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DV Project Report 2003-2004

Policy Officer: Monica Mazzone
Project Officers: Jayantha Alwishewa, Shalini Kumari, Zulekha Nazir and Violeta Craney
Casual Project Officers: Tania Pereira (18 Aug to 17 Oct 2003) and Kyungja Jung (5 Sep to 31 Oct 2003)

This has been another busy year for the Domestic Violence (DV) team, with involvement in a number of issues and campaigns, as well as casework and an extensive training program. The DV team wrote policy submissions in the critical areas of Family Law, Reform and Trafficking, and was also involved in various campaigns and events throughout the year, as detailed below. We also completed a very successful Rural Training Project, which gave community workers from the rural areas access to training in relation to NESB women and domestic violence. The demand for casework remains high with many women accessing Speakout with complex cases.

Policy and campaigns

Interpreters campaign

The Policy Officer continued working with the NSW Council for Social Services (NCOSS) and the Women Refuge Movement on the campaign to retain fee free interpreters for SAAP services.

We are very concerned that the free TIS service is gradually being withdrawn form SAAP services, and the service providers are expected to approach their funding body to provide specific interpreting service funds in their budget. SAAP is the program that funds most domestic violence refugees and is a joint Commonwealth/State program administered by DoCS. To date, there has been no commitment from either DoCS or FACS to provide funds for interpreter costs to refugees. It is obvious the services will be unable to provide quality services to women of non-English speaking background with low level of English if interpreter fees are unaffordable.

Family Law

Another big issue where we have been very active this year has been in relation to the proposed changes to Family Law and the establishment of a Families Tribunal.

Speakout wrote to the Parliament Enquiry Into Joint Residence Arrangements in The Event Of Family Separation and gave evidence to Parliament Enquiry advocating against the proposed changes, as well as participating in the coordination of the campaign against these changes.
Speakout’s report argued against the introduction of a rebuttable presumption of 50/50 shared parenting and outlined many concerns regarding the proposal, including:

· That the child’s best interest remain the focus of the measures in the Family Law Court;
· That each case should be assessed on its merit;
· That women, particularly NESB women recently arrived in Australia would face significant barriers, such as lack of English skills and knowledge of the legal system, in trying to refute such a presumption;
· That women and children experiencing domestic violence and child abuse would be put at risk of further abuse.

Speakout’s submission recommends the following:

· The proposed amendment to the Family Law Act to introduce a rebuttable presumption of joint residence be discarded; and
· The Act be amended to introduce a rebutitable presumption of no contact or only supervised contact, where it has been estab- lished that a partner has used violence against a child or spouse (as in New Zealand Guardianship Act). Persons who were found to use violence have to prove why and how they are now considered safe before contact is allowed. Persons convicted of a sex related crime should not have unsupervised contact under any circum stances.

The inquiry in the end did not recommend a formal presumption of 50/50 shared parenting, but recommended that this be the starting point of negotiations and the establishment of a Families Tribunal to decide disputes about shared parenting. Speakout has grave concerns about this, as parents in the Tribunal would be unrepresented. We believe that migrant and refugee women, particularly those who just arrived in the country, would be greatly disadvantaged in negotiating child custody arrangements if they are not aware of Australia’s legislation and services, do not understand the legal system and do not speak English well enough to follow and participate in the proceedings.

While at the moment of writing it does not seem that plans for the Tribunal will go ahead, the Government is proposing to introduce Family Relationship Centres for parenting disputes. These centres will not allow legal representation but will provide mediation that will have shared parenting as the starting point. Parents will have to attempt mediation before going to the Family Court. While cases involving child abuse or domestic violence will be exempt, it is not clear how they will be screened out of the process.


Trafficking

Speakout participated in the NSW Illegal Non-Citizens in the Sex Industry Working Party convened by the NSW Department for Women and wrote an account on the Federal Trafficking Inquiry and a longer one into the NSW Government Working Party into Illegal Non-Citizen in the sex industry inquiry.

