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Migration Mentor Felix CaraoFamily violence happens all over the world and affects people of all cultural backgrounds and economic statuses. However, not all instances are documented because the victims fail to report the abuse due to isolation, power and control, inadequate financial resources, fear and shame.

What is family violence?

Relevant family violence refers to conduct, whether actual or threatened, towards:

  • the alleged victim; or
  • a member of the family unit of the alleged victim; or
  • a member of the family unit of the alleged perpetrator; or
  • the property of the alleged victim; or
  • the property of a member of the family unit of the alleged victim; or
  • the property of a member of the family unit of the alleged perpetrator;

that causes the alleged victim to reasonably fear for, or to be reasonably apprehensive about, his or her own well-being or safety.

Who are family members?

Under family violence law, family members are:

  • people who share an intimate personal relationship – for example, married, de facto or domestic partners – whether or not there is a sexual relationship
  • parents and children, including children of an intimate partner
  • relatives by birth, marriage or adoption
  • people you treat like a family member – for example, a carer, guardian or person who is related to you within the family structure of your culture.

What is the family violence exception?

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection reveals that only a small fraction of Partner visa cases involve family violence claims. Family violence tends to be under-reported, and some migrants chose to stay in an abusive relationship because they fear that they may be forced to leave Australia if they end the relationship. Women on Provisional Partner visas (Subclass 309 and 820) can be deliberately misinformed about their immigration status by their sponsoring partner or spouse. Women often recount that they have been informed by a violent or abusive partner that they will be deported if they leave the relationship, or that their children will lose Australian residency. This misinformation creates fear and confusion, making women believe they have no choice but to stay with their violent partners (Queensland Sexual Assault Services, 2010). This is the reason that the Australian Migration Regulations introduced the family violence exception.

The Regulations of the Partner visa stipulate family violence as one of three exceptions to the requirement of a ‘genuine and continuing’ relationship. Applicants for permanent residences, whose relationship has ended, and who have or a family member has suffered ‘relevant family violence’ committed by the Australian sponsor, may invoke the said exception and can still be considered for permanent residence.

How can you apply for a family violence intervention order?

If you are a victim of family violence, you can apply for a family violence intervention order at the local Magistrates’ Court. If you need protection at once, you can apply for an interim intervention order. You can also include your children in your application.

The beneficiary of the intervention order is called the affected family member or the protected person. The perpetrator of the family violence is called the respondent.

Intervention orders consist of conditions to prevent the respondent from committing family violence against the protected person. A respondent who violates the conditions of an intervention order can be charged with a criminal offence.

Family violence has devastating consequences for the affected family member, especially children. It must not be tolerated and endured for fear of losing residency. Remember that there is such a regulation as family violence exception, and you can always apply for a family violence intervention order. It always pays to know your legal rights as a migrant and resident in Australia.

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