Exploring Violence: The Case of Non-English Speaking Refugees and Asylum Seekers, and the Migrant Health Service

Stream: Cultural Constructions and (Re)Conceptualisations
Date: Thursday, 12 February 2015
Time: 1.45 pm – 3.30 pm


The limit of Western philosophy is the border where the colonial differences emerges, making visible the variety of local histories that Western thought, from the right and the left, hid and suppressed. (Mignolo 2002:66) The above citation seems pertinent to bring to view and explore the continuum of violence that people of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds, who, generally, are of non-English speaking backgrounds, experience in their often indefinite journey towards safety. Based on the coloniality of power, a concept developed by Walter Mignolo, this paper aims to illustrate the importance of interrogating our positioning as service providers within a Western paradigm. By examining the impact of the continuum of violence, which does not end with the person’s arrival in Australia as a country of asylum, the paper aims to unearth our ethical stance towards justice when facing the ongoing attempts to deny, silence and subjugate their capacities, knowledge and existence when we work in collaboration with people of refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. This paper also intends to bring to view the significant value of pluri-versed epistemologies and ways of belonging to develop a respectful and open stance towards these people which is honouring of difference. (The presentation can focus on the experience of gendered violence against both women and men, or we can limit our focus to women’s experience only, depending on the focus of the conference.)


Ana Maria Holas (Presenter), Migrant Health Service
Ana Maria Allimant Holas is a senior Social Worker with extensive experience in working with refugee, asylum seekers and migrants particularly women. She has worked in the areas of domestic violence and sexual assault and mental health services as well as specialist torture and trauma services in Canberra, Queensland, Aotearoa New Zealand, Chile and Adelaide. Ana Maria has also worked at a policy level in areas dealing with the effects of violence on people's lives. She also holds a Diploma in Social Planning from the University of Queensland and a Master of Arts in Women's Studies from Griffith University.

Kay Johnston (Presenter), Migrant Health Service
Kay Johnston is a senior Social Worker who has extensive experience working within the refugee sector.She is a member of an innovative mutli disciplinary team, developing and initiating best practice and ethical models of care within a new arrival primary health setting. Kay has taken a leadership role in terms of policy and organisational responsiveness to cultural diversity and with regard to the particular and layered complexities presenting within the context of gendered violence.

Damien McInerney (Presenter), Migrant Healthi Service
Damien has worked as a Clinical Psychologist at The Migrant Health Service in Adelaide for 12 years, providing assessments and therapeutic interventions for refugees and asylum seekers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. He is involved in asylum claims, providing psychological reports and expert witness statements at migration hearings, Refugee Review Tribunals and Ministerial intervention appeals. He is a member of the academic staff in the School of Psychology at Adelaide University. He is a member of the Masters of Psychology Health Committee of Adelaide University, promoting trans-cultural awareness into the teaching curriculum of the Department of Psychology.