Australian Greens additional comments

Australian Greens additional comments

1.1        This inquiry has highlighted the extent and impact of dowry abuse, as well as the complexity of family violence, and the continued inadequacy of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) to address circumstances where it may arise and affect the visa outcomes and safety of migrants holding temporary visas. 

Additional comments regarding Recommendation 5

1.2        The Australian Greens support the intent of recommendation 5. We strongly support extending the family violence provisions to all temporary visas in the family subclass, including visas such as: Prospective marriage - Subclass 300 Contributory Parent - Subclass 173; Contributory Aged Parent - Subclass 884 New Zealand Citizen Family Relationship - Subclass 461.

1.3        However, the Australian Greens have concerns about the restrictive wording in part two of the recommendation. The Australian Greens reject the recommendation that family violence must be 'serious and proven' because it puts an additional burden of proof onto the various legal definitions of family violence already present in migration law, as well as federal and state family law.  

1.4        The Australian Greens acknowledge that in the overwhelming majority of cases, women are the victims of family violence, which includes dowry-related abuse. Yet the gender restrictive wording in the second part of this recommendation is inappropriate because sends a message that this visa will not be accessible to men who have been abused by a partner or their partner’s family, including men abused in same-sex relationships.

1.5        We also note that use of the term “Women at Risk in Australia” risks linking this visa with an existing permanent humanitarian visa ( the Women at Risk, subclass 204 visa) which may be applied for where women are outside their ‘home country’ with no male relative, who meet specific protection criteria relating to persecution in their home country. The same title should not be used to refer to a proposed new temporary visa, as Recommendation 5 suggests the formation of, to be available to non-family temporary visa holders who have suffered family violence including dowry abuse. A different title for the proposed new subclass visa should be used, so as to avoid confusion.

1.6        The Australian Greens support the creation of a new temporary visa that would enable victims of family violence on temporary visas to remain in Australia, while they finalise family law matters. This includes child custody arrangements and property settlements. As children are not permitted to depart Australia while custody issues remain undecided, this new type of visa would protect the best interests of the child by preventing family separation. It is imperative that temporary visa holders for this new proposed category are entitled to receive social assistance, in view of extensive evidence that financial hardship is the main reason why victims return to abusive family environments.[1]

1.7        Victims of dowry abuse are often forced to return home to face shame and rejection from their extended families. They have little recourse or ability to seek legal reparation for their financial or property losses. The Australian Greens support the creation of a temporary visitor visa (or the policy acknowledgment within the current visitor visa regime) that will allow victims of family violence and dowry abuse who have left Australia to return to arrange, attend and finalise legal or court proceedings related to property they are contesting.

Recommendation 1

1.8        That the words 'serious and proven' be removed from Recommendation 5 of the Committee’s report.

Culturally appropriate protection and support services

1.9        Whereas the Australian Greens support the Committee’s commitment to better understanding and preventing dowry abuse, and associated domestic and family violence (DFV), within Australia’s CALD communities, we believe it doesn’t go far enough in its recommendations regarding protection and support of individuals who have or are experiencing domestic violence.

1.10      Intervention/violence orders (Recommendation 2) and the creation of a temporary visa for women at risk (Recommendation 5) are measures that may stop known perpetrations of domestic violence from continuing, but does not address the cultural challenges and peculiarities regarding early identification of domestic violence in CALD communities, or the need for culturally sensitive support services for those CALD individuals who have or are experiencing it.

1.11      In their submission, Federation of Ethnic Communities' Council of Australia (FECCA) identified a need for police forces to be provided with cultural competence training, noting:

Victims/survivors from CALD backgrounds are often reluctant to disclose violence due to a range of factors including language barriers, social isolation, mistrust of police and the justice system, shame and stigma associated with seeking help.

1.12      FECCA also made a case for appropriate cultural competence training to be provided to CALD-specific support services, and DFV services, and for these services be 'adequately funded to provide support to victim/survivors of dowry abuse and related violence in culturally and linguistically appropriate ways'. FECCA submitted its:

...consultations indicate that mainstream DFV service providers are largely unequipped to deal appropriately with incidents of dowry abuse, or even to recognise it as DFV ... [and that] Victim/survivors of dowry abuse in CALD communities have repeatedly and consistently expressed a preference for small, culturally and linguistically specific, CALD community DFV specialist service providers ... [because] there is significant reluctance amongst victim/survivors from CALD backgrounds to engage with mainstream DFV services due to a perception (or prior experience) that their cultural and linguistic heritage will not be engaged with appropriately as part of the support process.

1.13      The Australian Greens agree with these arguments, recognising that professional support of victim/survivors of DFV is critical to recovery, particularly for already vulnerable cohorts of people who might already be experiencing isolation and estrangement due to other intrinsic demographic factors, such as language, culture, and community.

Recommendation 2

1.14      That police forces be provided with cultural competence training so that they can recognise and appropriately respond to domestic and family violence in CALD Australian communities.

Recommendation 3

1.15      That CALD-specific support services and domestic and family violence services be provided adequate resources and training to ensure they can deliver culturally appropriate services that provide adequate protection and support.

Senator Larissa Waters
Australian Greens spokesperson for Women

Senator Nick McKim

Australian Greens spokesperson for Immigration & Citizenship

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