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