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What to do if your partner is abusive, but you rely on them to stay in Australia

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Seeking help to leave an abusive relationship is never easy - but what happens when you depend on your aggressor to stay in the country?

"I think for migrants there are so many barriers to accessing support and assistance because people are thinking about what ties them to that visa and what their migration responsibility is," solicitor at Marrickville Legal Centre, Katie Green tells SBS Portuguese

"If they're in breach of that Visa, they're afraid that they're going to be sent back."

Domestic violence is considered a major crime in Australia, but the situation is a little more complicated when the victim holds a Partner Visa, because their life in this country directly depends on the aggressor.

"Domestic and family violence is unacceptable in any circumstances," the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) tells SBS Portuguese in a statement. "And victims are encouraged to seek professional assistance."

"Family violence provisions, such as permanent residency entitlements, are in place to allow eligible Partner visa applicants to leave a violent relationship without the risk of losing their right of residence in Australia."

As to what steps need to be taken to access these provisions, the Department says, "To satisfy the provisions the visa applicant needs to demonstrate they, or a member of their family, or their partners family, has suffered family violence perpetrated by the sponsor."

Before it gets to that stage though, where can victims - especially those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, seek assistance? 

Katie Green, solicitor at Marrickville Legal Centre, offers some step-by-step advice:

1. Talk to a friend and seek community support

"Get support from your community and seek advice from professional services to get information about the options that are available."

2. Plan an exit strategy

"Some women decide to change the locks and some other choose to pack their bags and go. There are so many options and that is one of the challenges for victims. There is a lot to do and women often get overwhelmed. Its a unique problem and the solution will be individual."

3. Use the public services available for victims all over Australia

"I am a big fan of 1800 RESPECT, which is the national DV (Domestic Violence) Hotline, and they do have some ways of assisting women with language barriers. They are also an excellent referral and service point to begin finding ways of assistance."

4. Contact the Police

"Women who are in immediate risk of harm, or have recently been assaulted or abused, should seek help from the Police. That's really the first point of contact, especially if there's a risk of imminent violence."

5.Visit a Community Legal Centre

"People should seek assistance from Community Legal Centres and Womens Legal Services. They do a lot of work in the field of domestic violence and with victims of abuse. Community Legal Centres are a great place to start to look for extra assistance."

6.Get assistance from the Local Court

"Local courts have some days when domestic violence applications are heard. On those days, there are womens legal services that are there to specifically assist families to deal with the violence and get the appropriate orders to deal with them."

7.Inform the Immigration Department

You could fit the criteria regarding family violence provisions. As the DIBP explains to SBS, "To satisfy the provisions the visa applicant needs to demonstrate they, or a member of their family, or their partners family, has suffered family violence perpetrated by the sponsor."


Services that are available for migrants and abuse victims:

As a starting point, here are some of the most popular and accessible services available to women and families throughout Australia. 

The Department of Human Services

The Australian Government Department of Human Services offers a range information in your language about accessing their payments, services and referrals for family and domestic violence. 


1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732) is a national helpline offering confidential information, counselling and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via phone and online. Crucially, for migrant women they also offer services in a range of different languages.

inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence 

The inTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence works specifically with women & children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) who are victims/survivors of domestic violence.

Migrant Women’s Support Service

The Migrant Women’s Support Service, along with regional domestic violence services, works with migrant women and children of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds to provide them with culturally sensitive risk and needs assessments, safety planning, support, information, advocacy and referral to and other relevant services.

The Immigrant Women's Support Service (QLD)

The Immigrant Women's Support Service is a specialist service response for immigrant and refugee women from non-English speaking background and their children who have experienced domestic and/or sexual violence.

Other sexual assault services

Additionally, here is a list of Sexual assault services available throughout Australia

Video from the Department of Human Services: