Federal government announces $10 million boost for temporary migrants experiencing family violence

Most of the new funding will go towards establishing a Red Cross pilot program that will provide up to $3,000 to temporary visa holders trying to flee violence.

The federal government has announced a $10 million funding boost to support temporary visa holders trying to flee domestic and family violence.

Family violence services have long called for more resources to support temporary migrants who are particularly vulnerable to abuse due to their inability to access government welfare payments. 

Many temporary visa holders also face increased barriers to leaving abusive situations due to social isolation, limited English language skills, and fears they could be kicked out of Australia without sponsorship.

“We want to ensure that no matter what a woman’s visa status may be, she is able to access help and support when needed, to stay safe from violence and abuse,” Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said in a statement on Thursday.

“Women and children who are living in Australia on temporary visas may face specific challenges in reporting and accessing support services for domestic and family violence.”

Most of the funding will go towards a 12-month Red Cross pilot program that will provide temporary visa holders escaping violence with up to $3,000 to help cover accommodation, food, and medical care. In some cases it will also go towards referrals and short-term case work support. 

The program is expected to begin in April and assist more than 1,200 women during its first year. 

In addition to providing direct support to women, Senator Ruston said the pilot program would also be used as an evidence base to shape future programs for women on temporary visas experiencing violence. 

The remaining $3.5 million of new funds will go towards nine community and women’s legal centres to assist women in accessing migration and legal advice. 

“We welcome this Australian government investment as we know people on temporary visas face greater barriers in seeking help to escape violence,” Vicki Mau, head of migration support programs at the Australian Red Cross, said.

“We look forward to working with the family and domestic violence sector to design and implement the program. We want to ensure that no matter what a person’s visa status they are able to access help and support when needed.”

A report by Monash University last year found three quarters of temporary migrants seeking support for domestic and family violence during Victoria’s first lockdown said they feared for their lives, with many reporting their perpetrator threatened them with deportation.

Many had also lost their jobs due to the pandemic and had limited to no access to financial support.

The announcement came as 15 specialist women’s violence services from across the country wrote to the government on Wednesday calling for an urgent $150 million in additional funding to ensure service providers could keep up with the increase in demand brought on by the pandemic.

The federal government last year provided $150 million in funding to states and territories to support family violence service providers. 

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