Tonight is White Ribbon Night, which is a new initiative to help stop men’s violence against women. People are encouraged to have a ‘night in’ to draw attention to the fact that not everyone feels safe in their own home. According to White Ribbon Australia, at least one woman is killed every week by a former or current partner and one in four young Australians have witnessed violence against their mothers.
Migrant women’s experience of family violence can be exacerbated by language barriers, a lack of knowledge and awareness of the law and available services, cultural and religious barriers to seeking help, and fear of police, government agencies or of being ostracised by their community. For migrants on a temporary partner visa, the threat of being forced to leave Australia if they leave their partner adds another layer of pressure.
Australians do not want anyone staying in an abusive relationship in order to stay in the country and there are family violence provisions for people on temporary partner visas to prevent this from happening. In late 2012, we took steps to streamline the evidence that people claiming family violence need to provide the department.
As part of the changes, the type of evidence able to be provided was simplified and expanded. The list of acceptable evidence now includes letters, reports, statutory declarations and statements from certain professionals that victims of family violence may already have, for example hospital or doctors’ records and police reports.
At the same time we updated our public information and made the policy guidance more flexible. The changes formed part of our response to the Australian Law Reform Commission report, Family violence and Commonwealth laws: Improving Legal Frameworks and consultation with more than 60 diverse stakeholders, including women’s refuges and migrant women’s groups.
One consistent message from our stakeholders was to provide information in community languages. As a result, we translated information on the family violence provisions into 30 languages and these are available on our website.