Whittlesea CALD Communities Family Violence Research Report 2012 - Page 37

36 the fact that women must prove the existence of family violence which can prove difficult where there is no Intervention Order and no Police Report. In this circumstance a woman must obtain two Statutory Declarations from ‘competent people’, which again may prove difficult, and in the meantime will require a worker to support her through the process and attend to urgent needs such as housing and financial support. Women who are in Australia on fiancé visas are not able to rely on the family violence exception at all making them a particularly vulnerable group. If a woman cannot take advantage of the family violence provisions she is left with limited legal options for remaining in Australia. Service providers also indicated that immigration status may act as a barrier to women accessing family violence services because the category of visa a woman possesses will impact directly on her eligibility for government benefits: ‘Refuges are reluctant to take women who don’t have access to benefits because they are not subsidised for medical visits, they have to pay full fares on public transport, they are less likely to be eligible for public housing, etc, etc’ It was noted that family violence is often a precipitating factor in homelessness and there is an added risk for CALD women on partner visas: ‘Women who have left a family violence situation and are not eligible for Centrelink benefits cannot pay their rent. For this reason they will need access to housing assistance but they cannot get housing assistance because without Centrelink they have no budget and their income is not deemed sustainable.’ Some service providers also raised the fact that even where a woman is entitled to Centrelink benefits, if she leaves the sponsored relationship early her guarantor may incur a Centrelink debt which acts as a further disincentive to leave. Isolation/Lack of Support Networks The majority of workers (18 of 23 or 78%) agreed that CALD women, and in particular newly arrived CALD women, do not have the same family/social support networks that non-CALD women can rely on in family violence situations. It was observed that CALD women often experience increased isolation due to the fact that they are in a new country often without family or friends who are not connected to their partner and it is not uncommon for them to be actively isolated by their partners. Workers cited examples of women they had encountered who were not allowed to leave the house unaccompanied and had very little contact with the mainstream community. Isolation from the mainstream community was further exacerbated for women with limited proficiency in English. A woman without support networks has reduced options when leaving a family violence situation because she cannot rely on friends or family members to provide a place to stay, childcare and financial support. It was noted that these problems are exacerbated for women from smaller communities: ‘Women from smaller communities often have smaller support networks to draw on and may have more at stake if they speak out about family violence. A woman from a smaller community risks being ostracised by the entire community if she speaks out and being from a smaller community makes it harder for her to find anonymity’