News and Events

Public harassment of Muslim women: what can be done?


Our Community, Our Rights is a project that engages women from migrant and refugee backgrounds in human rights advocacy training, then supports them to develop and manage their own advocacy projects. This year we have been working with Muslim women from the Horn of Africa.

The women who participated are deeply concerned that many Muslim women feel unsafe in public places. In response to this, a group of participants have decided that they would like to engage policy makers and service providers in a conversation about the experiences and concerns of community women, and also share their ideas about how we can tackle this problem. Read this blog by Faduma, Fowzia, Tawaduda and Hawo and please register for the forum to hear more.

Many Muslim women feel unsafe in public places, when using public transport and when driving in their cars. Muslim women are often more easily identifiable than Muslim men, due to the clothing we chose to wear. This can make us a target for those who hold negative attitudes towards Islam and multiculturalism.

These experiences and feeling unsafe has a negative impact on the health and wellbeing of women in our community. We understand this very well, because we are a group of Muslim women and many of us have experienced harassment ourselves, as have many of our friends and loved ones. We can’t speak for all Muslim women, but for the women in our project group and for many women we know, this fear and anxiety affects us, every day.

Women might not go out as much, and when they do, they feel fear, like having butterflies in their stomach. We are even more scared when we are with our children, because we don’t want to put them in danger or expose them to bad language and racism. We also worry about our daughters, when they go out wearing their hijab.

It can take strength to wear the hijab in this environment. It’s not easy being different. We admire the strength of our daughters and the women in our community.

We would like to share our experiences with you, tell you about our Safe Spaces for Muslim Women initiative and start a conversation about how we can all work together to send a strong message that the harassment of Muslim women is unacceptable.

Please join us at our forum about the safety of Muslim women in our community.

When: 11:00AM -1:00PM, Tuesday 26 July 2016

Where: Maidstone Community Centre, 21 Yardley Street, Maidstone

This event will include:

  • Presentations about our experiences and the experiences of other women we know
  • A guest presenter from the Australian Muslim Women’s Centre for Human Rights
  • The launch of the ‘Safe-Spaces for Muslim Women’ resource kit

The resource kit and event are an initiative of community women who have participated in Women’s Health West’s Our Community, Our Rights project.

Please note that registration is essential. Please register by Tuesday 12 July, by calling Susan at Women’s Health West on 9689 9588 or by sending her an email.

A message of support to Caroline Wilson


Women’s Health West Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan

Women’s Health West’s Chair of the Board, Samantha Merrigan sent a message of support, and also thanks to Melbourne sports commentator Caroline Wilson, following the recent sexist and insulting remarks by Collingwood Football Club President Eddie McGuire, North Melbourne Club President James Brayshaw and Triple M commentator Danny Frawley during their radio show on Triple M.

Samantha is happy for us to share this message with you. Please read her message:



Hi Caroline,

I don’t normally email people I don’t know. But I feel compelled to contact you after hearing of this issue and reading your article in The Age.

I am writing this in my personal capacity and as the chair of a not-for-profit organisation, which provides case management support to victims of domestic violence and their children.

But to the point of my email – thank you.

Slowly, slowly public opinion is changing. The public reaction to issues like this is moving from ‘what’s her problem?’  to ‘how could he?’ Maybe it’s happening too slowly and we’ve still got a long way to go but at least it’s happening. And in no small part that’s due to people like you who are in the public eye standing up and pointing out sexist behaviour, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.

I wonder what reaction you are receiving. I suspect it’s not all supportive and may be worse than the incident itself. I just want to make sure that I add my voice to those supporting you.

Kind regards,


Samantha Merrigan
Chair of the Board, Women’s Health West

Access free and cheap condoms around Melbourne’s western region

Share the love, not STIs: Why should we care?

  • Rates of STIs (sexually transmitted infections) such as chlamydia, HIV and syphilis are on the rise in Victoria
  • Almost 80 per cent of these infections are in young people, even higher for young people in the west
  • Rates of condomless sex are higher in the west than in other parts of Victoria
  • One way to prevent STI infection is to use condoms consistently


How can we spread the word?

Spread the word, not STIs!

Women’s Health West, together with the Action for Equity partnership, have installed a series of condom vending machines across the western region of Melbourne. The aim of these machines is to increase access to affordable contraceptives in a discrete, safe and non-judgemental way.

