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New project offers snapshots into the lives of WA’s refugee community

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West Australians will be given a glimpse into the lives of families from refugee backgrounds as part of a new photographic exhibition that will go on display next month.

The project, which explored 43 refugee women’s perspectives and experiences of settlement in Western Australia with the aim of improving their health and wellbeing, will be publicly showcased from January 8, 2018.

The women, who originally came from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Lebanon and El Salvador, were given cameras to capture images of importance to them.

Project Lead, Professor of International Health Jaya Dantas, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedicine at Curtin University, said the women’s photographs offered a glimpse into the lives of refugee women during resettlement.

“The photographs provided important insights into the issues faced by refugee women in the wider community as they settle into their new homes in Australia,” Professor Dantas said.

“Through the discussions prompted by the photographs, we learnt that refugee women identified various challenges that made their resettlement more challenging.

“These included barriers to learning English and gaining employment, not having family in Australia, feeling socially isolated, adjusting to a new life and different culture, difficulties accessing suitable housing, and managing physical and psychological health issues.”

Professor Dantas said refugee women experienced multiple stressors during resettlement, including discrimination, gender issues, family conflict, changing family roles and language difficulties, which required extraordinary resilience and coping strategies.

“Our analysis of the women’s experiences revealed the need for ongoing and sustained support in the initial two years of resettlement,” Professor Dantas said.

“As a result of this project, the refugee women involved recommended policy changes that they believed would make settlement easier for new arrivals.

“These recommendations included support to gain employment, resourcing for settlement and women’s services, assistance from settled migrants and English programs tailored to women’s unique circumstances, recognising issues that impact on learning such as family responsibilities, pre-Australian education, trauma and health issues, as well as cultural adjustment.”

The project, Our images and voices: Using photovoice to explore refugee women perspectives of resettlement in Western Australia, was funded by Healthway and undertaken in conjunction with community partner, Ishar Multicultural Women’s Health Centre.

A selection of the photographs taken by the refugee women will be showcased at the Town of Victoria Park Library, 27 Sussex Street, East Victoria Park, from January 8 to 26, 2018.

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