theme: 'Celebrating African Women, Their Voices'


Passion. Experience. Diligence.




Paul Iji

Rising to the top – Lessons for African academics


The number of African academics, including non-teaching researchers, is increasing in Australia and in other parts of the world.  Many of these professionals were are recent migrants from Africa who lack the network that would support their growth and development.  Many of them are also constrained by traditional beliefs, which do not support progression in the modern work environment.  There could be further perceptions of discrimination or alienation, both of which are inimical to job satisfaction and progress. 


The objective of this presentation is to outline plans to manage and/or dispel African traditions and beliefs that prevent job progression.  The presentation also presents ways to understand the procedures surrounding academic promotion.


This is a review of what the author perceives are the bottlenecks to progression by African academics in the diaspora.  The presentation is assembled from personal experiences and experiences of other African professionals as well as policies and procedures governing academic progression in Australia and similar countries.


Through the presentation and group discussions, solutions will be proffered to traditional and real hurdles that stand in the way of academics seeking promotion.  These solutions range from mentoring, long-term planning, and completion of professional development courses. 


African academics working in the diaspora feel disadvantaged by cultural and traditional beliefs as well as lack of suitable mentors when it comes to job progression.  This presentation offers solutions to the situation.

Key message

African academics can progress to the top through hard work and better understanding of the procedures.


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Morley Muse

Characterization of Chlorella vulgaris cell wall breakdown by bacteria and enzymatic application during anaerobic digestion.

The need to achieve carbon neutrality is increasing due to global warming. This research will focus on maximizing methane yield from anaerobic digestion by developing an effective technique of breaking down microalgae cell wall using lysozyme enzymatic application along with pure bacterial cultures. The model microalgae to be used is Chlorella vulgaris. Chlorella vulgaris has been chosen as it is very common, dominant, readily available in waste water systems, and native in Victoria as well as most fresh water systems. In addition, it has been shown to have high success rate for biogas production via anaerobic digestion. However, in order to maximize methane production from biogas, the cell wall must be effectively broken down and certain constraints such as the right bacterial species for breakdown and effective pre-treatment must be met. The microalgae will be dewatered to 5-10% solid concentration, pre-treated using Lysozyme before addition of Lactobacillus and Streptococcus thermophillus. Lactobacillus has been chosen as it has the potential of producing Lysozyme improving bacterial hydrolysis prior to digestion. However, lysozyme production alone may not completely degrade the cell wall as it removes just the outermost layer of the cell, hence the use of Streptococcus thermophillus for further cell wall degradation. Investigations of cell wall disruption using added lysozyme will be conducted and compared to cell wall disruption using Lactobacillus which produces lysozyme. After pre-treatment, Chlorella vulgaris will undergo anaerobic digestion using pure bacterial cultures. Digestion will be conducted in a two-stage process using two bioreactors undergoing hydrolysis-acidogenesis and acetogenesis-methanogenesis. Pure cultures of Acetobacter-aceti, Methanobacterium, Methanobrevibacter, and Methanosarcina will be added to acetogenesis-methanogenesis reactor to maximise methane production. Methane yields will be recorded and compared with literature values to determine process efficiency. The results of this study will assist water utilities in extracting energy from their existing wastewater by growing microalgae to degrade by anaerobic digestion to produce biogas, thus generating on-site electricity and approaching carbon neutrality.


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Nkandu Beltz


Women in Leadership. Balance! Why your happiness depends on it.


They say behind every successful man is a woman and behind every successful woman are women. I say behind every successful person are men and women.  Just as much as it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to create meaningful change. A support system for community leaders.


  • Help women to identify their values
  • Help the audience to balance all the seven areas of their lives
  • Why personal leadership is very important before they step out in community leadership roles
  • Thinking like a champion

Session Outline

Keynote will focus on: Leadership and women. How can we create more leaders. 
The basic individual hierarchy of values in the construction of leadership and maintaining it. The audience will learn:

  • How to unlock your potential-Opportunity 
  • Clarify your vision and mission 
  • Balancing your seven areas of life


Wudad Salim


Settlement journey of African Women in Australia.


