Location of the family violence provisions

77. Currently, the family violence provisions are contained wholly within div 1.5 of the Regulations. In ALRC Report 114, the ALRC and NSWLRC suggested that the Australian Government may wish to consider the appropriateness of having the definition of ‘relevant family violence’ in the Regulations instead of in the Act.[90] The Commissions emphasised that provisions which affect the lives and safety of particularly vulnerable groups of society may be more appropriately placed in primary legislation. Stakeholders stressed that migrants are a particularly vulnerable group due to factors such as: isolation; language barriers; lack of family or other support; lack of access to medical or financial services; cultural values which may emphasise keeping quiet about spousal abuse; and systemic barriers to accessing legal support.[91] Victims of family violence may also be threatened with deportation or withdrawal of sponsorship.[92] Similar concerns have been highlighted in migration literature.[93]

78. To the extent that the family violence exception is intended to allow victims of family violence to leave abusive relationships, without having their migration status compromised, it plays an important role in protecting the lives and safety of those so affected. Division 1.5 of the Regulations contains both the definition of ‘relevant family violence’ and a number of ‘machinery’ provisions that regulate the operation of the exception more generally.

79. The ALRC affirms its views in ALRC Report 114 that placing at least the definition of ‘relevant family violence’ in the Act may afford a measure of visibility and stability to the definition. The ALRC is interested in comment about whether the definition of ‘relevant family violence’, or the family violence provisions as a whole, should be placed in primary legislation.

Question 15 Would the family violence provisions—including the definition of ‘relevant family violence’—currently in the Migration Regulations 1994 (Cth), be more appropriately placed in the Migration Act 1958 (Cth)?

[90] Australian Law Reform Commission and New South Wales Law Reform Commission, Family Violence—A National Legal Response: Final Report, ALRC Report 114; NSWLRC Report 128 (2010), 289.

[91] Ibid, 287.

[92] Ibid.

[93] P Easteal, ‘Broken Promises: Violence Against Immigrant Women in the Home’ (1996) 21(2) Alternative Law Journal 53, 53.