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Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee
Practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia

KAUR, Ms Jatinder, Social Worker, JK Diversity Consultants

Committee met at 09:06

CHAIR ( Senator Pratt ): I declare open this public hearing of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee's inquiry into the practice of dowry and the incidence of dowry abuse in Australia. These are public proceedings being broadcast live via the web. I remind all witnesses that in giving evidence to the committee you are protected by parliamentary privilege. It's unlawful for anyone to threaten or disadvantage a witness on account of evidence given to a committee and such action may be treated by the Senate as a contempt. It is also a contempt to give false or misleading evidence to the committee. We prefer to take evidence in public; however, under the Senate's resolutions, witnesses have the right to request to be heard in camera. It's important that witnesses give the committee notice if they intend to ask to do so. The committee may also determine that proceedings take place in camera. If a witness objects to answering a question, the witness should state the ground upon which the objection is taken and the committee will determine whether it will insist on an answer having regard to the ground which is claimed. If the committee determines to insist on an answer, a witness may request that the answer be given in camera. We've agreed as a committee that answers to questions taken on notice at today's hearing should, if possible, be returned by 7 December.

I'd now like to welcome Jatinder Kaur. Information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you. We have your submission, and I'm now going to invite you to make a short opening statement if you'd like to do so. At the conclusion of your remarks, we will have the committee ask questions. Do you have any comments to make on the capacity in which you appear?

Ms Kaur : I am also a director of JK Diversity Consultants. I also represent the Punjabi Sikh community.

CHAIR: Would you like to make some opening remarks?

Ms Kaur : Thank you for the opportunity to give evidence here today at the Senate inquiry's public hearing in Sydney. Hopefully you have read my submission to the Senate inquiry, which I submitted back in August. Dowry abuse is connected to domestic and family violence, and I did not want the committee or the inquiry to just focus on dowry abuse on its own, because it's much more complex than that. As you would have noted in the submission, we have a very large Indian migrant population now that has settled in Australia. The majority have settled here in the last 10 years. I've been here for 23 years, and certainly we've seen a huge influx in the last 10 years. With that, then, brings all of the cultural, patriarchal and religious norms that exist within India to a new country.

In my work in supporting victims of domestic and family violence, particularly from the Indian community, out of the 30 cases that I've worked with, more than half of those cases have included dowry abuse related issues or financial abuse. One of the trickier and more complex cases I've had, which isn't in the submission, is I'm currently supporting a pregnant Indian woman. The challenges there are that she has been in the country for two years—she was here as an international student. No information was provided to her about her rights in Australia. So the key factors that I would really like the committee to consider are certainly in the recommendations around legislative reform around the Migration Act. Currently the family violence provisions only allow for those visa holders that are on temporary spouse visa holders or bridging visas to be eligible for the family violence provision. There are a large majority of women who come to Australia that are not on those visas who are also impacted by domestic and family violence, and dowry falls into that as well.

Dowry abuse is much more complex. There are issues around money, gold, the exchange of gifts and the demanding of money post-marriage, and those issues continue and they remain hidden. Certainly in preparing this submission, and I guess the media stuff that I have been doing in highlighting this issue, I saw that there has been quite a bit of pushback from, I would say, the male patriarchal so-called leaders who don't want to bring this to the forefront. It doesn't suit their agenda to have those issues highlighted. So, with any type of recommendations or legislative reform, you're going to have to work concurrently with the community to build their capacity—that's around information, knowledge, awareness and upskilling and empowering women to be able to exercise their rights.

The critical gaps at the moment are that when spouse visa holders come to Australia they may be told that some information is on a website, but if they can't speak English or they don't have access to a computer, they don't know how to get that information about where to get help. So that's a real challenge, particularly for the Indian women who come to Australia. I'm not really sure what else you want me to say because I think I've been quite thorough.

CHAIR: We've certainly got questions.

