issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

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issue 2 08 - APS Member Groups - Australian Psychological Society

Acculturation experience33psychological and physical consequences ofthese work settings. Within this scenario,individuals rarely feel rewarded and work longhours under unpleasant, stressful and,sometimes, unhealthy conditions. Thisoutcome negatively impacted on women’spsychological wellbeing, often leading tofeelings of sadness, helplessness, frustrationand stress. Apart from working under difficultconditions, these women were also expected torun the households and look after the children,following traditional gender roles:My first job was as a cleaner,there I cried the biggest tears ofmy life. Later I started working atthe factories and that was anotherstorm to pass through. I would sitto work at the factory, and Iwouldn’t be able to even look atmy side! (...)You work like ananimal until you reach homecompletely exhausted! On top ofthat, I had my own family, so Iwould go home and kept onworking…(Mara 1 )Overcharged with responsibilities, the onlyavailable time they had to pursue anyeducational training was after work. Therestricted access to low fees childcare services,combined with no established family or socialsupport networks in Australia worked as a trapfor the immigrant women who were willing toupgrade their professional and educationalskills:I felt particularly frustratedbecause the years passed and Icouldn’t finish my education.Here I had the barrier of thekids! Because I didn’t haveanyone who could take care ofthem! Now, I am 53 years oldand I’m trying to take somecourses, but you find that thelanguage barrier is still there.That you are still missingsomething in English…(Mara)Similar barriers to achieving personal andlabour outcomes by immigrant women inSydney were identified by Cox et al. (1976)who concluded that childcare represented themajor problem working immigrant women facein Australia. Work, education and languageoutcomes were often related to their domesticreality and the available resources to assist themwith childcare. According to Cox et al.,Australian government policies overlooked theneeds of working women by not fullyconsidering the difficulties and traumas ofimmigrating to a new country with no family orsocial support resources, balancing paid workwith domestic responsibilities.Although most of the women sawEnglish language facility as a key to integrationin Australia, their capacity to pursue languageeducation was directly connected to theavailability of free classes and childcareservices. During the 1970s, free languageprograms were offered during the first twoyears after arrival. This was not very helpful tomost participants, who often did not recognisethe availability, or who had other prioritiesduring the first couple of years in Australia.Looking for permanent and affordableaccommodation, finding job offers, schools fortheir children, and taking care of domestic andchildcare duties represented common prioritiesfor most of them. When they felt more adjustedto their new reality, and were able to attendEnglish classes, frequently the first two yearshad already passed and the classes were nolonger free. Apart from that ineffective timing,the lack of low fee childcare services wasidentified as another negative factorcompounding the language learning process.Most participants, as new immigrants, hadneither relatives nor an established socialsupport networks to rely on and ask forassistance from. Consequently, even if theywere motivated and willing to pursue furtherlanguage and professional training, they oftendid not have many opportunities to do so.As D’Mello (1982) indicated, manyimmigrant women who worked in factories,cleaning services or hospitality could not affordThe Australian Community Psychologist Volume 20 No 2 December 2008

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