12:12am Saturday 22 February 2020

Life tougher for refugee single mums

PhD social work and human services researcher Caroline Lenette said refugee single mothers were a minority within a minority.

“They face discrimination both because of their cultural background and because of their single motherhood status,” Ms Lenette said.

“This discrimination as single parents comes from both within their own communities and from the broader Australian community.”

Ms Lenette said challenges for refugee single mothers included learning English, lacking a relative to teach them how to drive a car and getting a job, which were compounded by the multiple responsibilities involved with being a single parent and the social stigmas associated with single motherhood.

She conducted several in depth interviews with eight women and focussed on the complex and multifaceted circumstances of four single mothers, spending time in their family homes and becoming familiar with their struggles and successes.

The women were aged between their mid-twenties to fifties and were sole carers for between one and seven children. They came from several African countries, including Burundi, Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Being isolated in a new country with little support impacts on single mothers’ mental health,” Ms Lenette said.

“But having spent several years waiting to come to Australia, the feeling can be bittersweet.

“They may feel depressed about living in Australia while also recognising this is a good place to raise their children.”

Ms Lenette said refugee single mothers managed to accomplish a range of positive outcomes, including securing ongoing employment and undertaking tertiary studies, despite significant obstacles they encountered during resettlement.

She said an understanding of the challenges faced by refugee single women meant support organisations could tailor programs to their needs.

Media contact: Rachael Wilson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 1150 or rachael.wilson@qut.edu.au

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