Protecting women on temporary visas who experience family violence

A new report, released today, draws from the first major study in Australia to examine the link between migration status and family violence, undertaken by Monash University. Written by Associate Professor Marie Segrave from our School of Social Sciences, the report is based on the experiences of migrant women who experienced family violence while on a temporary visa. Titled Temporary migration and family violence: An analysis of victimisation, vulnerability and support, it examines the cases of 300 women who sought the support services of the InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence during 2015–16. It was launched today by Victorian Multicultural Commission Chair Helen Kapalos at the Monash Law Chambers.

Migration status often adds a layer of complexity and, most often, uncertainty, for women.

– Associate Professor Marie Segrave.

Many women on temporary partner visas have the potential to be protected by the family violence provisions in the Migration Act that enable access to permanent residency if a relationship breaks down due to family violence. The report details the limited number of applications to utilise the family violence provision, and lays the ground for urgent review of how well this system is understood and the need to support specialised services to support women to utilise the protection.

The report also details the ways in which migration status – both for women whose visa is connected to the perpetrator/partner and for those whose visa is not connected to the perpetrator – is utilised as leverage in situations of family violence. This includes situations where children are involved:

If the victim-survivor has Australian citizen children, complex migration issues can arise with the potential for women to have to leave Australia while their children remain in the country.

Threatening to take custody of dependent (Australian citizen) children if a victim-survivor leaves can be brought into sharp relief for women who believe their migration status will result in them having limited rights as mothers when they are also temporary non-citizens.

– Associate Professor Marie Segrave.

The report provides a detailed review of the range of forms of abuse experienced by women, that often are not acknowledged, and highlights the need to broaden the definition of risk in the context of family violence. This includes recognising specific practices that may also be identified as trafficking or slavery offences, as Associate Professor Segrave argues:

There are important overlaps between family violence and situations that are akin to trafficking and slavery offences, as defined in the Commonwealth Criminal Code Act 1995, including forced marriage, domestic servitude, human trafficking and other slavery-like situations. This report brings these situations to the fore and considers how Australia can move forward to better recognise and respond to the critical issues raised in this analysis.

Professor Segrave urges the Commonwealth to recognise and support all victims of family violence equally “regardless of migration status or any other point of difference”.

Listen to our recent podcast with Professor Segrave on her research and border control in Australia.

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