Ms Kaur : I figured you would have questions rather than me actually giving you a statement.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Ms Kaur, you said no information is provided on women's rights in Australia. Why do you think that's an Australian government problem, or do you think it's an Australian government problem rather than an individual responsibility of those who might be coming to this country?

Ms Kaur : Unfortunately, it's in the best interests of the male husbands who have citizenship or permanent residency to be able to command a large dowry and to be able to bring over a bride. It's not in their best interest to give that information to their potential bride. I think your question around the Australian government's responsibility ties into the UN conventions on eliminating violence against women. We've made a commitment under that UN convention. Any woman who does come to Australia should have the right to be able to live here safely and know how to access help. We're seeing something which is quite scary. I sometimes work with second or third wives, so we have men now who have done this as a money-making scheme.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I understand that. We've heard evidence in Melbourne of a similar situation. I'm just wondering why people think it is something the Australian government should do rather than the people leaving India making some inquiries themselves before they sign up. I appreciate that often the wives don't have a say in who they're marrying, but that's an issue in Australia in any case.

Ms Kaur : Potentially, I think this is work that we could do with the Indian consulate or the Indian government. Certainly, I've formed those relationships with the Indian consulate with a lot of the victims who I work with and support in trying to assist them to lodge dowry cases in India. If we have the premise that we are wanting to provide a safe place, for women who do come here and, unbeknown to them, do become victims—whether they're Indian or whether they're from any other cultural background—it's about duty of care.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: This is what I was trying to get to. How do you practically think that could be done? Is what you're saying that if an Indian woman or any woman—

Ms Kaur : Practically, I've certainly put through a suggestion around a pilot program or some sort of provision for temporary spouse visa holders who come to Australia. They would be there would be known to Department of Home Affairs or the immigration department; they would know that a spouse visa holder has arrived. Somebody should then either send them a letter or provide them with information and they should be connected or told, in each state, who is the available support service.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I guess if you're coming, you don't anticipate that you're going to have problems. Are you saying that, when the Australian Embassy sends out the visa, they should perhaps send a number of pamphlets and advice about what your rights are in Australia and say, 'If you need help, these are the people who you can go and see.' Is that what you are suggesting?

Ms Kaur : That's what I'm suggesting. The contrast is: when refugees or humanitarian entrants come to Australia, they're given six months of settlement support. Any other migrant coming to Australia does not get access to any settlement support. It's not only the issue around domestic or family violence; we see issues around sexual assault and issues around not understanding taxation and not understanding where to get help. There are issues around language or English. For all the other migrants who come to Australia on a permanent basis or on a temporary basis, they're not given settlement support. That's where a lot of those gaps are forming, and there are gaps in knowledge and gaps in understanding the system.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: These are people who decide that they want to come and live in this country. You're saying that this country then has an obligation to say to these people, 'Look, these are your rights,' rather than getting them to do their own research before they come?

Ms Kaur : I think it works two ways. As a country, we are wanting to bring migrants over here to assist the economy, to build the infrastructure and as students. There is an expectation, to a certain extent. I'm not saying that the government has all the responsibilities. But, as you can imagine, if I was to work or migrate to another country, if I couldn't speak the language and I didn't know how to, I would struggle. Those are the challenges. It's just a matter of informing people. When people are more informed about their rights, they're able to navigate the system.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: With your organisation or other people we're going to see, do you have in your mind that there's a booklet, a pamphlet or several pamphlets that you could give to everyone? The woman's would-be husband wouldn't be annoyed at her getting this if it was just done as a matter of course and as a very ordinary thing where, when you are coming to Australia, you get a booklet that tells you.

Ms Kaur : Ideally, one of the recommendations was that, when the spouse visa holders are undertaking their medical and all of their paperwork with the Australian Embassy, information that has already been translated by the federal government is actually given to the woman. That information is not withheld or given to the husband. The husband always has all of the immigration information from the department around the spouse visa status. There's a lot of that control that happens at the beginning where the women don't know.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How do you make sure that it goes to the woman?

