Part of a series of 16 stories featuring women we have accompanied through the Finding Safety Project, shared for the 16 Days of Activism.
Before coming to Australia, Julia* was a school principal and her husband served as a diplomat.
Julia* had to flee her home country due to political persecution.
After the fall of the government, Julia’s husband and oldest son were kidnapped. Julia is aware that her husband was then assassinated, but she remains unaware of her son’s circumstances.
Julia’s older age and back injury prevented her from fleeing to a neighbouring country, where her two younger sons currently reside.
However, Julia did manage to travel to Sydney on a visitor’s visa, after which she applied for protection. While waiting for her application to be assessed, Julia met and married an Australian man, and assumed primary caring responsibilities for his two children.
Julia’s love for and responsibility towards the children kept her in the marriage for 7 years, despite enduring multiple forms of domestic violence, including coercion and financial, verbal, and physical abuse.
When Julia eventually made the brave decision to leave, she did so with very limited knowledge of English, no work history in Australia, and no money. Julia also faced particular barriers to seeking assistance through domestic violence shelters and other homelessness organisations, because many do not accept people on bridging visas.
When Julia was referred to the Finding Safety Project, she was experiencing homelessness.
Julia was connected with a specialist SGBV caseworker who had expertise in assisting women on temporary visas who had experienced sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).
Through the Finding Safety Project, Julia was able to secure accommodation in a refuge, access emergency relief payments, and arrange winter clothing donations through Thread Together.
Julia was also connected with free legal support, a counselling service, and community activities, which she accessed through our dedicated Women’s Space in Western Sydney.
These wrap-around services supported Julia to navigate the legal practicalities of her situation, while addressing the mental and emotional implications of experiencing SGBV.
As Julia’s living situation became more secure, Julia was also able to engage in activities that supported her independence, including ESL classes and other training through the JRS Employment Program.
Julia can now speak English at an intermediate level and is looking to find meaningful work.
Julia believes her life started changing from the better once she was able to access help through the Finding Safety Project.
“I’m forever grateful for the support I received from JRS Finding Safety team. With their assistance, I want to express my thanks to my caseworker, who helped me regain my independence and stand on my own feet again,” she said.
Julia’s story highlights the power of providing comprehensive support to women who have experienced SGBV-related trauma. It is also evidence that it takes a village to support a person seeking asylum in the absence of government and mainstream support.
The Finding Safety Project operates in coordination with a range of organisations in the sector in order to achieve positive outcomes for the women we serve.
*name changed to protect story-teller’s identity
16 Days of Activism
JRS Australia is participating in the call to action presented by the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls. This story has been shared as part of our “16 Days, 16 Stories” Campaign for 2023, focusing on the work we do through our Finding Safety Project to support women on temporary visas who have experienced or are at risk of sexual or gender-based violence.
We sincerely hope that reading these stories, and learning more about the important work our Finding Safety Project does in the absence of any other coordinated or government support, will inspire you to invest in us, invest in the women we serve, and invest in a future where women and girls are free from all forms of violence.
Visit our 16 Days, 16 Stories campaign page to learn more.