Date of Award

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts Honours

School

School of Psychology and Social Sciences

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science

First Advisor

Dr Andrew Guilfoyle

Abstract

Researchers have identified migration to a new country as a stressful life event that is associated with loss of family, friends and community, and adjustment difficulties in the new country (Markovizky & Samid, 2008). In addition, involuntary migration and adaption to a new cultural environment is known to be a factor of psychological distress. Much is unknown about the adjustment of involuntary migrants during the critical period of reestablishment in the new environment. Moreover, less is known about transition processes between similar cultural contexts. It might be that transition is not as well supported when there is cultural similarity between the migrant and the host country (Selmer, 2007). Further, the impact of migration on women in this context has received very little attention. This literature review will explore the experiences and impact of challenges during migration on women from South Africa to Western Australia. The experiences of these women are interesting for three reasons; the effect on women in this context has not been studied, transition is potentially involuntary, and transition to a similar culture rather than to a dissimilar culture. It is concluded that further research is needed to qualify theory in this area and this is required to improve services, information and support for involuntary migrant women into a culturally similar context; as well as add to literature on transition to culturally similar context and the impact of reasons for migration or transition. This study used a phenomenological approach (Husserl, 1999) to explore the experiences of South African migrant women residing in Western Australia. Qualitative data, from a sample of 13 women, was obtained, using semi-structured, individual interviews. Thematic content analysis revealed common themes in the women's experiences; focused on how reasons for migration and cultural similarity influenced their experiences. The women were categorised as anticipatory refugees. Although being pushed out of their country as a result of violence and crime, they arrived prepared in Australia, their country of choice due to the perceived cultural similarities. Concerns for extended families left behind in an unsafe South Africa resulted in feelings of guilt, grief and loneliness, causing distress. Supporting immediate family settling into the new country without domestic support they were accustomed to, prolonged the adjustment process. Cultural similarity between South Africa and Australia was related to expectations of unproblematic adjustment. The majority of the women integrated positively in a period of four to six years; possibly a result of the cultural similarity experienced. Those who experienced discrepancies between their expectations and the realities of Australian culture resulted in adjustment difficulties. Further research is recommended to explore South African women's migratory adjustment with respect to future research and support services for migrating under involuntary circumstances into a culturally similar context.

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