Ms Kaur : She has to do the medical. She has to do that. That's what I'm thinking. That's an opportunity just to give information. The other opportunity would be when we build capacity in our communities, like the Sikh gurdwaras and the Hindu temples, where we actually have posters and will put up that information so that any newly arrived migrants, who will go to worship, will have access to information that's translated.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Doesn't that happen now?

Ms Kaur : Not always, no. It's not consistent. If we understand patriarchy, it's not in their interests.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I'm reluctant to suggest that the government should regulate to say, 'In every Sikh temple, there must be a poster saying X, Y or Z.'

Ms Kaur : If the government wants to prevent something, that's your leverage. For myself, as an advocate and also community member, I have tried to deliver domestic violence information sessions in my language to various gurdwaras. In some places, I've not been allowed; they've not permitted me. In some places, they have welcomed that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I understand this. I empathise and sympathise with you. But how far does the government get down to regulating your life or the life of your temple, your church or your religion? Your idea of doing that when the woman comes in to get a health check, because she's got to be there, would be relatively easy, if people could design the correct sort of information to give.

Ms Kaur : I do think, though, that the federal government does need to make a statement that in Australia domestic violence is not accepted, which is now consistently the message. Over more recent years, with all of the high-profile cases, that message is starting to filter through. However, through this inquiry—and I guess why I'm here today—there will be particular communities and there are some key barriers that we need to—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I accept that, and we have had evidence of it. I'm not wanting to catch you off, but I'm saying: how can the Australian government deal with it?

Ms Kaur : We upscale champions, we ensure that we work with both the men and the women and we provide those opportunities to start that conversation. I can tell you that a lot of the men and the women coming from India don't get any information about healthy relationships, what is okay, what gender equality is, what sexual assault is or what consent is. I'll be honest: with the victims who I've worked with, their husband is the first partner that they've had. If it's an abusive relationship, that becomes part of their narrative and then there's no sort of prevention part happening.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But the same would happen in India, would it not?

Ms Kaur : That's correct. And India is not a safe place for women.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I just wonder how far the government should get involved in individual people's lives. I like the idea of making information available at the health test, where the woman must be and the male can't be there saying, 'I'll do this for you,' because he can't do her health check. It should be relatively easy, I would think, to suggest that DFAT does that.

Ms Kaur : Through your UN funded aid programs, there can be an opportunity for that. DFAT funds other DV prevention programs in developing countries. Why would we not maybe look at something that we can do for the cohort of women who are coming to Australia, potentially, as well?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Again, DFAT has a budget. Our foreign aid has a budget. It's a question for the government as to which takes priority.

Ms Kaur : But those things can be coordinated.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Yes, okay. Thank you, Chair. If there is time, I will come back with some other questions.

CHAIR: You have raised the way the migration process and the control of the visa process can arise to create that exploitation. When we talk to the immigration department next week I want to ask them some questions about that. It seems that the requirement for transparency on both spouses is much less onerous for the Australian spouse and is at a much higher level for the spouse who is coming to Australia. Does that strike you as true?

Ms Kaur : Yes.

CHAIR: And, therefore, can there be information that is actually hidden from the spouse who is coming to Australia that would be relevant, frankly, to the immigration department's judgement of whether the relationship is authentic?

Ms Kaur : Yes.

CHAIR: Would you like to comment on that?

Ms Kaur : Sure. When we look at the information around perpetrator accountability—and I know it's a side note—we're only now getting to the point where different departments are starting to talk to each other about the common person who may perpetrate violence against women on numerous occasions in different jurisdictions.

The same principle can be applied here. If we have a sponsor husband who is now going to propose a second or third wife, hopefully, I would want the immigration department to undertake a bit of a risk assessment, or some police criminal history check or domestic violence history check. Even if the women have not pursued charges, if there has been any inference or evidence of domestic violence that should be flagged, and at this point it's not.