The report was presented at the Public Hearing at NSW Parliament House on 19 Nov 2003 and Speakout was also invited to give evidence at Federal Public Hearing into Sex Trafficking on 25 Feb 2004.

The main points of our submissions were:

In relation to the creation of a special visa for trafficked persons that:

a) Either the special visa be valid only as long as special services are needed, and then be converted into another type of visa, such as a Protection visa; or

b) That the special trafficked women visa be written in such a way as not to be identifiable as “trafficked women visa” by service providers;
c) That the visa become permanent where there are threats to the life of the woman or possibility of re-victimization; and
d) That community organisations be involved in supporting the women accessing this visa.

The visa should qualify women for a range of support services (including income, housing, education/training, health, counselling,) and exempt them from the 2-year waiting period.

In relation to providing services to trafficked women, we recommend:

a) That federal and state governments provide and/or fund a full range of services to trafficked women, delivered through NGOs, that facilitate women’s recovery from the violence they have experienced; and
b) That specialized projects be funded to provide information and support to trafficked women in Australia and to link them to services in their countries, should they chose to return.

Speakout also made recommendations in relation to the provision of information to the women, specification of relevant training to Law Enforcement officers and DIMIA and preventing trafficking through Foreign Aid.

We also dedicated the Summer 2004 issue of Speakout to the topic of trafficking.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DV CAMPAIGN

Speakout was disappointed by the government’s DV campaign and has called, with other services and networks, for the release of the original “No respect no relationship” campaign.

Speakout is particularly saddened about the lost opportunity for a truly innovative campaign, and the release of a program that focuses on crisis response rather than prevention. Speakout has grave concerns about the ability of Lifeline, which has been contracted for the national DV line, to provide professional and appropriate response to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. We are concerned at the removal of the existing state DV lines, which have years of experience and well-trained staff for dealing with these issues.

Old and emerging issues in the Domestic Violence Provision: Women on tourist and fiancée visa
The inadequacy of the DV Provision in protecting all migrant women in situations of DV came again to the fore this year, with a number of women on tourist visa experiencing domestic violence on the part of their Australian partner and not being able to access the DVP.

Through casework and networking, we have identified a number of cases of women who married Australian citizens/residents and came to Australia on tourist visas. Typically the husband assured them that it was best and quicker for them to come on tourist visa and that he would sort out the Spouse Visa application once in Australia. However, he then did not put in the paperwork, while the woman was convinced everything was being taken care of. When domestic violence occurs, these women are not covered by the domestic violence provision, nor have any rights to income support or housing.

Women on Fiancée visa are also vulnerable. The Domestic Violence Provision applies to women on Fiancée visa only if the woman marries the sponsor within 9 months.

We have identified cases where the sponsor refuses to marry her, she is not covered by the DV Provision and cannot apply for permanent residence and has to return home, which may not be culturally acceptable or difficult for other reasons.

Case work

The caseworkers provided support to 76 ongoing clients and to 211 one-off clients facing a variety of issues. (Please note that some of the one-off clients later became ongoing and are therefore counted twice).

On going clients

The team provided 130 face-to-face sessions and 207 telephone sessions to these clients. Interpreters were used with 19 clients. Internal interpreters were used in 13 cases and external in 6.

Forty-eight percent (36 women) of the women had children.

The team provided support, crisis counselling, information and assistance or appropriate referral with a number of issues including: applying for Apprehended Violence Orders, applying for permanent residency, Court support, accommodation and legal issues.

The majority of the ongoing clients (73%) were not permanent residents, and visa status was an issue for many of them. Therefore 25 women were given information on Permanent Residency issues and 19 women were assisted in applying for the Domestic Violence Provision. The other clients with immigration issues were referred to IARC.

Women were also assisted with Legal issues, particularly with AVP applications.

