A photo research project that gives refugee women an opportunity to voice

In 2023-24, Australia is expecting to receive 18,750 refugees. This will be the highest intake for 30 years. In 1989, Australia created a subclass of visas called “Women at Risk“. This was for women living outside their country who were being persecuted because of their gender. In 2016-17, over 1,600 visas have been granted to women and children who are vulnerable.

Women may experience challenges, such as language problems, isolation, health concerns, loss of family, support networks, violence, and discrimination, upon resettlement. The voices of these women can be ignored when forming policy, which has significant implications. To inform settlement policies and programs, it is important to use research approaches that explore settlement issues from the perspective of women.

The study was conducted to determine the effectiveness of the research.

Our research examined refugee women’s perspectives on settlement in Australia. The study was conducted in partnership with Ishar Women’s Health Centre, Western Australia.

We used photovoice as a participatory research method, which is becoming increasingly popular for health research with marginalized groups worldwide. The technique is used to empower participants in Costa Rica. It also enhances their self-perception and builds their networks in Spain.

Read more: #AllWomenCount: art and culture at the forefront of World Refugee Day.

Participants were provided with cameras and asked to photograph situations that represented their settlement experiences. Some 43 women participated in six small group sessions with a professional photographer. Training included the ethics of taking photographs, selecting topics, and photography practice.

The “Showed” technique was used to explore the stories behind the photos. The results led to a series of recommendations that would help support a successful settlement. We conducted interviews with 11 women in order to understand their perspectives on settlement issues.

Photographs and narratives: The power of images

The participants chose photographs and wrote narratives to accompany an exhibition that has toured public libraries. This project highlights their challenges in Australia, family, and social support, and the need for education, employment, and personal strength.

Author provided

The wartime light and warmth

The light makes me feel secure. The war took away all of the light in our lives. This light was used to keep us alive and united.


Author provided

The road to life: Leaving behind the worlds of weariness

The road represents life in Australia before you came. My life reached a turning point, and I was able to overcome my difficulties with the help of support organizations.


Author provided

Happy Times

My son will be going to the library. In my country, it was impossible for children to go to school or the library safely. My children in Australia have the chance to receive an education, something that I never had. I love being a part of my son’s school.


English language education is sustained.

Settlement is an extensive, non-linear, and complex process that is affected by many factors, including age, gender, ethnicity, and education. English language proficiency is essential for a successful settlement. Many women have competing priorities when it comes to accessing English language learning. These include child care and family health.

Refugee women require sustained access to English-language tuition that takes into consideration their immediate and current needs. Flexible education and language programs are needed, including access to childcare or home tutoring.

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