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After a long period in the dark, light is finally being shone on Australia’s domestic violence endemic. You may have noticed the harrowing adverts on television and accompanying sweep of law reforms. You may also feel like you have no power to help - after all, domestic violence is in the domain of social workers and doctors right? Wrong. While not traditionally thought of as a ‘first port of call’ for domestic violence victims, migration agents may be the only professional that a victim confides in.
It is likely that you deal with more domestic violence victims than you think, with migrants forming an overrepresented constituent of victims. A recent article highlighted that at any particular point in time, up to half of the domestic violence victims staying in emergency accommodation are on a visa.
Migrants are particularly vulnerable to getting stuck in a domestic violence situation for a myriad of reasons:
Great, so we’ve established that we can help … but how?
The good news is that you can incorporate domestic violence awareness and response into your every-day practice – particularly if you deal with partner-sponsored clients.
Here are five tips to get you started:
Signs that a person may be experiencing violence or abuse include:
You may be contacted and paid by the sponsoring partner. However, make sure you speak with the migrating partner ALONE and:
Provide your client with a fact sheet about domestic violence and visas (available in various languages at https://www.dss.gov.au/family-safety-pack).
If a client is asking for advice about switching from their partner sponsored visa to another visa for no clear reason, you can check in to see if they are being exposed to domestic violence. This can be asked subtly, for example, ‘Just to check, is there a reason the partner visa is no longer suitable for you? Are you having difficulties with your partner?’ Depending on their answer, you may wish to drill down further (and then Respond and Refer – see point 5).
If your client discloses their experience of violence or abuse to you, it is critical that you respond appropriately. A thoughtful response can make a huge difference while an insensitive response can leave them feeling even more isolated and reluctant to seek help in the future.
It is not easy to have a conversation about domestic violence, but it is a lot harder to be left wondering if you let someone slip through the cracks. We all have a role to play in ending domestic violence and migration agents have the privilege of being at the coal face.
Any questions or ideas? Contact me at www.proxymigration.com.au
Disclaimer: Please note this article is general in nature and does not constitute migration or legal advice.
© Proxy Migration 2017