Women from non-English speaking backgrounds experience many of the same difficulties as other women. In dealing with these difficulties, however, CALD women have to negotiate other major factors.
These factors include:
Language and cultural differences which make it hard to communicate Pre- and post-migration experiences which can include torture and trauma for refugee women
Isolation because of separation from family and other support networks.
- A lack of knowledge of the Australian systems and services.
- A lack of access to services which can understand and are responsive to the needs of CALD women.
- Many women are unaware or lack understanding of their immigration status (sometimes being deliberately mis-informed about this by their partner).
- There are misconceptions about their legal rights and status as either a refugee or migrant woman.
- There is also the fear that if they approach authorities for help they will be forced to leave Australia.
In relation to domestic violence, the cultural taboos which isolate Anglo-Australian women from assistance and support also exist for women from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Many CALD women will remain in abusive and damaging relationships with Australian partners for fear of having their application fro permanent residence rejected if they leave the relationship.
Often the Australian partner is aware of the woman’s fear and will use the permanent residence application as a weapon against the woman, threatening to inform the Department of Immigration if the Woman leaves or does not do what the Australian partner wants.
Further complications can arise if there are children from the relationship.
Often the Australian partner will make threats to the woman that, should she leave, he will not allow her to take the children with her. These threats have very real consequences.
If the father does not consent to a child being issued with a passport, then the mother will not be able to obtain a passport for the child. Many women stay in abusive relationships out of fear that they will never see their children again if they leave. In this situation, CALD women feel particularly marginalized and isolated.
Many of them will not have been in Australia very long and may not speak English. They will know nothing of the services available to them or even where to find information.
Often they do not have friends or family in Australia to whom they can turn for help. Sometimes they are hesitant to seek help from members of their own community due to cultural taboos, social stigmas and privacy issues. These problems are compounded by the fact that many CALD women are financially dependent on their Australian partners.
Until a Woman obtains permanent residence, she does not have any entitlement to social security.
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Domestic violence provisions in immigration law
If there has been domestic violence, a woman may be able to leave the relationship and still obtain permanent residence, if you have already put in an application for a visa. The violence may have been directed against either the woman or any of the children.
Women need to get urgent advice from qualified immigration advisers.
When seeking immigration advice, women should try to have the following information available:
The type of visa they used to enter Australia, and any further visas that they have been granted in Australia
Where and when they lodged their application for permanent residence (if applicable) and their file number with the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, and
When they separated from their Australian partners.
It is extremely important that workers assisting CALD women to leave violent relationships advise the women to take their passports and other personal documents (marriage and birth certificates) when they leave.
Proving domestic violence
A Woman wishing to take advantage of the domestic violence exceptions in immigration law must prove that domestic violence has occurred against either the Woman or a dependent child of the Woman and/or Australian partner.
A woman needs to have sought help about the violence before the visa can be granted. She will need to have acceptable evidence that may be judicially (by a court) or non-judicially determined.
A Woman can prove that domestic violence has occurred in numerous ways, which can include the following (sometimes in combination):
Acceptable judicially determined claims, being any one of the following:
- A Family Court injunction against her partner.
- A final violence restraining order against her partner.
- Her partner’s criminal record showing violence against her or her children.
Acceptable non-judicially determined claims:
For women making their first family violence claim on or after 24 November 2012
Both of the following:
- a statutory declaration using Form 1040- Statutory declaration relating to family violence completed by her setting out the allegaition of family violence and naming the person alleged to have committed it; and
- at least 2 documents from the list in Schedule 1 of this legislative instrument. This type of evidence does not always have to be in the form of a statutory declaration
- Evidence of a joint undertaking to a court by the woman and her spouse or partner that relates to an allegation before the court that the spouse or partner has committed an act of violence against her or her children.
Persons who first made a family violence claim prior to 24 November 2012
Both of the following:
- statutory declaration using Form 1040- Statutory declaration relating to family violence completed by her setting out the allegation of family violence and naming the person alleged to have committed it; and
- two statutory declarations from “competent persons” from different professions that
- set out the evidence on which they base their opinions that family violence has occurred and
- name the person alleged to have committed it
Evidence of a joint undertaking to a court by the woman and her spouse or partner that relates to an allegation before the court that the spouse or partner has committed an act of violence against her or her children.
Competent persons can be:
- Doctors who are registered in Australia.
- Psychologists who are registered in Australia.
- Nurses who are registered under section 3 of the Health Insurance Act 1973 (Cth).
- Social Workers (have to be members of the Australian Association of Social Workers or recognised as eligible for membership Association).
- Family Consultants employed by the Family Law Court of Australia or the Family Court of WA.
- Managers or coordinators of a women’s refuge or specialist domestic violence crisis and counselling service.
- Child Welfare and protection officers (if there is violence or abuse of a child.)It is important for women to obtain expert advice to clarify which of these documents may be needed and how to go about getting them.
For more information Fact Sheet 38 – Family Violence Provisions from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.
Also see article: Domestic Violence and Temporary Visa Holders: Barriers to Safety by Barb Crossing, Women’s House Shelta, Brisbane and Cecilia Barassi-Rubio, Immigrant Women’s Support Service Brisbane is available in the Newletter 53 of the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse.