Distance is no hurdle: Reforming the family violence exception to better protect immigrant women in rural, regional and remote communities

Khanh Hoang


After careful consideration consistent with COPE guidelines, the editorial staff has concluded that there is no case of plagiarism associated with this article. (10th August, 2016)

The editors have received allegations that the paper references arguments and evidence without attribution to pre-existing literature, and that it exhibits stylistic similarities to other sources on the same topic. The editors are currently conducting an investigation under the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) guidelines to confirm or refute the allegations. (29th June, 2016)

This article considers the impact of migration laws on immigrant women in rural, regional and remote communities (RRR communities) who are victims of family violence. The Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) (‘the Regulations’) includes a ‘family violence exception’ that allows for the grant of permanent residency to women who hold a temporary partner visa in circumstances where the relationship with the Australian sponsor has broken down due to family violence. However, the Regulations impose strict procedural and evidentiary requirements for making a family violence claim. These laws disproportionately impact those in RRR communities by failing to account for their isolation, lack of access to services and particular vulnerabilities. As a result, immigrant women in RRR communities are restricted in their ability to access the family violence exception.

This article calls for reform of the Regulations to address the locational disadvantages faced by immigrant women in RRR communities. Building on the work of the Australian Law Reform Commission, it argues for the repeal of the provisions governing evidentiary requirements for ‘non-judicially determined’ claims of family violence. In its place, it is suggested that there should be no restrictions on the types of evidence that can be provided. In addition, all non-judicially determined family violence claims would be referred to an ‘independent expert panel’ for assessment. The independent expert panel should include, at a minimum, a number of community legal centres (CLCs) and family violence centres (FVCs) around Australia. CLCs and FVCs are leveraging technology — such as Skype and teleconferencing — and integrated service responses to provide access to justice to those in RRR communities.

Full Text:



Access Economics, 'The Cost of Domestic Violence to the Australian Economy: Part 1' (prepared for the Australian Government's Office of the Status of Women, 2004).

ALRC, 'Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws' (Discussion Paper No 76, 2011) 689.

ALRC, 'Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws—Immigration Laws' (Issues Paper No 37, 2 March 2011).

Alyce LaViolette and Ola Barnett, It Could Happen to Anyone: Why Battered Women Stay (SAGE Publications, 3rd ed, 2014).

Amanda George and Bridget Harris, 'Landscapes of Violence: Women Surviving in Family Violence in Rural and Regional Victoria' (Centre for Rural and Regional Law Justice, 2014) 63.

Angela Ragusa, 'Rural Australian Women's Legal Help Seeking for Intimate Partner Violence: Women Intimate Partner Violence Victim Survivors' Perceptions of Criminal Justice Support Services' (2012) 28 Journal of Interpersonal Violence 658, 698–707, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260512455864

Anna Dunkley and Janet Phillips, 'Domestic Violence in Australia: A Quick Guide to the Issues' (Research Paper Series, 2014-15, Australian Parliamentary Library, 26 March 2015).

Anne Wallace, 'Virtual Justice in the Bush: The Use of Court Technology in Remote and Regional Australia' (2008) 19 Journal of Law, Information and Science 1.

Anthony Morgan and Hannah Chadwick, 'Key Issues in Domestic Violence' (Research Practice No 7, Australian Institute of Criminology, 2007).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Personal Safety Survey Australia 2012, Cat No 4906.0 (2013) Experience of Partner Violence <http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4906.0>.

Australian Communications and Media Authority, Research Snapshots, Regional Australia in the Digital Economy <http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/engage-blogs/engage-blogs/Research-snapshots/Regional-Australia-in-the-digital-economy>.

Australian Government, 'The National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Their Children 2010–2022' (2011).

Australian Government, Australian of the Year 2015: Rosie Batty (2015) <http://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/honour-roll/?view=fullView&recipientID=1179>.

Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission ((ALRC and NSWLRC), 'Family Violence — A National Legal Response' (ALRC Report No 114, 2010).

Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission (ALRC and NSWLRC) 'Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws — Improving Legal Frameworks' (ALRC Report No 117, 2012).

Dale Bagshaw et al, 'Reshaping Responses to Domestic Violence: Final Report' (University of South Australia, 2000).

Department of Immigration and Border Protection, 'Annual Report 2014-15' (2015) 68.

Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Factsheet: Family Violence Provisions (2015) <http://www.border.gov.au/about/corporate/information/fact-sheets/38domestic>.

Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Submission No 121 to the ALRC's Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws Inquiry (2012).

Edwin Odhiambo-Abuya, 'The Pain of Love: Spousal Immigration and Domestic Violence in Australia: A Regime in Chaos?' (2003) 12 Pacific Rim Law & Policy Journal 673, 698.

Family Law Act 1975.

Family Law Council of Australia, 'Improving Responses to Family Violence in the Family Law System: An Advice on the Intersection of Family Violence and Family Law Issues' (December 2009) 23–26.

Family Law Council of Australia, 'Improving the Family Law System For Clients from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Backgrounds' (prepared for the Attorney-General of Australia, February 2012) [2.2.10].

Ibrahim v Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs [2002] FCA 1279, [43] ('Ibrahim').

Ibrahim FCA 1279; Camak v Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (2003) 135 FCR 183, [14]–[15].

IMMI 012/116.

IMMI 12/116 – Specification of Evidentiary Requirements (F2012L02237).

IMMI 13/023 Specification of Organisations (reg 1.21).

John Henstridge et al, 'Analysis of the 2005 Personal Safety Survey' (Report prepared for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, June 2007).

