Speed up visa applications

McAuley Community Services for Women is calling on the Federal Government to speed up the processing of applications for permanent residency visas. CEO Jocelyn Bignold said that she was alarmed by the numbers of women without permanent residency coming to the McAuley Care 24/7 accessible safe house and McAuley House to escape family violence.

“Women on various visas are not eligible for any benefits from Centrelink, no access to Medicare, and limited housing options. Once they escape their partner, they are unable to contribute to their accommodation or living costs,” she said.

Our organisation is seeking additional funding to provide additional houses for women and children without permanent residency.

“We need around $83,000 to provide five families with housing and support for 12 months. At the moment we don't have the housing and we are having to provide everything, from food, medical costs and clothing,” she said.

Ms Bignold said the situation was placing family violence services under increasing strain. Children in these circumstances are particularly at risk of further abuse because the family has so few options

From 2014 to 2015, the safe house and refuge program supported 496 women and children (255 women and 241 children). Of those 255 women, 61 were not permanent residents, almost one quarter of all women and children supported through the year.

This year alone, 12 women and 6 children without permanent residency have been supported by McAuley Community Services for Women. This included advocating for free antenatal care for one woman who was pregnant when she arrived at the crisis centre.

Ms Bignold says that McAuley Community Services for Women is determined to continue offering women and their children safety from violent homes, regardless of their visa status.

“Quite aside from the cost, there is the added problem that these families have nowhere else to go and tend to stay longer than most women, which impacts on their ability to settle into a community . This also   means that we are unable to help other women who urgently need the service we provide,” Ms Bignold said.

“We call on the government to expedite visa applications more quickly so that if women and children are faced with violence, they have permanent residency status.”