reasons of confidentiality. Let her know she has a right to access mainstream services and to interpreters
  • The ‘Domestic Violence Provision’ of the Migration Act exists for some migrant women to secure permanent residency – see the following document.