Health literacy is associated with poor health seeking behaviour and access to health services which could increase the risk of diseases and cost to health services in long run (26,28). Health literacy could vary by race, age, ethnicity, gender, and level of English proficiency (34,35). There is a need to increase the capacity of migrant women on health information as migrant women are reported to be experiencing wide range of health inequity in terms of health information and capacity to synthesis them compare to non-migrant women (WHISE). A community capacity building program has been undertaken to empower the African Australian women with health literacy and accessing preventative health services. The program used a community development strategy using a health promotion framework.


Level of participation in group activity and information sessions have increased. Participants become ‘Health Champions’. Interpersonal relationship among the group members have developed.


Community engagement on a grass root level needs years of establishing trust, understand cultural norm, religion, values, language, and having common ground.

Key message

There is an identified health literacy and health inequity between the main stream Australian and African Australian women. The inequity needs to be addressed in the future health policies.



Tinashe Dune


Culture Clash: Shona (Zimbabwean) migrant women’s experiences with communicating about sexual health and wellbeing across cultures and generations.


Communicating effectively about sexual health is a pertinent issue that has been gaining increasing global attention. This attention is in part based on concern about the high contribution to the global burden of disease of risks arising from unsafe sexual practices. In Australia, for example, this concern has led to the focus on the importance of cultural appropriateness when communicating to young people about sexual health. Yet sexual health and wellbeing are taught to young people through Eurocentric, biomedical frameworks of sexuality and health that construct health and humans as sexual agents within an individualist society.


This paper presents the findings of a project that aimed to understand the influence of cross-cultural modes of communication on perceptions of sexual health and wellbeing for Shona (Zimbabwean) women living in Australia and their children.


The women primarily constructed sexual health and wellbeing in customary Shona ways, which not only maintain secrecy about sexual health and wellbeing discourse, but also prohibit parents from talking to children about sexual health as such talk is reserved for particular kin and non-kin relationships. These constructions however became more fluid the longer the women resided in Australia.


For these women the notions of sexual health and wellbeing are a negotiation between Australian constructs and those from Shona culture, especially when applied to their children.

Key message

This research highlights the potential influence of various cultural world views on sexual health communication among African migrant women and their children and questions the appropriateness of sexual health and wellbeing campaigns and their responsiveness for cross-cultural youth.



Berhan M. Ahmed


Supporting African Refugee Women Entrepreneurs

The lack of job opportunities for women of African descent one of the reasons why they turn to the informal sector to seek for employment as a means of survival.

History of insecurity in their home countries that brought them to Australia has not killed the desire to run their own commercial enterprise.  They would have come from where many women regarded the informal sector as an automatic panacea for unemployment and poverty. They see this outlet as unlicensed and it is therefore attractive to informal entrepreneurs.

The informal sector is seen as offering economic activities that can be relied on to provide both adequate and secure alternatives to unemployment. It also offers opportunities for informal moneymaking. Most importantly, it serves as a means of subsistence rather than of profit making for the majority of women because it provides a platform for income generation for daily transactions for domestic purposes.

Of course, this is not unique to African women as it is common in other parts of the world for women to participate in entrepreneurship. The individual intrinsic motive for starting a business depends on whether it is necessary to alleviate poverty and provide for daily transactions or whether it is possible to pursue business opportunity for profit.

The challenge such seasoned informal sector entrepreneurs is to adapt to a formal commercial environment such as the case in Australia.

Barriers facing women of African descent entrepreneurs, besides the formal institutional maze, include cultural norms that still impact negatively on women. The continued maligning of women making them feel inadequate, whereas business demand assertiveness.

Such enterprises involve considerable risk and effort for entrepreneurs, particularly in view of complex regulatory and legislative compliance regime. Perhaps the risk is higher for these women entrepreneurs, who are vulnerable as virtual outsiders.

There are maybe other problems, such as a lack of education and a variety of challenges in running and growing businesses. There is of course the unwillingness of banks to grant credit, lack of support, the negative socio-cultural attitudes, and sex discrimination or gender bias.

A prime initiative of AAMEYS is to support and promote women’s entrepreneurial skills to take opportunities in small business and aspire to economic independence where they want and need it.



Virginia Mapedzahama

“It affects me more if it’s directed at my child!” Racism and the mothering experiences of black African women in Australia.


