Australia

Domestic violence services say Sydney international student allegedly murdered by husband had 'nowhere else to go'

Temporary visa holders in Australia are still in need of financial support months after coronavirus lockdowns were introduced. Source: Getty

Advocacy groups say the alleged murder of a 27-year-old Indian woman must be a "wake up call" for the NSW government.

The alleged brutal murder of an international student in Sydney has renewed calls for the NSW government to better support temporary migrants who are facing domestic and family violence during COVID-19.

On Thursday, a man was charged with the murder of his 27-year-old wife in Quakers Hill, less than a month after police issued a domestic violence order against him.

The pair, who came to Australia from India, were still living together despite the domestic violence order.

Advocacy groups say this must act as a "wake up call" for the NSW government to give women on temporary visas equal access to domestic violence support services, especially crisis and transitional accommodation.

"The reality is the vast number of women that turn up to see us who are on temporary visas have little if any access to temporary accommodation," CEO of Women's Safety NSW Hayley Foster told SBS News.

"We've had a lot of victim-blaming on social media overnight about [the Quakers Hill victim], saying she should have left ... Our simple answer is she had no choice, she had nowhere else to go.

"What we see time and time again is these women turn around and go back into harm's way ... Women's lives are in danger and we need to see accommodation support extended to this vulnerable group."

According to NSW Communities and Justice, temporary residents may be considered for "a few days" of temporary accommodation if they are escaping domestic violence "in exceptional circumstances" and if no other accommodation options are available.

Australian women who are fleeing domestic and family violence are able to access 28 days of crisis accommodation in NSW.

Domestic Violence NSW spokesperson Renata Field told SBS News that NSW was lagging behind other states.

"We have asked the attorney-general of NSW to supply additional support to people on temporary visas," she said.

"Other states including Victoria, Tasmania and the ACT have provided that additional support [during COVID-19] but we haven't seen that in NSW yet and that is a real concern."

Groups say NSW needs to do more to support temporary migrants experiencing family violence.
Groups say NSW needs to do more to support temporary migrants experiencing family violence.
Getty

She said the pandemic has placed an "immense amount of stress" on households where domestic violence may already be occurring.

"There are financial losses, kids are at home, it's a really challenging time and isolation is a tool that perpetrators use to keep their victims away from support services," she said.

"For people who don't have close friends and family living with them, that's a huge challenge, and people on student visas aren't eligible to work as many hours as regular citizens which limits their income.

"The bottom line [with the Quakers Hill murder] is violence is never acceptable and it is such an incredible tragedy that this happened and that the adequate supports weren't provided."

SBS News has contacted NSW Communities and Justice for comment but has not received a reply.

Last month, the NSW Attorney-General Mark Speakman said the government was "committed to supporting all women experiencing domestic and family violence" through funding specialist services which are available to all women regardless of visa status.

"[The] NSW government has raised the need for support for women on Temporary Protection Visas who have experienced domestic and family violence with the Commonwealth," he said.

Women on temporary visas are also eligible to access financial and counselling assistance through a victims support scheme once a crime has been reported, he added. 

Ms Foster, of Women's Safety NSW, said the federal government also has "a very big role to play here", specifically on providing income support.

"Family violence provisions should be extended to all classes of temporary visa holders," she said.

"We are also advocating that a special class of family violence visa be established, so if someone is on any kind of temporary visa and experiences family violence, they can move on to a special subclass of visa.

"This would automatically enable them to a special benefit that will give them income while the matter is determined."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison talks to reporters.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made several funding announcements about domestic violence during the pandemic.

A $150 million funding boost was given to programs under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children including counselling support.

The majority of COVID-19 support remains unavailable to temporary visa holders.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus.

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