Michal Morris, managing director of the multicultural domestic violence service inTouch, said the Indian community is one of Australia’s largest migratory populations and domestic violence occurs in all cultures and communities.
“We know that migration status can be used as an abuse – often what we call coercive control,” she said. “There is a lot of power in being able to sponsor someone or control a person’s knowledge of the Australian migration program.”
Ms Smith said 93% of the legal center project’s clients experienced physical abuse, 56% sexual abuse and 50% forced servitude.
“There was a case study of a woman who was literally taken from the airport, put in a one-room house and not allowed to leave. The husband visited her every night and had forced sex. This is one of the extreme cases. It was not unusual in terms of sexual violence, ”she said.
With Australia’s borders closed, many women with temporary visas cannot return home and some may not want to, while others have Australian children.
Ms Morris said anyone can get a family violence risk assessment, safety plan and relocation, but a woman’s visa status will determine whether she has work rights and access to support from the family. government through Medicare and Centrelink.
“These women may be subject to case management, but as mentioned, their rights are tied to their type of visa,” she said.
“So while inTouch can provide some support, we won’t be able to help them become independent. ”
Ms Smith said the horrific death of an Indian woman in 2016 sparked a coronary investigation and inquest to determine whether there was a need for support for women in abusive relationships in the Indian community, as many do not have not been seen in court or with social workers.
“It was a real gap,” she said.
The legal center works with local organizations such as the Oorja Foundation to reach out to migrant women.
Nayana Bhandari is co-founder of the foundation, which works in Hume and Whittlesea. She said education and training for doctors and support workers was especially important, as she found that it could take up to six months for women to disclose that they had been sexually or physically assaulted.
“Domestic slavery is quite common, and in a few cases I have seen girls – I can’t say they were locked up but watched very closely, that they weren’t allowed to join in. community groups, ”she said.
Survivors who are applicants for a partner visa can obtain permanent residence if they have experienced domestic violence from their sponsor. However, for women who arrive on temporary visas, such as student or work visas, and who do not meet the domestic violence provisions, while their visas will not be canceled, they should make arrangements for return to their country or apply for another visa, which may take some time.
But Ms Smith says the federal government needs to expand eligibility criteria, including to women who have applied for offshore partner visas and arrived in Australia on other temporary visas but otherwise meet the criteria.
Victoria’s Minister for Women and Family Violence Prevention Gabrielle Williams is also advocating that the federal government increase protections for migrants experiencing domestic violence, including women on temporary visas.
“The Commonwealth must provide access to legal services, specialized policing and income support to a wider range of temporary visa holders who have survived domestic violence, and consider revising regulations on migration to provide legal protection to survivors on temporary visas, ”said Ms. Williams.
More than $ 3.5 billion has been invested in services in Victoria – including the Orange Door network – since the Royal Commission on Domestic Violence, including forms of violence disproportionately suffered by migrants and refugees such than forced marriages and dowry-related abuses.
A spokesperson for the Home Office said that in the 2021-2022 budget, $ 10.3 million was invested over two years to expand a pilot program of the Department of Social Services supporting temporary visa holders suffering from domestic violence.
This includes a one-time payment of up to $ 3,000 for a woman and her children – treated by the Red Cross – to cover food, shelter and medical care. Funds are also going to nine community and women’s legal centers to help access migration and legal advice.
Ms Smith said the funding was a step in the right direction, but once that $ 3,000 was lost the women were still in the same situation – unable to work, sometimes with dependent Australian children and in need of a legal support.
The federal government was specifically asked about increasing eligibility for permanent residence or government support for female temporary visa holders experiencing domestic violence, but did not respond by the deadline.
* Name changed to protect the identity of the survivor
If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the National Domestic and Sexual Violence Counseling Service 1800 RESPECT. If you are in immediate danger, call 000.
If you need a translator, call TIS at 131 450 and have them call 1800RESPECT at 1800 737 732.
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