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White Ribbon empowers culturally diverse community leaders to address domestic violence within their communities

CALD Project Graduation Ceremony | White Ribbon Australia

White Ribbon Australia celebrated the work of multicultural leaders in a graduation ceremony on Friday 31 May in Melbourne. The empowering Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Leaders Project took proactive steps to address the gaps in the prevention of violence against women from multicultural or CALD backgrounds through a number of community engagement projects.

White Ribbon Australia CEO, Delia Donovan said that in 2018, there were 7.3 million migrants living in Australia, with 29 per cent of the population having been born overseas[1]. She added that there continues to be huge complexities for CALD communities accessing the support they need and that rates of abuse, disrespect and violence continue to need addressing through a strengths based approach.

“We know that violence against women is a big issue because our national statistics tell us so and women in our CALD communities are especially susceptible for a variety of reasons. This project has supported emerging leaders from CALD communities to engage with their communities on this issue and make a positive change. ,” Ms Donovan said.

“This year alone, 20 women have been killed[2] in Australia. That means that each week at least one woman is killed by a current or former partner[3]. This is simply unacceptable and no less than a national crisis. Prevention alongside other modes of practice continues to be fundamental if we are to stop the violence before it starts and address this as a whole community.

“Prevention programs that raise awareness and educate the community about violence against women are essential. As part of White Ribbon’s strategy to address this, we need to continue to work more closely with CALD communities.”

White Ribbon Australia believes the key to ending violence against women in diverse communities is to ensure that men and women within these communities lead, educate and raise awareness to empower change.

A recent report by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS), Building Safe Communities for Women and their Children: A compendium of stories from the field, found more than one-quarter of respondents from Afghanistan, Iraq, Nepal (Bhutan), Burma (Karen) and Ethiopia, did not know the laws regarding domestic and family violence (DFV), with 87% stating they did not know DFV is a criminal offence in Australia[4].

Ms Donovan added: “We have heard anecdotes which support these findings many times. That’s why we partnered with AMES Australia to deliver a program which trained individuals from CALD backgrounds to connect with their communities, educate and share information to end violence against women. Partnership efforts remains key for White Ribbon in order to maximise community reach and impact.”

Manal Shehab, CALD Project | White Ribbon AustraliaThe emerging CALD Leaders Project engaged with more than 40 men and women in Melbourne who have become passionate leaders and supporters for ending violence against women. Participants developed resources, tools, delivered workshops, presentations and created videos to engage with their communities on the issue of abuse and violence against women.

Financial abuse is a significant problem for many migrant women, with some revealing they must cover all home expenses, relinquish all their earnings to their partner or other family members[5].

One woman reported[6]  :

“When I didn’t give him my money, he was angry with me. One day I spent $60 so he got angry and he beat me very badly for not letting him know. The second [time] was when I wanted a new iron and he didn’t let me buy a new iron. I got upset and then I went to my bedroom and he came and then sat on my stomach and slapped my face.”

Participant, Manal Shehab, said she became involved because of her own lived experience and the adversity experienced by other women. “It is disheartening and upsetting to see barrier after barrier come up at a time when women are trying to muster courage to leave an abusive relationship and create a stable safe home for themselves and their children, only to find they are on their own,” she said.

“These women are juggling emotions, a fear of being killed, stalked, having children taken away from them, finances, housing, schools, courts, questioning their faith, perhaps moving away from family and social supports, and on top of that navigate a very complex system.”

As part of their training with White Ribbon and AMES, Manal and her fellow project participants, are now educating and empowering those within their community by organising workshops on preventing violence against women. Participants are encouraged to discuss gender roles, myths, women’s rights within their religion and cultural practices. For her workshops, Manal examines Islamic texts, traditions and how some translations are problematic when they give men power over women.  Manal offers alternative scholarly and plausible translations that disengages with perspectives of power and violence.

The graduating project participants that evening took away printed cards with photos of themselves and their messages of how they will prevent violence in their community. They shared with the audience what they have learned and what aspirations they have for the future.

[1] ABS, viewed, 29 May
[2] Destroy the Joint, accessed 30 May
[3] Bryant, W. & Bricknall, S. (2017). Homicide in Australia 2012-2014: National Homicide Monitoring Program report. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from:
[4] Orr, E. 2018 Building Safe Communities for Women and their Children: A compendium of stories from the field,, p.6.
[5] ASPIRE – Analysing Safety and Place In Immigrant and Refugee Experience, Financial Abuse and Immigrant Women, Accessed:
[6] Ibid.

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