Australia

'I found out he already had a partner': Shocking extent of migrant domestic abuse revealed

The extent of domestic abuse suffered by migrant women on temporary visas has been detailed in a new report.

The often-hidden plight of newly arrived migrant women who have experienced domestic abuse has been highlighted by the Monash University report, which focuses on 300 cases.

The report's author Professor Marie Segrave said the abuse was systematic and abusive husbands often took advantage of their partner's visa uncertainty.

"We see that perpetrators often use migration status as leverage to threaten women. They say they will be deported, it isn't true but women do believe that is the case because they are not clear about their rights," Professor Segrave said.

The Australian government has been called upon to offer better protection for vulnerable and exploited women, in response to the report findings.

Shubha Ramalingaia, 31, moved to Australia after marrying her new husband in India with hopes for a bright future.

She told SBS World News her family had paid her husband a dowry of $300,000, but she claimed that she soon found out he already had a partner.

"When I came here in March I found out he already had a partner and he still got married to me," she alleged.

"I have seen many girls like me suffering after coming here, in a new country with no family and no friends. We get isolated here."

The 'Temporary Migration and Family Violence' report, released on Thursday, calls on Australia's state and federal governments to offer better protection for migrant women, including the examination of whether anti-slavery and human trafficking laws should be enforced in some case of domestic abuse.

The report found one Australian agency, the InTouch Multicultural Centre Against Family violence, submitted more than 40 per cent of the total family violence provision applications across Australia.

It calls for funding of specialised agencies across Australia that include migration agents within family violence services. 

Psychiatrist Dr Manjula O'Connor said Indian women often fall victim to dowry abuse.

This is where husbands take a sum of money and gifts provided by the brides' family and then abandon their partners.

Dr O'Connor welcomed a Victorian government crackdown on the practice.

"Australia will become the first country in the world outside India to have this law and this will have a significant impact on the cultural expectations around dowry back in India as well as in Australia," she said.

Migrant worker Faye Spiteri agreed it was a welcome step in shining a light on domestic abuse that is often hidden from the public.

"The most vulnerable of vulnerable of women who are victims of this kind of domestic violence are more challenged because they have got multiple layers of disadvantage and so work like this is really critically to bring to light their voice," Ms Spiteri said.

According to Immigration Australia special rules under the country's migration laws allow victims of domestic abuse to apply for permanent residence, even if their relationship has broken down.