Justice Connect, Health Justice Partnerships Toolkit (2015) <https://www.justiceconnect.org.au/our-programs/seniors-law/health-justice-partnership/health-justicepartnerships-toolkit>.

Kerry Carrington, 'Violence and the Architecture of Rural Life' in John Scott et al (eds), Rural Crime in Australia (Federation Press, 2007) 86.

Lauren Gray, Patricia Easteal and Lorana Bartels, 'Immigrant Women and Family Violence: Will the New Exceptions Help or Hinder Victims' (2014) 39 Alternative Law Journal 167.

LSC Psychology, LSC Psychology <http://lscpsych.com.au>.

Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister, 'Women's Safety Package to Stop the Violence' (Media Release, 24 September 2015).

Mary Crock and Laurie Berg, Immigration Refugees and Forced Migration: Law, Policy and Practice in Australia (Federation Press, 2011) 195.

Mary Crock, 'Women and Migration Law' in Patricia Easteal (ed), Women and the Law in Australia (Lexis Nexis Butterworths, 2010) 334.

McGuire v Minister for Immigration and Indigenous Affairs [2004] FMCA 1014 (2004) [24].

Michaela Cash, New App Connects Women Experiencing Violence to Specialist Support, (Press Release, 5 March 2015).

Migration Legislation Amendment Regulation 2012 (No 5) (Cth) schs 2–7.

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) div 1.5 'Special Provisions Relating to Family Violence'.

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) reg 1.23(10)(a).

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) reg 1.23(10)(c)(i)–(ii).

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) reg 1.23(2).

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) reg 1.23(9).

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) sch 2 cl 801.221(3)(a).

Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth) sch 2 cl 801.221.

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship v Ejueyitsi (2007) 159 FCR 94, [35]–[36].

Minister for Immigration and Citizenship v Maman [2012] 200 FCR 30.

Mohamed v Minister for Immigration and Citizenship (2007) 96 ALD 114.

Norman Seligman v Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs [1998] 54 ALD 761.

NSW Government, Domestic and Family Violence App (2015) <https://www.women.nsw.gov.au/violence_prevention/domestic_and_family_violence_app>.

Patricia Easteal, 'Double Jeopardy: Violence Against Immigrant Women in the Home' (1996) 46 Family Matters 26. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1891/vivi.17.4.455.33680

Productivity Commission, 'Access to Justice Arrangements: Volume 1' (Productivity Commission Inquiry Report No 72, 5 September 2014) 575.

Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, 'Submission No 34 to the ALRC, Inquiry into Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws' (12 April 2011).

Rochelle Braff and Isobelle Barrett Meyering, 'Seeking Security: Promoting Women's Economic Wellbeing Following Domestic Violence' (prepared for the Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse, March 2011) 10.

Royal Commission into Family Violence (Victoria), The Commission <http://www.rcfv.com.au/The-Commission>.

Russell Hogg and Kerry Carrington, Policing the Rural Crisis (Federation Press, 2006) 149–159.

Santi Owen and Kerry Carrington, 'Domestic Violence (DV) Service Provision and the Architecture of Rural Life: An Australian Case Study' (2015) 39 Journal of Rural Studies 229, 229, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2014.11.004

Sarah Wendt, 'Constructions of Local Culture and Impacts on Domestic Violence in an Australian Rural Community' (2009) 25 Journal of Rural Studies 175, 181.

Sarah Wendt, Domestic Violence in Rural Australia (Federation Press, 2009) 30.

Section 4AB(1) of the Family Law Act .

Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland, 'Not Now, Not Ever — Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland' (February 2015).

The National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, 'Time for Action: The National Council's Plan for Australia to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children, 2009-2021' (Background Paper, March 2009).

The National Council to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children, 'The Cost of Violence Against Women and Their Children' (March 2009) 4.

Visa Lawyers Australia, 'Submissions No 76 to the ALRC, Inquiry into Family Violence and Commonwealth Laws' <https://www.alrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/pdfs/CFV%2076%20Visa%20Lawyers%20Australian%20for%20web.pdf>.

Walter S DeKeseredy and Martin D Schwartz, 'Separation/Divorce Sexual Assault in Rural Ohio: Survivors' Perceptions' (2008) 36 Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community 105, DOI: http://dx.doi.prg/10.1080/10852350802022365

Walter S DeKeseredy and Martin Schwartz, Male Peer Support and Violence Against Women: The History and Verification of a Theory (Northeastern University Press, 2013).

Walter S DeKeseredy, 'New Directions in Feminist Understandings of Rural Crime' (2015) 39 Journal of Rural Studies 181.

Western Australia Department of Child Protection and Family Support, 'Western Australia's Family and Domestic Violence Prevention Strategy to 2022: Creating Safer Communities' (2013) 11.

Women's Health and Family Services, About Us <http://whfs.org.au/aboutus>.

Women's Health in the North, 'Submission No 83 to the Australian Productivity Commissions, Inquiry into Access to Justice Arrangements'.

Women's Health in the North, What We Do (2015) <http://www.whin.org.au/what-we-do.html>.

Women's Health in the North, Women, Lawyers, Workers Project (2015) <http://www.whin.org.au/projects/women-lawyers-workers.html>.

Women's Legal Services NSW, Ask LOIS (2015) Webinars .

Women's Services Network, 'Domestic Violence in Regional Australia: A Literature Review' (Report prepared for the Commonwealth Department of Transport and Regional Services, 2000).


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/ijrlp.i2.2015.4622

Share this article: