Yesterday a domestic violence victim broke down in tears in a meeting with the Department of Home Affairs as she was told she must leave the country before 11 July with her two other daughters but without her eight year old Australian-born son.
Filipino citizen Bernadette Romulo, who has lived in Australia for 11 years has been on a series of bridging visas which have now ended. Ministerial intervention is Ms Romulo’s only hope to halt the deportation and this has not been forthcoming.
In a statement Ms Romulo said of the impact of the decision:
“As a mother who has been struggling to keep this family together, after hearing the most devastating news of my life, I just cried and cried for almost 2 hours, my whole body was shaking and I wanted to explode. I was thinking… my baby Giro will be gone forever. I was picturing in my mind all our good memories…fun and laughters… his kisses and cuddles… his sweet caring thoughts… My son…”
Women’s Legal Service Queensland (WLSQ) implores the Federal Government to urgently intercede to stop the separation.
WLSQ CEO, Angela Lynch says the situation highlights inconsistencies in the Australia immigration system which has dire consequences for victims of domestic violence and their children.
“Ms Romulo had the misfortune of coming here on a temporary visa. If she was on another form of visa she would have access to domestic violence provisions. Domestic violence victims on temporary visas are incredibly vulnerable.”
“Women in Ms Romulo position are given no reason why these decisions are made. They’re just told to leave.”
The Federal Government’s own The Third Action Plan 2016-2019 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-20201 highlights the issue, including the “key action” to develop appropriate visa arrangements for temporary residents who are experiencing domestic violence.
Ms Lynch believes the Government has been missing in action when it comes to domestic violence victims on temporary visas. Women such as Bernadette are falling through the cracks really because of a legal technicality.
“The Prime Minister has said domestic violence is a disgrace. He’s said we should have zero tolerance. The Government develops these action plans that make these crucial recommendations. But where is the follow through for women like Bernadette Romulo and her son Giro who need the action plan to work for them in their lives? Here is a perfect opportunity for the Government to step up, do the right thing for an actual victim of domestic violence.
A recent report by Monash University academic Marie Segrave2 on temporary migration and family violence highlights deficiencies in the current Australian immigration approach apparent in Ms Romulo’s case, noting that currently, “migration status is prioritised over and above the experience of family violence”.
“It is critical that we respond to family violence first and foremost, in its various manifestations across Australia, and that we recognise and support all victims equally, regardless of migration status or any other point of difference”, the report states.