Tag Archives: coercive control

New Zealand woman trapped in Australia and jailed for abuse under the Hague Convention | Instant News

This is a nightmare scenario that is common to international women living under the shadow of domestic violence in Australia.

New Zealand women in particular face a unique set of circumstances that pose major obstacles in enabling them to avoid partner abuse.

Under the general visa 444, New Zealanders have the right to live and work in Australia, but because they remain citizens of their homeland, they are not entitled to government benefits.

When faced with domestic violence and without funds to leave, many people as a last resort flee back to New Zealand, but can then be forced back by their abusers to Australia.

The legal instrument is the Hague Convention, which prevents children from being carried across the border illegally, and is primarily judged on the black-and-white fact of a border crossing, not mitigating circumstances.

Risk of serious harm

A case earlier this year uncovers the tragic and torrid story of a New Zealand mother and child caught in a nightmare of domestic violence in Australia, with no choice but to run away.

New Zealand women are not always entitled to Australian government benefits.(ABC News: Margaret Burin)

The Court of Appeal in New Zealand heard how the perpetrator, an Australian man, had multiple sentences for assault and breaching a protection order.

Tasmanian child protection services have files about families running across “several hundred pages”, the court heard.

The risk of harm to children – boys born in 2015 – is rated by protection services on a scale of 0 to 10 as “approx. 8”.

In 2017, the mother fled to a shelter and then to her homeland in New Zealand, unable to access financial support because of her visa status and returned to a place where she could get state aid, and support from her family.

The New Zealand lawyer working on the case, Daniel Vincent, has seen this scenario several times before.

“Of course there are problems for New Zealanders in Australia accessing support there, whether it be housing or financial support benefits, because of the limitations associated with their visas,” he said.


Lawyers and experts say the Hague Convention, which was signed by many countries including Australia 40 years ago on 25 October 1980, is outdated and used as a weapon of harassment, control and entrapment.

It was designed to stop men, who traveled more and more in the 1970s, from kidnapping children after breaking up and taking them to their home countries, where mothers would never see them again.

Now, it’s more commonly used against women, who make up more than 70 percent of runaway parents, according to The Hague

Globalarrk, a charity that supports families in the The Hague case, said its research showed 91 percent of the women in the Hague case had experienced abuse.

More than a third of Hague applications in Australia relating to a child taken abroad are for New Zealand – in the 2017/2018 financial year, there were about 30 cases according to the Attorney General’s Department.

The case of the woman who fled Tasmania has had tremendous results, however, in a decision that could affect future cases.

The court ruled in April that the mother could stay in New Zealand, nearly three years after her mother fled.

Vincent said he hopes the case shows how “unfair” the scenario is.

A man in black and white smiles at the camera.
Daniel Vincent specializes in family law cases and The Hague Convention.(Provided)

“We feel that if the spotlight is put on this, right-minded people will feel the same anger at how difficult it is for people with children in Australia who can’t access support there, and then be forced back into that. [abusive] environment with the operation of the Hague convention, “he said.

“The Hague Convention ended up being used as an instrument by abusive and controlling partners to bring victims back in their control because that person became dependent on them, for financial support.

Call for legal assistance and benefits

The mother has struggled for legal aid, which requires due diligence that the case will be won, usually meaning that the “taking parent” is not eligible because under The Hague they have undeniably “wrongly” moved the child – and vice versa, abandoned parents usually get it.

Stock image of a child hiding, looking annoyed.
Experts say the Hague Convention causes problems for children who should be protected.(AAP: Dave’s hunting)

“The irony doesn’t disappear with us that dad can get legal help to appeal in a country he hasn’t even been to. Even though my client cannot get legal assistance for the very sad situation in Australia, ”said Vincent.

However, the importance of court decisions is that they go beyond the traditional assumption that the best interests of the child will be served promptly back and accept the defense that repayment will be a “great risk of psychological and physical harm or an intolerable situation”.

This defense is included in The Hague regulations, but rarely works because it is not required to account for domestic violence against its mother.

“What the appellate court is doing is acknowledging the psychological dangers for a child in being in a violent environment in the country – so there is no need to physically abuse the child directly,” said Vincent.

Both points, said Vincent, “will support the way the Hague convention case is resolved in New Zealand over the years”.

Cartoon giant thumbs up on a group of women
Women have nowhere to turn for “good laws go bad.”(ABC News: Emma Machan)

He said the way to improve the way cases are handled under the Hague Convention is to interpret them as “living documents”.

He also said it must ensure that those forced to return under The Hague’s orders can access legal aid and benefits.

