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SpeakOut: Women share their stories


SpeakOut has been fortunate to help make a difference in the lives of countless migrant women. Some brave women shared their stories of struggle, survival and empowerment after they came to SpeakOut. On its 40th anniversary, SpeakOut published a book sharing stories of 40 such brave women. We have helped several more clients since then. Here are some case studies. The names have been altered to protect their identities.

MARTHA, Chile, South America

Martha came to Australia on a Prospective Marriage Visa. She brought with her, her teenage son from her previous marriage. Martha got married in Australia. Four months into the marriage, her Australian husband started complaining that she was not contributing to the household expenses, with her son, an additional burden on him. He demanded that Martha send her son back to her country, as he did not wish to support another man’s child.

Martha tried to reason with her husband. It was an understanding between them right from the start of the relationship that her son would be with her. There was no one to take care of him back home and she would not be able to stay in Australia without her son.

This was just the start of their problems.
Her husband started coming home drunk and began to abuse and insult Martha. These fights became a norm. When Martha refused to send her son back, her husband refused to give money for their food and care. Martha could not work in Australia due to her visa condition. With no income of her own, Martha was trapped in an abusive relationship with no means of escape.

Martha was referred to SpeakOut by the Police. SpeakOut supported Martha with her Partner Visa application and later with her Permanent Residency application. She was also linked to the General Practitioner, Counsellor (for her physical and mental wellbeing) and Legal services.

Martha wanted to be financially independent. She started working as a Cleaner in a Hospital. She worked hard and was able to save some money. Along with this work, she undertook Disability Support Worker’s Course. She started working as a full time Personal Carer. She was motivated and determined to give a good life to her son. Soon she was able to rent a two-bedroom unit.

Martha and her son are now free from the violence and live in a safe place. Her son went on to study in the University. She has been able to reclaim her self-esteem through therapeutic counselling.

Martha appreciates the support provided by SpeakOut. ‘Thanks to you’, she says, ‘My son and I are now safe and free from violence!’

SUSAN, China

Susan was a successful business-woman in China, running her own restaurant business. She came to Australia and fell in love with a charming man. They were in a relationship for a year, and later got married. Everything was well initially and then the abuse started. It was gradual at first and then quickly escalated from verbal abuse to emotional to physical abuse. Then it then became a norm. After a particularly bad episode, Susan was left with no option but to call the police. She feared for her life. She could not speak English and she was very agitated. When the police arrived, her partner, in his perfect English, convinced the police that he was the victim. As Susan could not understand English, she responded ‘yes’ to every question the police asked. No interpreter was available at the time. The police charged Susan as the perpetrator and an apprehended domestic violence order (ADVO) was made against her.
She left the house and went to stay at a friend’s place. At night she started feeling unwell. She went to the police station and was asked to go to the hospital. She was admitted and stayed there for two nights. A social worker assessed her and referred her to SpeakOut. NSW DV Crisis Line also simultaneously referred her to SpeakOut.
The case worker at SpeakOut talked to her with the help of an interpreter. When the caseworker tried to contact various legal services to provide Susan legal advice, she was told that they did not support the perpetrators. Women’s Legal Centre agreed. Susan went to meet the lawyer with the case worker. When asked by the lawyer, Susan said that she did not want to plead guilty. Susan wanted to present the Summary Discharge Report from the hospital to the lawyer. However without the interpreter, it was impossible to communicate.
The case worker accompanied Susan for the hearing. The case was adjourned. As the case worker was scheduled to go overseas, another caseworker offered to accompany her on the next court date. But Susan thought she would be ok and refused the offer.
The lawyer advised Susan to accept the charges, telling her that if she was found guilty, she would go to jail. Susan agreed, on the basis that there would be no criminal record. She was sentenced to community correction order for 12 months in March 2023. This was suspended in May 2023. When Susan conducted the police check on herself, it came back with assault and bodily harm. She had a criminal record! She was devastated. In the meantime, her husband kept on stalking her. SpeakOut case worker helped her get an apprehended violence order (AVO) against him.
The caseworker provided her accommodation in the shelter operated by SpeakOut. Susan was on Bridging Visa with no work rights. So she could not work while waiting for her application to be processed. The case worker assisted her with the paperwork required to lodge another Bridging Visa application to waive the condition ‘no work rights’. The application was successful and she was granted rights to work in Australia. The caseworker also supported to apply for financial assistance from the Red Cross. When this application was approved, Susan moved out of the shelter and rented a unit in the City. She now has a job at a restaurant in the City. She is very happy and grateful.
SpeakOut continued to assist her and guided her to lodge the Permanent Residency application. Her application was successful. Susan is now a permanent resident of Australia. She is grateful to SpeakOut for assisting her, from when she was abused and helpless to now when she is an independent, confident Australian permanent resident.
The connection she has formed with her caseworker was evident when during one of the casual conversations with her caseworker, she heard that her shoulder was paining. Susan immediately came to the office with a Chinese herbal shoulder patch to ease the pain.


When Aarya came to Australia after her marriage, she was surprised to see how different Australia was from Pakistan. She felt that her culture was markedly different in its treatment of women. She was highly educated and she dreamed of working as a doctor in Australia. But things took a turn for the worse when she found herself living with an abusive husband.
To add to this, complications with her pregnancy meant that Aarya also faced healthcare and hospitalisation costs.

Aarya reached out to SpeakOut for advice and assistance, seeking help to navigate the immigration, social services and legal issues around her situation. She found the much needed emotional support from her caseworker and the networks she formed within SpeakOut.

With SpeakOut’s help and guidance, Aarya was able to access support from other services including mental health and financial assistance. This helped her in her journey to freedom and empowerment. Aarya continued her studies and now has a career in medicine!

‘Women experiencing domestic violence should not lose hope. They should not allow anyone to abuse them. And they should fight for their rights. SpeakOut extended a helping hand to me and for that I am forever grateful.’