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How common is polygamy in Australia? And how does it work?

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Although it’s outlawed, polygamy is still practiced informally in Australia. Having more than one spouse is a long-standing and legitimate cultural norm in some Indigenous Australian, African and religious communities.

This week Insight speaks to people from diverse backgrounds about life in a polygamous relationship and the benefits and challenges of sharing a spouse. What it’s like for children growing up in those households? How do spouses negotiate jealousy? And why is polygamy against the law?

Producer: Meggie Palmer
Associate Producers: Kym Middleton and Sarah Allely

Meet the Guests

  • Fatimah Youssef

    Fatimah says polygamy is common in her local Lebanese Muslim community in Sydney. She isn’t in a polygamous relationship but says she sees other women enjoying the benefits of polygamy, such as housework help, financial support and companionship. She says God allows polygamy because God “knew that man was weak” in terms of fidelity.

  • Tony Kamara

    Polygamy is a very normal part of life in the Sierra Leonean community in Australia, according to Tony. He grew up in a polygamous family, with his father having two wives. He remembers the jealousy between the wives and fearing his father would leave his mother for the other wife. But he also enjoyed having a big family and lots of siblings. Tony doesn’t want a polygamous marriage himself because of the “hassle” of looking after two families.

  • Eman Sharobeem

    Eman Sharobeem is a psychologist and community worker and believes religion can subjugate women into accepting polygamous relationships. She talks to hundreds of immigrant women each week and says jealousy of “co-wives” in polygamous relationships is a common complaint. She says some women are often driven to the point of mental health breakdowns because of it.

  • Witiyana Marika

    Witiyana Marika is an Aboriginal elder and has two wives. A founding member of Yothu Yindi, Witiyana was raised in Yirrkala, a remote community in the Northern Territory. Witiyana says it is part of Aboriginal culture for men to have multiple partners in order to form larger clans and stronger families. He says the women are treated equally and says there were a lot of positives about growing up in a large extended family.

  • Marc & Belle Glasby & Dorothy Loader

    Belle Glasby and Dorothy Loader are identical twin sisters and are both in a relationship with the same man in Perth. Separated at birth, the twins were reunited three years ago. Soon after Belle’s husband, Marc Glasby, fell in love with Dorothy and the three have lived in a polygamous relationship ever since. The women separately spend alternate nights with Marc. Dorothy and Belle are both Christians and think God would be pleased that the relationship makes them all so happy. Watch an extended interview with Marc, Belle and Dorothy here.


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