CHAIR: Yes. In a legitimate and authentic relationship you would imagine that even if people have had a difficult past they would have talked about some of those kinds of things within their relationship.

Ms Kaur : So there is a lot of that coercion happening, particularly from the men, because they have citizenship or permanent residency. They know they may have been abusive with the first wife but they go back to India and get a second wife. That information is never told to the potential second wife and her family—the reasons for why the first marriage broke down.

CHAIR: So in terms of making an assessment as to whether a relationship is legitimate, the government perhaps could have a role in making sure that the spouse who is coming to Australia has all relevant information that the government knows about in relation to that person?

Ms Kaur : Yes, and that's probably something you could do with the Indian consulate as well. Certainly, some of the work that I'm doing with the Indian consulate now, slowly, is that some of the men have come over here on false pretences. They have paid various officials to get their police clearance certificate. If they already have a criminal element to them, that is something which we can use as leverage with the Indian consulate to revoke that criminal history check.

It's also making sure that the community is aware around the character test. I notice now that there is a lot of pressure—certainly with the crackdown by the federal government—and that victims are put under even more pressure to withdraw their complaints.

CHAIR: Clearly, it's unlawful to put false information on an immigration application. Currently, the onus is on the spouse coming over: 'What's your education? What's your income?' But the Australian person doesn't have to provide that same level of information. How do we balance the rights of an Australian citizen in not having to be too onerous with those processes? Or should we put the onus on making sure that the spouse knows what the intended spouse's qualifications are, what their income is and what their migration status is—that that information is shared on the documentation rather than being so one-sided? Would that be helpful?

Ms Kaur : I think that would be helpful and maybe Canada has good practice in that context. The sponsoring husband doesn't have all the control around the immigration status, because that is being used as leverage and as a manipulation tool. You're correct in that I think a future spouse needs to have that information. How that information is provided I don't know. Culturally we have arranged marriages. Sometimes they're love marriages. Sometimes some men intentionally pursue affluent girls. They've done their research, so they will pursue them and know: 'Okay, they come from a wealthy background. We want her because we will be able to get a large dowry.' So it's tricky.

CHAIR: In a situation like that, if someone has lied in some way about their assets or their employment prospects, you should be able to expose that by the immigration process being mutually transparent on both parties.

Ms Kaur : Yes, and maybe separate interviews. What we see through the DV process, particularly when there have been physical injuries, is that the men will accompany the women to the doctor's appointment, so she's not even able to tell the doctor how she's sustained the injury or what's going on—where she's getting the pain and why she's getting the pain. So, when you're talking about immigration, I think that would also require separate interviews that are done in a safe way.

CHAIR: They're not currently separate?

Ms Kaur : I don't know. I don't know enough about what happens when those applications happen. I've heard the stories post. A lot of the women will tell me: 'They falsified their qualifications. They falsified the grounds of what their first marriage was. They used coercion. They used lies and manipulation.'

CHAIR: Have you seen a difference in the kinds of manipulation attached to the different kinds of visas? You've highlighted that some visas have more protection against family violence than others.

Ms Kaur : Yes.

CHAIR: We've just done family violence migration legislation this week, and that might change some of these things, but I'm interested in whether there's extra exploitation that happens to those who are on the more vulnerable visas or whether it's just that those on the more protective visas are more easily able to get support more quickly.

Ms Kaur : On the visas that they are eligible for, it's only by chance they might become aware that they can actually apply for a family violence provision, so that's not a given even if they're eligible. Even though the 457 visa now has changed, we still have a large residual cohort that will arrive in Australia under the 457 spouse visas. Without clear data and without some really good research, we actually don't know, because that cohort hasn't been provided with any of the family safety pack information or any settlement support, because it's assumed they've come here under the skilled visa.

