Monash University
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Public services as indispensable stepping stones to migrant women's self determination

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journal contribution
posted on 2017-06-02, 01:12 authored by Bursian, Olga
This paper argues that publicly funded infrastructure, or the welfare state, were indispensable in enabling a group of migrant women to exercise energetic self determination during resettlement in Melbourne between the mid 1970s to late 1990s. Even though the group of participants in my doctoral study were extraordinarily resilient, and mostly educated women, they needed the service system developed within the bi-partisan supported policy of multiculturalism which granted access to newcomers on the basis of citizenship rights. The paper unpacks the sufferings of migrants who come from communally based societies, lose their former worlds and meaningful place in society and encounter negative representations fuelled by ignorance in the Australian context. I then present the women’s detailed evidence about how the network of publicly funded services, as they existed up to the end of the 1990s in Victoria, enabled them to not only recapture their former energies, but also had life affirming reverberations for their families and the community. In contradiction to recent divisive, neo-liberal public discourses (Edgar 2001; Mendes 2003), the welfare state and the policies of multiculturalism and related programs enabled engaged citizenship and the building of vibrant and diverse civil society. Rather than being a drain on the public purse, modest government investments into programs enabled the nation to benefit from the women’s enormous industriousness. After some brief contextual information, I will present vignettes from their narratives about connecting with a variety of services. The tragically amusing dialogue with an isolated woman’s experience of poor medical practice will provide a counter balance to the discussion.


Date originally published