On The Sixth Day of Christmas My Wish Came True
On the sixth day of Christmas, our wish came true… for money
Sixty-one women, without permanent residency in Australia, came to our safe house and refuge in the past year to escape family violence. Many of the women are on visas, such as spouse visas, which can mean they are not eligible for any benefits from Centrelink or homelessness services.
One of those women was Reshima* who currently lives in one of the five refuge homes that McAuley Community Services for Women manages.
Reshima met her husband in South Asia at a wedding. They married and she joined him in Australia on a spousal visa. Her husband is on a study visa.
Reshima left her husband while pregnant. She went to a motel after being pushed to the ground and kicked in the head and stomach. The physical violence started because her husband did not want the baby, once it was established that they were having a girl. Before that, the violence had been unrelenting verbal abuse.
She left the house, and travelled by train to the police station before calling a referral service. She stayed two nights in a motel before going to another crisis service.
She had two weeks there before coming to the McAuley Community Services for Women crisis service.
As Reshima told us, her visa is restrictive. She has no entitlements to Centrelink or Medicare and she is not able to work or study. Since she moved into refuge, her husband has cancelled her access to their private health insurance, which is a requirement of his study visa. She may be in debt to a Maternity Hospital for approximately $30,000.00 if she is unable to access Medicare.
Our staff have connected Reshima to the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre where she is being helped through the legal process. She is eligible for a protection visa and has received an acknowledgment. In the meantime, a bridging visa is being organised but may not happen until next year. Her baby will go onto her visa.
Now safe, Reshima says she can begin to see the future, for herself and her baby.
Women, who do not have access to any benefits and cannot contribute to their accommodation or living costs, stay in the safe house and refuges longer because of limited housing options and they require more intensive case work. This means fewer vacancies for other women and children.
This Christmas our wish list included cash which we provide to women like Reshima* to buy items that she needs such as groceries, nappies, and to go towards public transport costs.