“If anything can be brought in, especially in Australia, it seems, where protecting children and providing them with money is a problem, that’s fine,” he said.

The Australian Attorney General’s Office did not respond directly to questions about legal aid funding for “taking” parents, but said “people who experience, or are at risk of, family violence and their children are identified as the national priority client group for services.”

The problem of government ‘admitting’

A New Zealand Department of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said it was regularly communicating with the Australian Government about the plight of New Zealanders facing domestic violence.

It said their concerns had been “acknowledged”.

“We are aware of the difficult situation some New Zealanders face who are subject to an Australian Family Court ruling and are unable to leave Australia with their children, who may also have limited access to Australian social support payments, despite living and working there for many. people. years, “said a spokesman.

It said the Australian Government had granted an exemption to the income threshold when applying for permanent residence under a 189 visa, for New Zealand citizens who were unable to leave the country due to a family court decision.

But the person has to live here for five years, and it costs $ 4,045, with a processing time of 15 to 25 months.

Responding to a question about the circumstances facing New Zealanders in Australia, the Department of Home Affairs said: “New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens can sponsor partners to Australia through the Partner visa program.”


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Inside the Men’s Referral Service, a call center that deals with Australian abusive men and domestic violence | Instant News

All outgoing calls on the Male Referral Service begin the same way.

A telephone adviser hit the man’s number, perhaps after reading a police report about an incident of family violence he experienced over the weekend.

He might stab his colleague, or a neighbor who is worried about calling the police after hearing screams at night.

Maybe he was charged; perhaps the officer issued a family violence security notice or an intervention order, barring him from home. He can arrive in court within a few days. He might feel angry, sad, embarrassed.

“I am an advisor from the Men’s Referral Service. We call people after an incident and the police are in your home. We are community service agents and we are here to talk to you about what happened to you – about how you are going to go and what will happen next. Is that the conversation you want to have? “

About half of the men will hang up quickly, said Sarah *, who coordinates services run by No To Violence, the top body that works with men to end male family violence in Australia.

For those who remain on the path, the counselor has 40 minutes to uncover “what happened”: Why was the police called? How does he think his behavior affects his partner and children? What support might he need so that it doesn’t happen again?

More men seeking help from ‘the tip of the iceberg’

When Australians were forced into isolation because of the corona virus last month, front-line workers began preparing for another opportunistic infection: a sharp increase in domestic violence which, like countries around the world have reported, is emerging as a secondary crisis.

But measuring the impact is difficult, especially on MRS, where advisers say they respond to the same number of police referrals (around 100 every day), the same pattern of power and control.

Police in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia also have not seen an increase in reports of domestic violence that they expected during the pandemic – at least not yet (some women’s help channel has seen a recent jump in calls after initials worrying drop).

The Men’s Referral Service said a 37 percent increase in calls from men seeking help with family violence.(Pexels: Nick Demou)

But the number of people calling to MRS has jumped significantly over the past month, with counselors recording a 37 percent increase in calls in the last week of April compared to the same period last year.

“There are more men out there who are looking for help either because they use violence in their relationships or they worry they will do it,” said Greg Wilkinson, head of service at No To Violence.

“Although it may be more difficult for people to report family violence with everyone at home now, our reference is still very high, and maybe only the tip of the iceberg.”

Pandemics form patterns of abuse

It almost puzzled Sarah and her advisory team, whose work was usually invisible, that the coronavirus had sparked great public interest in domestic violence.

It’s not “calm before the storm,” he said, “it’s a storm. The statistics are terrible. To use the weather analogy, we’ll see another storm surge … but we’re in a big storm already.”

However, in recent weeks MRS staff have seen old tricks take on new forms when a pandemic forms patterns of abuse: men who threaten to expose their wives or children to friends whom they claim are infected with the virus; men who are even more strict in their partner’s movements because they are always together; men are hit when they are stressed about money, or because they disagree with how their spouses care for their children, or because they have just lost their jobs – a common theme adopted by counselors recently.

Office space filled with desks and red file cabinets
The Men’s Referral Service in Melbourne’s CBD has witnessed an increase in calls from men seeking help.(ABC News)

But for Aaron *, the team leader at MRS, “this is really business as usual”.

“We see the same problem, the same contact, the same patriarchy,” he said.

“The situation has changed, so people are forced to be in the same house together, which can make it easier for perpetrators to use violence. But the problem is not the fact they are trapped in a shared house or that he lost his life. Work, that’s he uses violence.”