Issues identified by caseworkers

· Sexual abuse is still a big taboo subject within NESB clients facing DV and some clients are not aware that rape in marriage is a crime;
· Some DV clients experienced difficulties when accessing Apprehended Violence Orders due to the lack of physical evidence and also due to a narrow perception of DV among some police and magistrates when clients face verbal, emotional or psychological abuse “Only”;
· Stereotypes and racism experienced by some DV clients when accessing mainstream services. Muslim women and their children are targets of discrimination and bullying due to the mainstream media portrayal of them;
· Lack of sensitiveness and cross-cultural understanding among some government and community workers when dealing with NESB clients, resulting in blaming the victim about their DV situation;
· Majority of cultures hold some conservative views on separation leading to shame issues and fears of being rejected by their own community when they decide to leave their husbands;
· Women with tourist visas marrying or living in a de-facto relationship with an Australian citizen who chooses not to apply for a Spouse Temporary Visa;
· Lack of support systems for NESB women target group specially lack of bi-cultural workers or ethno specific services and counsellors;
· DV clients’ lack of knowledge of Australian systems and low self-confidence impacting on their ability to take action regarding the domestic violence situation;
· Some DV clients expressed fear when disclosing issues of child physical and emotional abuse due to their misconception of mandatory reports. The fear is that their child might be taken away from them if a report to DoCS is made;
· Misleading information by some migration agents when dealing with NESB women who are facing DV and are on tourist visa;
· Financial difficulties experienced by Temporary Visa holders;
· Clients expressed their lack vital information on the process of applying for the DV Provision; and
· All clients expressed loneliness and isolation and have requested support groups.

One-off clients

Speakout assisted 211 one-off/casual clients from 53 different backgrounds.

Casual clients were mostly seeking advice and referrals on issues surrounding: general domestic violence information, immigration, Apprehended Violence Orders and legal issues, accommodation and Centrelink payments.

Community Development

DV Network
Speakout convenes the NESB DV Network, which meets bi-monthly to identify and discuss issues relating to NESB women’s experiences of domestic violence; devises strategies and actions to address the issues, and shares ideas and experiences.

The Network has nearly completed a project to develop a short information kit on the Domestic Violence Provision and the role of Competent Persons to be given to GPs across NSW.

Training in Sydney

Domestic Violence Provision (DVP) in Immigration Law Training
· Lidcombe, 29 Jul 2003
· Lidcombe, 11 Nov 2003
· Lidcombe, 25 May 2003

Cross Cultural Domestic Violence (CCDV) Training
· Lidcombe, 9 Sep 2003
· Lidcombe, 30 Mar 2004

Other trainings

· Training with Korean Society, Campsie, 13 and 27 Nov 2003: 2 half days Domestic Violence Training for Korean Community by Kyungja Jung (DV Project Officer)
· Joint training with Education Training Against Violence on Domestic Violence and Cultural Diversity, Kogarah, 28-29 April 2004 (with Monica Mazzone, DV Policy Officer)
· Training for International Humanitarian Settlement Scheme workers organised by Myriad Consultant, Lewisham, 15 Mar 2004

Rural Training Project

Speakout had some funds for training workers in rural areas on working cross culturally in DV and on the Domestic Violence Provision in Immigration Law. The training program was very successful and well received.

Cross Cultural Domestic Violence (CCDV) Training (Trainor: Monica Mazzone)
· Newcastle 20 Aug 2003
· Broken Hill 6 Nov 2003
· Cobar 20 Nov 2003
· Lightening Ridge 29 Jun 2004
· Canberra 11 Mar 2004


Domestic Violence Provision (DVP) in Immigration Law Training (Trainor: Jane Brock)
· Taree 4 Sep 2003
· Coffs Harbour 30 Jun 2004

Working with NESB children training for refugee child support workers

Women’s refuge Conference, Grafton on 29 Oct 2003. The training was due to a specific request of the Women’s Refuge Movement and was done in partnership with Ethnic Childcare, Family and Community Centre.

Participation in community activities and partnerships

The DV Team has also participated in meetings with interagencies, the various community sector’s network on DV prevention, other key networks and committees, conferences, short-term steering and working parties, held information stalls and participation in community events, wrote articles and community presentations, ran trainings and co-organised forums.