Download the Cheap Condoms in Melbourne’s West flyer

You can find out more information about sexual health and well being via these organisations:cvm_moreinfo_MARIBYRNONG_A5single

Download the Where can I get more information in Maribyrnong? flyer
cvm_moreinfo_MELTON_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Melton? flyer

cvm_moreinfo-SUNSHINE_A5singleDownload the Where can I get more information in Sunshine?  flyer

Download the Why do we need them? flyer

The condom vending machine project is proudly supported by the Helen Macpherson Smith Trust.

Vote Home: Let’s end the housing crisis by 2025

VH-FB-Twitter-profile-imageIt’s time to take action on homelessness. The Vote Home campaign is committed to ending homelessness by 2025, and it needs our support.

It’s got Women’s Health West’s support.

Sign the Vote Home petition and send the following messages to government and all of Australia’s political leaders:

  • Let’s get a national strategy together and end the housing crisis by 2025
  • There is no place for homelessness in Australia
  • Everyone deserves a place to call home


1. Every night, more than 105,000 Australians don’t have a place to call home. That’s one in every 200 people

2. The majority of people who end up homeless are fleeing domestic violence or family breakdown

3. Today a home costs nine times the median house – hold annual income, and in some places, even more; 30 years ago the same house cost only three years annual pay

4. The income-to-home ratio keeps increasing, making home ownership difficult or impossible for much of the population

5, Countless women and children stay in violent homes because it is so hard to find affordable houses to rent

6. Renting is increasingly unaffordable. In the last five  years capital city rents have risen at twice the rate of  inflation

7. Over 150,000 people in private rental are paying more that 50 per cent of their income on housing costs, even after receiving rent assistance

8. In the last five years capital city rents have risen at twice the rate of inflation

9. Australia has a shortage of over 500,000 rental properties that are affordable and available to people on a low income

10. There are more than 200,000 Australians on waiting lists for public and community housing

11. There is currently no national strategy to address housing and rental affordability. Current federal policies are making the housing crisis worse. This must change. With bipartisan support we can make sure every Australian has a safe and secure place to call home

12. If every Australian had access to an affordable home the community would be a safer and more equal place

Don’t we all want to live in a society that sees no one homeless and where the great Australian dream of having a place to call home is within reach? Sign the petition.

Read some media about the Vote Home campaign: Herald Sun, Probono Australia, The Guardian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Find out more about Women’s Health West’s housing programs and services.

Vote Home is an initiative of the Vote Home Alliance – Homelessness Australia, National Shelter, Community Housing Industry Association and ACOSS.


Let’s talk sexual and reproductive health

A Word from the CEO, Dr Robyn Gregory – whw news edition one, 2016

SafeSexintheWestDid you know that around 80,000 new chlamydia infections are reported in Australia each year and that chlamydia notifications have increased over the past three years in Melbourne’s west? Or that the majority of these cases are young people?

Or that only 53 per cent of sexually active young people in Melbourne’s west report that they practice safe sex by using a condom?

These statistics are a small snapshot of sexual health and reproductive realities in Melbourne’s west and in Australia. They do, however, demonstrate how sexual and reproductive health requires strengthening in the overall public health conversation and national and state policy responses. And they illustrate a need for urgent action in Melbourne’s western region.

Women’s Health West takes a regional approach to redressing the social determinants that cause sexual and reproductive ill health as part of the Action for Equity partnership. This is a four-year sexual health and reproductive health promotion plan for Melbourne’s west involving partners from local government, community and health sectors.

Action for Equity sees us working in schools, prisons, workplaces, sports centres and with health and community services across Melbourne’s west to educate a range of target populations including young women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, women living with a disability, sex workers and women from refugee and migrant backgrounds to ultimately prevent sexual and reproductive ill health.

While Action for Equity works successfully at a regional level, it would benefit by being part of a state-wide and nationally-focussed approach. The absence of a federal and state policy framework limits the impact of our work in sexual and reproductive health, with public policy largely concentrating on prevention of infections or unplanned pregnancy – an individual educational or behavioural change approach – rather than broader systemic change to the factors that cause poor sexual or reproductive health, such as violence against women, homophobic attitudes or limited access to resources in rural communities.

The development of a national and state-wide policy would allow us to work within a co-designed framework integrating an overarching evidence-based approach for research, program and service development, implementation and evaluation. If we want to achieve true health equity, we must promote more strategic policy action on redressing the social determinants of sexual and reproductive health. That is one of Women’s Health West’s goals.

This comment is from the latest edition of whw news, make sure you have a read and find out more about our work in sexual and reproductive health in Melbourne’s west. #SafeSexintheWest