Future grim for refugee support service


As the Western Australian Coalition government slashes the state budget, vital community services for refugees are feared to be among the first to go.

A pregnancy support service for refugee and migrant women in Perth, that has been running on a small state government grant, is at risk of being cut from the budget, making it impossible for the program to continue.

The Pregnancy Support Project for Refugee and Migrant Women, established and run by Community Midwifery WA (CMWA), is principally run for women who have fled violence and persecution in their home countries and are newly arrived in Australia.

The CMWA's 2008 annual report states that: "The need for such a service was recognised as a priority for women settling into a new country especially those who have escaped trauma and/or are isolated in the community."

The service includes a translator for clients, counselling and referral, day-to-day support, and home visits for pregnant women and new mothers, who are often with little or no family or social support.

The service began operating in April last year for one day per week. It was quickly expanded to two days because of demand. By the end of the program, 60 appointments had been made through the service, according to CMWA's annual report.

According to CMWA, a grant of $23,483 from the government's Office of Multicultural Interests made the service possible. The state Labor opposition has said that the program should be expanded.

Coordinator Ann Coutts told WAToday.com.au on February 27 that while there were thousands of women who needed the service — and women arriving on its doorstep everyday — she is expecting the doors to have to close in a few weeks.

Women using the service have come from Sudan, Sierra Leone, Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan; translator services used have included Arabic, Cambodian, Vietnamese, Swahili and numerous other African languages. Referrals to the service range from GPs to the Association of Trauma and Torture.

Running on a shoe-string budget of $33,000, of which more than $20,000 was provided by government, the service has had no reassurance that it will be funded beyond March 10.