An Australian program to support women and children on temporary visas experiencing family, domestic or sexual violence has achieved widespread success in its first ten months, helping 945 women, 59 men and four gender-fluid individuals escape violent situations. 

The trial program, funded by the Australian Government and run by the Red Cross, has been extended for a further year.

Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said those on temporary visas — which allow individuals to come to Australia to work on a short-term basis — face unique challenges when seeking support services or reporting domestic and family violence.

“The Australian Red Cross is receiving $13 million over two years to deliver direct financial assistance to women on temporary visas up to the value of $3,000,” Ruston said in a media release, before explaining that alongside providing accommodation and medical support, the service also offers legal aid.

“Nine Community and Women’s Legal Centres are also receiving $7 million over two years to help women on temporary visas experiencing violence access legal assistance and migration support,” Ruston added. “The legal support component of this program is vital because we know perpetrators use threats around visa status to control and intimidate.”

Half of all aid recipients were on bridging visas, a temporary approval provided while awaiting an immigration decision.

Just under 15%, meanwhile, were on family or partner visas.

A recent research paper by the Refugee Council of Australia found that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated challenges and hardships that already disproportionately affected temporary migrants — including people seeking asylum and refugees.

"Because many refugees and asylum seekers are employed in low-income and insecure jobs, they are particularly vulnerable to the effects of a recession. Nearly 19,000 refugees and asylum seekers on temporary visas will lose their jobs because of the current economic downturn,” the report revealed. “Unemployment rates among bridging, safe haven enterprise and temporary protection visa holders are projected to rise from approximately 19.3% to 41.8%.” 

Those with temporary visas who live below the relative poverty line are also much more likely to experience poor health.

The trial’s success has pushed the government to extend the program to all domestic violence survivors.

The UnitingCare initiative, established last October, will build on the pilot program and offer individuals $1,500 to help them escape violence, while a further $3,500 will be provided to finance basic needs like rent and school fees, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.  

"Every person has the right to live their lives in safety, with dignity and free from all forms of violence, including domestic, family and sexual violence,” UnitingCare Australia National Director Claerwen Little said at the time. “Sadly, we know that family violence disproportionately affects women.”

An Australian Institute of Criminology report from 2020 revealed 1 in 10 Australian women with a partner had experienced physical or sexual violence during the pandemic. A third said domestic violence was previously unprecedented within their relationship.


Demand Equity

Over 1,000 People on Temporary Australian Visas Have Escaped Violence Thanks to New Initiative

By Madeleine Keck