Women with no income are broadly classified as those women who are ineligible for government assistance; they are usually women, who have come to Australia to marry an Australian citizen or whose partners have a Sub-class 457 Visa, international students, tourists and those on bridging visas. Women from New Zealand who are not employed can also be classified as women with no income.
All these women have experienced domestic and family violence that has forced them to leave their partner and home. Some of these women may be able to claim Family Tax Benefit from the government for a child who is classed as ‘born in Australia’ and some may be entitled to Special benefits while on a Bridging visa. Neither of these benefits is enough for a family to live independently in the community.
Currently, under The Department of Immigration Domestic Violence provisions, these women fall through the cracks in terms of support and are left in the capable, albeit stretched, hands of receiving refuges.
These refuges receive no specific funding from the Federal or State Government to help support these women and children who often have nothing but the clothes on their back when they enter the refuge. However, all refuges are required, under their State funding contracts, to accommodate women and children regardless of their capacity to contribute to the cost of accommodation. This client group is dependent on the refuge providing food, clothing, paying for medical and dental treatment, school costs, transport, and multitude of other daily necessities.
Many of these women and children require long stays in refuges, up to 12 months, while waiting for a decision by the Department of Immigration on their applications for residency.
In 2016 the Women’s Council requested that the twenty-one women and children’s refuges in the Perth metropolitan and south west region collect data on the numbers and costs of accommodating this target group.
Over the last twelve months we have had 81% response rate from refuges, the data shows that 144 women and 154 children have been accommodated at a total cost to refuges of $182,484.00.
The cultural background of the women seeking support was 60% from Asian countries, 14% from New Zealand, 14% from African countries, 5% from Eastern European countries and 7% from Western European countries.
The data shows that the distribution and burden of supporting these women and children has been unevenly spread across the refuges with one organisation that manages two refuges for women with children and single women accommodating 25%of the total client group and provided 31% of the financial costs. A second refuge which accommodates only single women accommodated 17% of the total number of clients and provided 16% of the total cost.
This twelve months of data has shown an increase in demand from this client group and an increase in costs to refuges of providing case management and support. The Women’s Council will continue to refine the data collection and advocate for specific funding to meet the needs of this extremely vulnerable group of women and children who have been victims of violence and have no resources to assist them to begin a new life in Australia.
One of the recommendations in the final evaluation of the Refuge Service System Emergency Response program was that DCPFS support refuges in continuing to collect data which collates the human, financial and other resources required in their support of women without citizenship rights who have no access to public funds.