How migrant women should choose


Yet Su-Lin would be homeless if she left her partner because she speaks very little English and is ineligible for Centrelink benefits for at least another year.

Government rules state that permanent residents who were sponsored spouses must wait four years before being eligible for most Centrelink benefits. She needs income to qualify for social housing and even then she will face long waiting lists.


The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reported last week that social housing had fallen as a percentage of the country’s total housing stock, from 4.6 in 2014 to 4.2 in 2021. In Nova Scotia South Wales, it fell from 5% to 4.7% over the same period. period.

A report published by Everybody’s Home and Equity Economics a year ago found that around 9,120 women a year become homeless after leaving their homes due to domestic and family violence and unable to find long-term housing. Every year another 7,690 women return to abusers because they have nowhere to live affordably.

Cai said nearly 60 percent of women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who access BaptistCare services have experienced domestic violence.

“They have no choice but to remain violent or become homeless,” Cai said. “They don’t know where to look for help, or what’s out there because of the language barrier and the systemic barriers…and they’re afraid of losing a roof over their heads.”

Michal Morris, chief executive of the multicultural InTouch Center Against Domestic Violence, said visa status was a huge hurdle for migrants who wanted to leave abusive relationships.

“Some of the rights we talk about that are determined by your visa include, are you allowed to work?” said Morris.

“Are you eligible for social security like Centrelink or employment assistance? Can you have an income that will determine your access to housing? Are you eligible for Medicare? »

InTouch is advocating for a temporary domestic violence survivor visa that provides work rights and Centrelink support, to give survivors time to decide whether to apply to stay in Australia or return to their home country.


Morris said the language barrier made it difficult for social service providers to convey the message that financial abuse and coercive control were seen as domestic abuse in Australia, not just “broken bones and bruises”.

It also made it more likely that police would believe an attacker’s version of events and misidentify the attacker and victim, she said.

The previous Morrison government proposed making an English test a condition of permanent residency, but this has yet to be legislated, and inTouch plans to lobby the Albanian government to put the plans on hold.

Morris said often times a coercive control perpetrator would prevent their partner from leaving the house and learning English.

Cai said dealing with Centrelink was difficult for many migrant women because correspondence was entirely in English and there were hours of waiting to reach CALD workers or interpreters.

In Su Lin’s case, she opted to get the correspondence through MyGov rather than the post, to keep it secret from her partner, but the website was difficult to use and everything was in English.


At one point, Cai helped Su-Lin get a special benefit, a Centrelink payment for people in financial difficulty who are not eligible for other payments, but it was later canceled after a few months with two letters stating two different reasons.

It also meant losing her concession healthcare card, without which she could not afford treatment for her medical issues.

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