There is a paucity of research on how black African migrant women mother in the diaspora, in particular in white dominated societies. As such, very little is known about the challenges of mothering ‘out of context’ (Africa). The most important of these challenges, is the process of becoming ‘black m/others’. In white dominated contexts, black African mothers are no longer ‘simply’ mothers: their blackness takes on new meanings and significance which mark their bodies as sites for racism and racial discrimination. It is this intersection of racism and black African motherhood that this paper investigates. Specifically, it discusses how black African women mother in the context of everyday realities marked by experiences of racism (theirs and their children’s).


The question at the centre of this paper is: what happens to black African motherhood in white-dominated spaces marked by experiences of everyday racism? The paper will therefore explore how experiences of racism by black African women (and their children) changes their mothering practices.


Black African diasporic mothering is transformed in the Australian context to include ‘race-work’ (Barnes, 2016). By race-work we mean the conscious ‘labour’ mobilised by black African mothers to manage and navigate everyday racism not only in their lives but also those of their children. Drawing from our data, race-work in black African diasporic motherhood has three (overlapping) dimensions: educating (racism literacy); advocating (standing up for their children) and ‘fighting racism’ (i.e. the racial system beyond the interpersonal level).

Key message

Black diasporic African women’s experiences of everyday racism in white dominated Australia transforms their mothering practices by producing new forms of invisible labour, where racism literacy and micro activism are at the core of mothering.



Mulu Abraha Woldegiorgis


Socio-economic disparities in fertility levels and fertility control among and within countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.


Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has the fastest global population growth rate. Although overall fertility levels are slightly decreasing, this pattern is not a uniform one, with considerable variation known to exist across and within countries. This study aimed to examine socio-economic disparities in fertility levels, fertility preferences and control in SSA.


We used individual record data from the Demographic and Health Survey at two periods, 2005-2009 (n= 212521) and 2010-2014 (n=281736) from 19 SSA countries, sampling one survey per country per period. Measures of fertility, fertility control and desire included total fertility rate (TFR), contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR), demand for family planning satisfied through provision of contraception, and wanted pregnancy rate. We used a number of disparity measures including the Gini Coefficient, Theil Index, Concentration Index and Between-Group Variance to examine disparities according to educational status, place of residence, wealth index and age group. Multiple logistic regression was used to determine associations. We undertook comparisons over time as well as within and among countries.


The regional TFR was found to decrease from 5.7 to 5.0 while CPR increased from 16.4% to 24.7% between 2005-2009 and 2010-2014. Demand for FP satisfied with contraception increased from 30.1% to 42.9%. TFR in rural areas was approximately 30% higher than that of urban areas. The Theil index for CPR decreased by 11% and the Gini coefficient decreased from 26.2% to 17.3% in 2010-2014. Countries with low performance overall tended to have highest internal disparities. Niger had the lowest CPR and the highest TFR in both periods. In 2010-2014, the odds of contraceptive use was on average 3.62 (95% CI: 3.38, 3.59) times higher for women who completed primary education than among women without such education. Urban dwellers were less likely to have their family planning needs satisfied than women in rural areas (Adj OR: 0.90, 95% CI: 0.89, 0.94).



Hope Mathumbu


Hold us up, don’t hold us back: African women living with HIV and Hepatitis.

The Victorian African Health Action Network (VAHAN) is an independent, multidisciplinary group, committed to developing an active, effective African community response to HIV and related issues affecting African communities in Victoria. VAHAN as a group known and respected for expertise and leadership on HIV/BBV/STI and related issues, affecting Victoria’s African communities and African Australians in general.

VAHANs main goal at the inaugural African Diaspora Women Summit is to share our work and facilitate a policy and advocacy discussion about how migration impacts women from the African diaspora in relation to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Blood-borne Viruses (BBV).

Globally, there are about 1 billion people on the move at any given time. Migration can place people in situations of heightened vulnerability to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Blood-borne viruses (BBVs). In certain regions migration is an independent risk factor for STI and BBV transmission. In the Australian context, the complex and inconsistent visa system can increase social exclusion, as well as negatively affect access to health-care services or social protection, leaving migrants – especially women – vulnerable to STI and BBV transmission.

Because migrant women often have difficulties in accessing health services and face significant human rights challenges, it is imperative countries address the structural factors causing harm. Constraints often include a lack of effective cross-border mechanisms to address the needs of migrant women in a comprehensive way and respect for their human rights. Furthermore, not enough is being done to address the stigma and discrimination that people face when they are both a migrant and living with an STI and/or BBV.

