We officially became inTouch in 2010. We have a rich history which is grounded within the family violence and multicultural sectors. We have always worked towards addressing the needs of refugee and migrant women who are experiencing family violence.
Here is our story of how it all began.
Recognising the unique needs of refugee and migrant women
In 1981, the Italian Assistance Association organised a national seminar on migrant women and women’s refuges. This was a historical event as never before had the unique needs of refugee and migrant women and children in refuges been discussed on a national level. One of the most important conclusions emerging from the seminar was the acknowledgement that refuges needed bilingual and bicultural workers that reflect their cultural and linguistic diversity.
The beginning of the Immigrant Women’s Domestic Violence Services
In June 1984, the Refuge Ethnic Workers Program (REWP) was formed. The service began with 7 part-time ethnic workers, a full time coordinator, a part time finance worker and a range of seasonal workers. The REWP found that women who did not seek refuge support, who chose to remain in their homes or who were not familiar with their right to seek support, were also in need of family violence services.
In 1994 the Refuge Ethnic Workers Program became the Immigrant Women’s Domestic Violence Services (IWDVS). This change marked an important step for the organisation. The role of IWDVS was now more complex. They were responsible for supporting clients and educating the community about the ways domestic violence, racism and culture impact migrant women. IWDVS continually advocated and lobbied to change community attitudes to violence against migrant women. IWDVS was able to successfully partner with other domestic violence services, migrant resource centres and ethno-specific organisations. At this point in time, they received nearly 11,000 calls a year.
The growth of the Immigrant Women’s Domestic Violence Services
In 1998 IWDVS transitioned from a collective to a Board of Management. By 2002 IWDVS had its own in-house full time migration agent. This recognised the important impact temporary visas has within the family violence space. In 2003 IWDVS developed its strategic plan with a vision for all women and children to be in control of their own lives in a society free from violence, including discrimination. In 2005 to mark the organisation’s 21st year, a number of celebrations were held. This included a public event with 150 supporters at the Immigration Museum and the establishment of a Training, Research and Consultation Unit to help meet the organisation’s strategic aims. This was also the first time in IWDVS’ history that men were employed – as researchers to engage communities in a project with newly arrived communities.
In 2006 IWDVS also released its first research report The Right to be Safe: Immigrant and Refugee Women in Rural Victoria, examining the safety and related needs of women from refugee and migrant backgrounds in rural areas who were experiencing family violence. This report led to the development of a strategic rural outreach plan for the organisation, starting with Shepparton and the Hume region. IWDVS was also selected to participate in the pilot Family Violence Division of the Magistrates Court in Heidelberg.
Forming the inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence
In 2010, IWDVS renamed to inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence, which is who we are today. This coincided with the Australian Government’s development of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children. In 2010, within a consortium we also developed the Vietnamese Men’s Behaviour Change Program – our first program working with men. In 2012, we established our own community legal centre, the first of its kind in Australia.
Our legal centre fulfils the unmet needs for specialised, in-house culturally appropriate legal support for clients. The centre draws upon cultural expertise and established trust with migrant and refugee victims of family violence. The legal centre aims to increase client access to justice and increase equity of outcomes.
In 2014, we celebrated our 30th anniversary. We recognised the devastating impact family violence has on all children through the creation of a children’s therapeutic book, the Empty Jar. This book was launched at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. It is a culturally sensitive resource to help migrant and refugee children who have experienced family violence.
Establishment and findings of the Royal Commission into family violence
In 2015, the Victorian Government established the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
We demonstrated strong leadership and advocacy. During the commission we:
- prepared a written submission with 42 recommendations
- organised a consultation session with 17 of our clients
- presented evidence at the public hearings.
This evidence was informed by the growth of reach that we developed through our programs and services that worked with the victim through the crisis, their legal needs and their recovery, as well as men within their communities. In 2016, the Royal Commission into Family Violence was released with 227 recommendations. One of these recommendations called on the government to fund our organisation to better support the needs of people from refugee and migrant communities who experience family violence across Victoria’s service system.
What inTouch looks like today
Today we work with over 1400 clients a year.
We provide many services including:
- outreach in 4 courts and other community settings
- providing a legal service
- building capacity of service providers to better deliver services to women from refugee and migrant communities who experience family violence
- undertaking prevention work and capacity building with migrant and refugee communities
- working with perpetrators.
We have also established a Victims Survivor’s Advisory Group to provide us guidance in how we work and prioritise as an organisation.
We are an organisation that is growing in size and scope, building our capacity to change lives.