Yesterday I had a Muslim woman reach out to me through Facebook. She was saying that she is actually a qualified doctor. She is being kept against her will. She's got two kids. She's not allowed to leave the house. She's been told by different DV services that because of her visa—a 457 spouse visa—she's not eligible even if she actually tries to do something because she's a DV victim. She doesn't know. In one of the case studies I did put in—and I know you didn't publish those, but I'm still in touch with her—she went back to India because she didn't want to take a chance.

My recommendation as part of this inquiry will be for the federal government to explore a pathway for those victims who fall under those other visa categories, and for there to be a process to be able to examine whether they are genuine victims of domestic violence and what visas they could be granted as a protection if it's unsafe for them to go back.

Going back to your question, visitor visas are another one. Because there's a delay in spouse visas being granted, I've had a few victims who've experienced serious DV whilst being in Australia as a visitor, or on a tourist visa. They've had hospital bills, legal and police, and no refuge will take them because they are completely temporary.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Are they married?

Ms Kaur : Yes, they were married. The abuse occurred within a week of them coming here.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They come here as a tourist and get married?

Ms Kaur : No. They were married in India. They're waiting for their spouse visa to be granted, but in the interim, because there's an 18-month delay—or a two-year delay now—the partner will put in a visitor visa application or a tourist visa for them to come and visit.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: That's an offence though, isn't it?

Ms Kaur : I don't think it's an offence. I think that they can—

CHAIR: Yes, they can.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: They can come here as a visitor?

CHAIR: Yes. They might in fact use their visits—

Senator IAN MACDONALD: For two years?

CHAIR: No. They have to leave again, and come and go—

Ms Kaur : Yes.

CHAIR: but they will use that visitor visa as part of establishing the continuity of their relationship in the long term to get permanent migration.

Ms Kaur : They're quite vulnerable, as well, because they're not eligible for anything.

CHAIR: And the exploitation can continue because they're still waiting for their migration status.

Ms Kaur : Yes.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I fail to see how this becomes an Australian, or an Australian taxpayers', problem. Shouldn't we be changing the culture in India? I don't know how you do that. Shouldn't the Indian government be making laws about these things?

CHAIR: Surely, Senator Macdonald, it has to be an issue for the Australian government if you've got Australian permanent residents and citizens essentially extorting women from other countries. They are in effect selling their Australian citizenship to their spouse. We don't want to see Australian citizenship exploited in that way, either.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: As I say, I don't know the culture—well, I do know the culture of India. I mean, in Australia this would never be tolerated. I don't know how far governments can legislate for people's 'stupidity'—

CHAIR: or vulnerability.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: or vulnerability—but they make the decision. Someone makes the decision.

Ms Kaur : I'll just make one comment there. There was a practice, going back to the seventies and eighties, of Australian men marrying Asian brides. A lot of the Asian brides through those relationships did experience DV. I've met a few of those women. They were never told about where they could get help, because of isolation. As much as we focus on the Indian community, exploitation, DV, controlling behaviour and manipulation can occur across lots of different cultures. It's just different variations and different ways of doing it. I think with the influx and the fact that there's been there's been no information or campaign—a concerted campaign—to educate the men here who are citizens now is potentially another thing that you can put in your citizenship test or migration—you know?

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you think that would get through the Senate?

CHAIR: I'd be happy to support a test like that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Can I record you on that?

Ms Kaur : How to be a good man, or how to be a respectful man.

CHAIR: Not Don Bradman's batting average but our human rights values, but I digress.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Perhaps you don't. That is a suggestion that may have some merit.

Ms Kaur : It's about how do you work on your prevention. A prevention education campaign is a key part of it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Whilst it happens in, what you'd say, third- and fourth-generation families—I'm not saying there's no domestic violence in Australia, but it's pretty well known it's a criminal offence—how do you change the culture of another country, be it the Philippines, Somalia, Pakistan or wherever?

