Australia marks 25 years of helping vulnerable women start a new life

by Ray Clancy on June 26, 2014

in Australia Immigration

Over 14,500 women have started a new life in Australia since a special programme was introduced in 1989 to give them a chance at changing their lives for the better.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Women at Risk programme, some have been explaining how moving to Australia literally saved them from heartbreaking situations, including death.

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Australia’s Women at Risk programme celebrates its 25th anniversary this year

‘I am protecting my children; I don’t want them to take up a gun. I want to give them a better life. Now my children have a future — they are not only safe, but we have a future for many generations,’ said Fatuma from Somalia.

‘Australia welcomed us, helped us and gave us citizenship and now I am proud to contribute back. To come from civil war to live in peace and be given equal opportunity in everything is a gift beyond words,’ explained Fatuma, who lived in a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya for 15 years.

She never thought about moving to Australia, but after she volunteered for the UNHCR to speak out about the rights of women and children, she became a target.

Nada from Iraq says she arrived in Australia with her brother. ‘Australia was a country of opportunities, of new hope. I had graduated from university in Iraq but I had to study here again. I have studied because knowledge is power. We love Australia; I have fulfilled all my dreams. When I travel away from Australia I feel homesick now. Sydney is my home,’ she explained.

Sima from Afghanistan now lives in Naracoorte in South Australia. ‘This is a country town and we like it very much because it is peaceful and the people are kind. My husband and my father both work in the vineyard industry. I was the first Afghan student in the Naracoorte High School. I have helped a lot of the women settle in Naracoorte. I now have a son and enjoy studying,’ she said.

Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Michaelia Cash, said that the Women at Risk programme has been life changing for almost 14,500 women and their dependants.

‘Australia is an international leader in its resettlement of refugee women who are without the protection of a partner or male relative. We are one of only a few countries with a specific programme for women at risk, consistently meeting or exceeding its resettlement target,’ she pointed out.

‘I am proud to announce that the minimum allocation for the women at risk programme in this financial year has been reached, representing the highest proportion of women at risk within the refugee category since 2006/2007,’ she added.

With more than half of the world’s refugees estimated to be women and children, Cash said that the Australian government has increased the woman at risk quota within the humanitarian programme to 1,000 places in 2013/2014. This level will be maintained in 2014/2015.

Cash explained that since the end of World War II, more than 800,000 refugees and others in humanitarian need have resettled in Australia, contributing to and shaping society.

Australia will again welcome 13,750 people under the 2014/2015 humanitarian programme. It will also prioritise family reunion, with at least 4000 places allocated to the special humanitarian programme (SHP) for applicants backed by family members.


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