Dana came to Juno seeking immediate support when violence from the perpetrator/husband escalated. When she arrived, she was scared and confused. The physical and emotional abuse she had endured had become too much and she was forced to leave the family home, leaving behind her two children.
Dana and the perpetrator/husband are refugees and on Temporary Protection Visas. The visa permits them to stay in Australia temporarily as long as they meet Australia’s protection obligations. Because of her precarious immigration status, Dana was unsure about where she could live and what she could do within the constraints of her visa when she fled. She was anxious about leaving in case it put her or her children’s security in jeopardy and not knowing what options existed, feared deportation.
The complexity of her visa status, as well as significant language and cultural barriers, and difficulty in understanding her rights, all contributed to her wanting to go back to the property and continue living with her perpetrator/ husband and be with her children, despite the excessive physical and emotional abuse.
The language barrier, coupled with having to carry out most of our support over the phone due to COVID-19 restrictions, made it especially difficult to build rapport and trust with Dana in the beginning. Juno organised an interpreter and we worked with Dana to help her to understand that family violence is a crime and what her options were in regards to housing and family violence services.
Dana was also dealing with significant medical issues that made things harder for her. She had been diagnosed with a severe illness and intense physical symptoms further impacted on her capacity to understand her options.
Juno provided support to Dana over an intensive four weeks. We used Juno’s family violence crisis brokerage to fund some of her medical costs as well as provided her with a phone, as Dana was worried that her husband/perpetrator would not pay her phone bills. Juno also liaised with Centrelink and supported Dana to access payments for the first time.
Her husband controlled the finances and she had never been in the workforce, meaning she did not have any financial independence when she started working with Juno. Dana told Juno that on some days he would refuse to give her any money, which would impact on what she could do with the kids, and all aspects of her life. Accessing Centrelink gave her financial freedom for the first time in her life.
Having time to herself whilst living in temporary accommodation was really important to helping Dana realise that there are supports and options out there, and that she has rights and deserves to live safely and freely from violence.
Juno was a reliable and trusted source that she could call and talk through any concerns or queries, and these phone calls became a regular and vital part of her support. She also learnt the practicalities of living independently, such as how to access Centrelink. Although Dana decided to go back to living with the perpetrator/husband, with a plan to remain there until they legally separated, we put a plan in place should she need to leave the property again if she felt that her safety was at risk.
Towards the end of our support period, we linked Dana in with InTouch – the Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence – where she now has access to a full-time case manager who speaks her language and is equipped to understand the cultural complexities around marriage and divorce.
In the brief intervention provided by Juno, we were able to link Dana in with the ongoing family violence support that she needed, as well as helping her to navigate Centrelink and assist her with the medical costs of her illness, which reduced a lot of her financial anxiety and set her up with more financial freedom.
We learnt a lot from Dana and her strength. The importance of a client-led approach and making sure that women are supported to make their own decisions. This meant acknowledging that Dana is the expert of her family violence experience: the risks, what is safe and not, and knowing how to manage them. Working with Dana was a good reminder to support people where they are at and with that they want and whatever their circumstance, help them to achieve it.