Providing treatment to people living with a BBV or STI brings economic gains to a society through a person’s improved health and productivity. It also has a preventive effect by making sure women are on the best treatment regimes, thereby reducing the likelihood of transmitting the virus. There is growing evidence from the UK that benefits and contributions from healthy long-term migrants on treatment outweigh the cost of treatment to the destination country.



Nombasa Williams


This Skin I'm In - On Living Black in Australia


While recent scholarship on migration has reflected growing attention to gender and to family structures, the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality and unemployment remains insufficient. To-date there has been little focus on women’s emotional responses to migration in the context of meta structures of racism, sexism, poverty and the interplay of these legacies as defined and associated with countries of origin.


This work seeks to explore portrayals of how migrant women’s relationships as defined by their specific places of origin and pre-settlement contexts—i.e., steeped in meta and micro structural relationships of unequal power are experienced in a new country (Australia) on an immediate psychological plane. These experiences are fundamental to migrant women’s changing sense of (be)longing and identity.


Seeking participants for semi structured interviews lasting 45 - 60 mins utilizing social media—i.e., FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, mobile text messaging and/or mobile. Follow-up sessions may also be arranged.

A critique of the literature regarding contemporary theories of migration and migrant identity is discussed.

Key message

Language and space is needed to qualify the complex ways in which race, gender and migration affect women, their lived experiences (e.g., unemployment) and identities.



Desiree Ashitei



Background & Aims

The sub-Saharan African (SSA) community is part of a relatively recent wave of migration, with major migrations to Australia beginning in the last two decades. Population growth within this community has been steady and with this growth, has been the emergence of certain diseases and conditions that are specific to SSA populations living in temperate climates like Australia. One such health issue is that of vitamin D deficiency (VDD) among sub-Saharan African women living in Australia. Vitamin D is vital for bone and muscle health, is crucial for immune function and gene stability, and is important in the prevention of diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

Despite the high rates of VDD in the SSA women sub-demographic, few studies have investigated the underlining factors which contribute to this problem and studies examining the extent of knowledge and perceptions about VDD in this group are non-existent. Given that such knowledge is vital in informing policies and shaping strategies designed to tackle this pertinent health issue, the aim of this project was to explore the knowledge, perceptions and attitudes held towards vitamin D by women from sub-Saharan African backgrounds who reside in Melbourne.

Methodology & Results

Using semi-structured in-depth interviews this study explored the topics related to the women’s knowledge, perception and attitudes to vitamin D. Educational attainment, parental and peer- to-peer knowledge sharing and health care professionals (HCPs) shaped knowledge. Vitamin D was generally perceived as an important health issue however this perception was shaped by personal experience and peer-to-peer interactions. Attitudes towards vitamin D were found to be shaped by personal experiences, socio-cultural factors such as religious/cultural expectations, acculturation and gender roles and by environmental factors specifically built-environment.

Conclusions & Recommendations

SSA women need to be empowered to educate themselves about their health and to be proactive in their interactions with their health care professionals. A balanced and tailored Sun Smart message is recommended, specifically messages need to be more culturally sensitive and designed to serve the different sub-demographics of people in Australia. Information should take into consideration the different amounts of sunshine required by different groups of people, given their degree of skin melanation. Cultural awareness as part of HCP’s training is needed in order to make them aware of the socio-cultural factors that shape SSA women’s interactions with HCPs. Community leaders should be empowered with knowledge about vitamin D and equipped with skills in disseminating information in the community. Media such as community radio and drama groups should be used as channels for spreading the vitamin D message.



Janecke Wille

Language as essential in the development of a sense of belonging

Australia is in the midst of a discussion on integration and citizenship. A new multicultural policy has been released where the focus is on building cohesive and prosperous communities based on shared values. At the same time, suggestions have been made to strengthen the citizenship test with a particular focus on a tougher English test.

English language proficiency is fundamentally linked to good settlement outcomes. Conversely, a lack of English language proficiency inhibits the opportunity for new immigrants and refugees to fully participate in Australian society. For many of the newly arrived migrants and refugees, language training can represent one of many barriers they meet in the settlement process.

