JRS Australia’s Finding Safety Project identifies the importance of enabling access to justice for women on temporary visas.
Josephine Rechichi heads up the Finding Safety Project at JRS Australia’s Women’s Space, an innovative project supporting women on temporary visas, including women seeking asylum in Australia, who have experienced sexual and gender-based violence (S/GBV).
In her work, Josephine has the opportunity to hear from hundreds of women and girls who, by virtue of their temporary visa status, often face serious barriers to accessing support services and protection under the law.
In order to advocate for the women and girls who visit our Women’s Space, and who are so often left behind in conversations about their own safety and protection, Josephine joined with professionals across the New South Wales women’s services sector to present to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the current and proposed sexual consent laws in Australia.
Josephine reflected on how complex the situations of S/GBV can be for women on temporary visas, who have often experienced violence in their countries of origin, in transit whilst seeking asylum, as well as once arrived in Australia.
“Social isolation, communication barriers, lack of access to support or information about their rights under the law, and cultural differences often create further risk of sexual and gender-based violence, and limit pathways to justice,” Josephine said.
Josephine’s full remarks to the Inquiry can be found here.
Support required to enable access to justice
JRS Australia welcomes the proposed changes to consent laws that centre the experiences of victim-survivors and see a focus on informed and affirmative consent.
For the women and girls we serve to have true access to justice, we need to see a legal system that goes beyond the criminalisation of S/GBV.
We need law, policy and funding that enables women on temporary visas to access resources that are provided to Australian citizens, and we need support systems in place to assist with language and other social barriers that inhibit women on temporary visas from understanding and accessing their protection under the law.
On a broader level, we need to end the systemic marginalisation of women on temporary visas – particularly women seeking asylum in Australia – so that all women who have experienced violence are empowered with the support they deserve.
The Inquiry heard from many organisations about the need for:
- harmonisation of consent laws across Australia’s states and territories;
- affirmative consent as an essential component of sexual consent laws throughout; and
- nuanced policy approaches to ensure access to justice, particularly among women and girls in marginalised groups.
More about the Women’s Space
Our Women’s Space is a vital resource for women seeking asylum and women on temporary visas in situations of vulnerability. Our team of specialist S/GBV practitioners are committed to supporting women at risk of, or experiencing S/GBV. This includes domestic and family violence, forced and early marriage, sexual violence, immigration-facilitated abuse, coercive control, gender discrimination, honour-based violence and modern forms of slavery.
“The Finding Safety Project is one of the first and only specialist support services that women on temporary visas, including those seeking asylum, who have experienced violence can access,” Josephine said.
“Our goal is to bridge the knowledge, capacity and practice gap in the social and community services sector so that the women we accompany can access pathways to safety and justice regardless of their visa status. It was important for me to represent this often invisible cohort of women at the Senate Inquiry, to ensure that the unique complexities they face were made apparent to our decision-makers.”
To learn more about the Women’s Space and how you can support the Finding Safety Project, please visit our Women’s Space page here.