Ms Kaur : The fact that a jurisdiction like Australia is actually examining this outside of India is a really big first step. This would also put the Indian government on notice: 'Maybe there is something that we have a responsibility to look at the migration patterns and what's going on.' That's something. I don't think the UK, Canada or the US have done anything similar. Certainly in the research there have been dowry related, or honour, killings in those countries as well where there's been a large Indian diaspora living there. Domestic violence and domestic homicide cases are still quite high and prevalent in those countries as well as now in Australia. So, potentially, you could be leading the way, that's another way to reframe it.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Do you know if there is any work going on between the Australian and Indian governments along this line?

Ms Kaur : I think there's a lot of work being done in business but maybe not in social welfare. So that's an area that we could explore.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: No. I did mean in this area.

Ms Kaur : No, not to my knowledge. But there's a caveat to that.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sure. Sorry I interrupted.

CHAIR: No. You're fine. It's a good exchange. Thank you. Ms Kaur, you said that there are many other forms of abuse other than dowry abuse, and we know that you've given some examples of that. Can you highlight how the immigration system facilitates that abuse? I think you just gave one example of a woman who is unable to access services and is essentially detained in her own home. What are the factors to do with the immigration status that facilitate that?

Ms Kaur : For many of the women there's a lot of shame and stigma for them to become a separated, divorced woman, if they do choose to leave. So the immigration issue is that they don't know what the number would be for immigration. They would not know what their status is. For some of the victims, as soon as the woman has left the husband has withdrawn the file, unbeknown to the victim. So because immigration, particularly—

CHAIR: The spouse might be here. They might be on a visitor visa. But the other spouse will have told immigration, 'I want to withdraw this application' and the spouse won't even know even though they're here in the country.

Ms Kaur : That's correct.

CHAIR: So they wouldn't even know what their current visa status is.

Ms Kaur : We've had one woman that I'm aware of, and it's a case with the police at the moment, where he married her and brought her over. But he didn't even lodge the spouse visa application. So when there was domestic violence—and there was quite a large dowry also exchanged—police then requested that information from immigration to find out what her visa status was, and she wasn't even on a spouse visa.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: How did she get into the country?

Ms Kaur : He might have brought her over as a visitor or a tourist. I'm not sure.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: On a tourist visa?

Ms Kaur : Yes. That's a case that I know where it was only through police investigating what her status was.

CHAIR: How clear would brides who have been married in India, or for that matter in Australia, be in knowing that they don't actually have a permanent migration status until the authenticity of that relationship is established over a longer period of time? How aware are they that, therefore, acts of abuse threaten that visa outcome?

Ms Kaur : I'll be honest, with all the women—and I can only talk about my experience with the women that I've worked with—the majority of them are raised in a way to be obeying their fathers and their brothers and to be subservient. That is an Indian cultural way of raising girls. When we talk about gender equality we talk about women knowing how to access their rights, their legal rights or their immigration rights. They would not have any idea how the immigration process works, so they are completely dependent on that information from their husband, or other people, telling them. That has been what I have observed. They have an assumption of what they've heard through hearsay about: 'This is what it might be like in Australia or Canada. This is how long it takes, or you've got to do your medical. Then you've got to do this or you've got to submit this.' But as far as a having a fully informed understanding about the immigration process, no.

CHAIR: And at which points could we intervene to improve that awareness? I think the doctor's visit is actually a good example. Clearly a service like yours is able to provide a reasonable level of counselling, but it might be intervention that's a bit late.

Ms Kaur : If you're asking for my wish list, I think it would be great if we did a bit of a campaign in India to educate—that, if you're going to migrate to Australia, you have a right to be safe and a right to be treated with respect, and these are the expectations so that language is really clearly understood by both men and women, and so it's understood that domestic violence and dowry abuse will not be tolerated.

CHAIR: In that sense, if the perpetrator is here on a 457 visa, the spouse should be aware that they've got a trump card—that is, if someone commits a criminal offence against them, that affects the migration status of the 457 visa holder. Is there awareness about that?