Or, as his colleague said, Mark *: “Losing work is not a cause of violence, it is a trigger, a stress trigger for him. How does he manage the external stressors? His steps or choices for using violence are the problem.”

So how are ordinary calls revealed?

For starters, said Harun, counselors will never see a complete picture of what is happening because callers generally underestimate their behavior.

“We always get minimized versions because, as you can imagine, they feel very embarrassed by the things they have done. So for example, we might have a police [report] which tells us there is a stabbing, but on the phone he will not say, ‘I stabbed him’, he will say something like, ‘I threw something at him’ and suppressed the violence a few notches.

“A more disturbing story will be come from women, victims, not men. “

A woman in a green shirt uses a cellphone
Women’s services are concerned victims may not be able to call safety for assistance with violence in lockdowns.(Pexels: Andrea Piacquadio)

Sometimes, it takes almost all calls for several versions of the truth to appear.

“I listened to the call yesterday,” said Holly *, another team leader at No To Violence, “and this man began by saying, ‘Oh, child protection asks me to call you’. And it took 35 minutes before he admitted that he threatened to committed suicide in front of his wife and child … because he had left her.

“And it was only because of some very skilled questions from his advisor that he recognized his threat to kill.”

One of the biggest hurdles the counselor is trying to overcome is the man’s feelings – and many are showing signs – that he is a victim.

The reason often arises: If he wasn’t that stupid, I wouldn’t hit him. Give me a break, buddy, I just got laid off. See what he did to me?

“If he says it’s a dispute about children, but he calls the police, which gives you an indication that some sort of threatening or intimidating behavior is happening,” Aaron said.

“It’s not the dispute you asked about, it’s another clue about what he said or did in response to the dispute. Or if the man spoke condescendingly or underestimated his colleague or blamed him … such signals could indicate that something might be happening with his behavior. “

What is success?

Showing these things, though, can be dangerous – a red cloth for a bull.

“Our intervention is just a piece of what this person’s life is like and we can only get involved or open up what he wants,” Aaron said.

“The most important thing is that we don’t increase risk, through our actions. So, all our processes and procedures have that in mind: will talking to this man make the situation more dangerous for his partner? That is the benchmark or axiom guideline.”

If counselors can break through defenses, if they can draw even short stories about what happened, they must then try and make men consider the impact of their behavior on their partners and children.

That is the best result that can be expected for the most part in a short time.

“One of the things we do is try and invite introspection,” Holly said. “Many of the men we work with are unfamiliar or comfortable talking about their own behavior – they want to talk to you for 40 minutes about a hundred bad things [their partner] To do.

“So if you can change the subject, and ask him to focus on taking responsibility for what happened, for me it will work.”

Success might also mean linking it with local behavioral change programs – many of which have long or currently suspended waiting lists – or emergency housing, mental health or drug and alcohol services, which have been flooded as pressure from an increasing pandemic.

This delay can cause serious problems on the line; the sooner an offender can get help after an incident, Alan said, the better.

“The timeliness of an intervention is very important because humans are fickle,” he said.

“One minute they might care about a certain thing and then a few days later the problem might disappear and everything seems fine again. Like, if you are motivated to become fit and go to the gym but are closed, a week later you might give up and don’t care anymore fit. “

Neighbors calling the police can be a ‘game-changer’

Nevertheless, as much as coronaviruses create challenges for experts who work with perpetrators – as much as highlighting large gaps in the service system – Sarah and her team hope that also opens the door.

Holly said she had listened to more calls lately where men suggested police appear after neighbors called for them. “Maybe it’s because more people are at home now and more aware of what’s happening?” she says.

“That’s a good thing, I think, because some women who experience violence will never have the courage to call the police because they are afraid of what [their partner] might do. But if the neighbors call, it can be a game-changer. “

For Sarah, “there is always an opportunity to talk about relationships that respect each other, and how people use power and control as a way to make themselves feel more in control of things they don’t control.”

It has never been more important to keep perpetrators, he said, to hold them accountable and involve them in support services that can help them change their behavior.

But whether the current crisis will be a significant turning point for the domestic violence sector, for the wider community, remains to be seen.

“Family violence is still a closed matter,” he said.

“People don’t want to talk about other people’s relationships. So until we have big community awareness it really is, if I hear someone next door screaming that night is my business, we will continue to ignore it as usual. “

Meanwhile, the channel is always open in the Men’s Reference Service.

“We want to talk to men about what strategies they can use to manage their emotions, to make different choices than to use violence,” he said.

“Because that’s the only thing that creates change – when you as an individual can reflect internally about the idea that this might not end well for me, for all sorts of reasons.”

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