This presentation is based on research with the South Sudanese community in Canberra. I interviewed men and women about their own experiences of the settlement process and the development of a sense of belonging. Belonging is seen as an emotional attachment to a new place and important in the development of cohesive communities—‘belonging and recognition can help individuals addressing negative personal effects and assist society in achieving integration, mutual support and cohesion’ (Buonfino 2007:7).

The women in my study were often the ones with limited English skills. This led to restricted social participation and a sense of isolation. The women discussed their situation as a lack of settlement due to their limited social networks outside their own community. This restricted the development of belonging and impacted negatively on experiences of self and identity.

I argue that participating in the society and experiences of recognition increase a sense of belonging, and as a result, increase community cohesion. I look at how improving the delivery of language services can lead to increased participation in our economy and the broader community and positive experiences of self and identity. This will provide long term economic benefits and savings to government by facilitating effective settlement of immigrants and enable them to participate productively.

Dr Wille is a policy and project officer with FECCA. She has a PhD in sociology specialising in settlement processes based on intimate stories of people’s own experiences. She has previously worked on internal migration due to conflict and the presence of landmines, with a particular focus on Angola.



Rabecca Mphande

Supporting The Writing Literacy Development Of Girls From Non-English Speaking Background

Literacy, writing specifically, is a complex process, and this complexity poses particular challenges when educators mediate language learning with English as additional language (EAL) learners especially those with low literacy skills in English. There is considerable disparity in educators’ strategies that support the learners’ literacy development dependent on the opportunities for engagement in language use provided by teachers.

This report presents a qualitative case study of an intensive 7-week writing literacy intervention undertaken to explore pedagogy that supports the writing of lower high school students from a Non-English Speaking Background (NESB). Adopting a sociocultural perspective, DeCapua’s and Marshall’s (2010a) the Mutually Adaptive Learning Paradigm (MALP) instructional frame was deployed. Systematic analysis of data from sampled students and Multicultural Education Aides was done. Data were collected through qualitative methods. The findings showed that due to the adaptive nature of MALP frame, the scaffolding approach enabled teaching to integrate a range of effective strategies so that all the EAL students were enabled to accelerate their writing progress despite having varied low writing proficiency levels in English. Positive writer’s identity evolved, linked to increased student engagement, literacy and interpersonal skills to perform written tasks even beyond their writing targets. Finally, multicultural education aides integrated effectively within MALP frame and significantly contributed to increased learners’ writing performance.

The study concluded that the three-staged processes effectively scaffolded writing for the EAL learners and increased their English writing proficiency, participation and critical thinking skills. The study also made recommendations for future practice that could adopt a holistic approach whereby context-based teaching and learning data could inform curriculum planning and delivery. Furthermore, considering the ever-growing technological advancement, the study suggested future research in a literacy intervention project that could harness Computers in the EAL reading-writing classes to support the learners to write-to-learn English.

Adopting an early intervention approach, to empower the girl-child for appropriate leadership skills in various contexts, she needs ongoing support to advance in and realise her literacy and overall education outcomes.



Danielle Laville Knubley

Stand up against Family Violence and celebrate respect towards women


Definition of Family Violence according to the FAMILY VIOLENCE PROTECTION ACT 2008-SECT 5

Definition of ‘family member’

The definition gives an overview of forms of violence experienced in all communities but there are some forms of abuse that are not readily recognised as constituting family violence. For example, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and dowry –related violence. These are specific forms of family violence experienced by women in some African communities Factors contributing to family violence for African Women


  1. Empowering women to disclose family violence

This will be done by looking at the following:

- What services are available and what type of responses do they provide

- Are the services appropriate to the needs of victims of Family Violence from the African communities

- The challenges faced by victims of family violence from the African Community

    2. Development of best practice for victims from African Communities

What is the best practice for victims from the African communities

Conclusions (and recommendations)

To strengthen the capacity of mainstream and specialist services to identify and respond to the needs of family violence victims from CALD communities,

To improve practices and policies relating to the use of interpreters in family violence–related cases,

To include forced marriage and dowry-related abuse as statutory examples of family violence in the Family Violence Protection Act.

What type of prevention program will be effective in the African Community

Key Message

What is my behaviour towards my family members and how can I contribute to the healing of victims and prevention of future victims of family violence.