Ms Kaur : No. I can talk about the case that I had of the Gujarati woman, whose story in my case studies. Police had been called twice. There were strangulations. They took photos; they took evidence. She couldn't speak very good English, and he broke her phone three times. He made her work maybe 14 hours in a restaurant. This was a 457 visa and she was on a spouse visa. He didn't pay her wages. And the neighbours were the ones who reported. But he intentionally withheld information so that she didn't even know where or how to make a statement or what the process was to press charges. When she came to me she had managed to escape, but she was in such a traumatic state that I had to try to put all the pieces together to figure out what her options were. Unfortunately, the migration agent wasn't very good, and he didn't tell her when her Administrative Appeals Tribunal date was, so she missed that opportunity as well, even though I had prepared a report for her and had put all that information together. So the system falls down when they're ready to seek help. In the three to four years that she had been in Brisbane, she had been pretty much kept in servitude against her will, and she was not informed; she had no idea that she was supposed to be paid a wage or what she was supposed to do with police. We need to also understand that sometimes police in India are not always respected, and they don't always treat women nicely so that's also a fear for a lot of our women here. There is that fear of going to police.

CHAIR: In terms of lifting domestic violence awareness, do you think it would be worthwhile raising awareness of the fact that, if you're charged with a domestic violence offence, it's a threat to your migration status here?

Ms Kaur : Yes, definitely. You need to have that as a carrot.

CHAIR: What would be the best way to go about doing that?

Ms Kaur : You can liaise with your ethnic media. You can put a poster in Punjabi and Hindi publications. It's about actually finding champions in the community to relay that message.

CHAIR: For example, there's a task force in relation to sexual assault on campus, but you could broaden that in the context of international students to make sure they're clear that any acts of violence are a threat to their visa status as students as well.

Ms Kaur : Yes. The other part that we don't talk about is that sometimes a man will intentionally try to pregnant a woman, so we need informed consent—assisting women in whether they do actually want to keep the baby or not. That is also part of the coercive control. For a lot of the victims that I've supported, that has been has also impacted on how they seek help, because once a child comes it's not an easy option to then separate and to leave.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Does your organisation get any funding from governments?

Ms Kaur : No. I'm unfunded. I'm an independent operator. I work in mental health, so I work under the Medicare system. The refuge that we have set up is a self-funded refuge in Brisbane, in partnership, auspiced by the Brisbane Sikh Temple. It is the first refuge for Indian women only. I can tell you that we're at capacity. I need to find a second property. I get calls from interstate. So, with anyone that will reach out to me personally, we will try and make an effort to link them in.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: Sorry, but you're saying you're funded by the Sikh temple?

Ms Kaur : The building is funded. So it's their building that I use. I'm not paid by them.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: No. But they then obviously support the work you're doing?

Ms Kaur : That's right. And they're the first.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: And they would have no objections to putting up posters saying—

Ms Kaur : No, they haven't.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But you're saying that's not common?

Ms Kaur : For example, we had a double murder tragedy in Gordonvale, North Queensland, in the Sikh community there—two women.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: When was that?

Ms Kaur : That was in 2016. I worked up in Cairns. I was able to get some funding from the state government to go up there to do some education and awareness raising. That Sikh gurdwara did not permit me to run an information session in that same community where those two women were killed, because there was a real sort of, 'This is too hard, too difficult—we don't want to talk about it.' The following year I was able to, at a different one, which is down the road, but not at that one, where the two women were known and all the families were related and connected to those two women. What I will say is we have closed communities; we have open communities. There's a whole need for education and awareness raising at all different levels.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I know Tully and Innisfail. I'm sure the local papers would run a story.

Ms Kaur : When those two women were killed, the family refused to allow any media to cover their deaths. There was a real, 'We don't want to talk about this,' which is unfortunate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: But even just running a 'know your rights' campaign.

Ms Kaur : And that's exactly right. Even if we run something around that, base it around human rights principles, that's what's needed.

CHAIR: Thank you. Your evidence has been excellent this morning. Thank you for coming down from Brisbane to share that with us.