Massage Therapists - Workplace Exploitation

In 2014, 4 women were sponsored on subclass 457 visas from Cambodia. When they arrived in Australia, they were subject to severe exploitation by their employer, including: being forced to sleep on the floor; being required to work over 12 hours a day, 6 days a week; restrictions on leaving the home and on what they could eat and drink; and significant underpayments while being forced to pay back certain “costs” to their employer from their already low wages.  

The women’s employer threatened to cancel their visas, have them removed from Australia, and kill their families if they breached any of these rules.  

When their employer finally followed through on his commitment to sponsor the women for a permanent visa, they managed to escape and seek help from a trade union. The employer’s visa nomination was refused by the Department of Home Affairs (in part due to his treatment of the women) which meant that the women’s visa applications were also refused by the Department and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. As a result, the women were unable to apply for almost all other visas while in Australia.  

The women’s trade union referred all four women to IARC through Visa Assist. IARC assisted them to make multiple submissions asking the Minister to intervene in their cases based on their compelling special circumstances. In February 2021, the Minister decided to intervene and granted the women visas to remain in Australia temporarily. 

IARC is still assisting the women with visa applications to remain in Australia. 

Sally – Partner Visa, Family Violence

Sally had limited English skills when she came to Australia with her husband, who was very controlling. He filled out her Partner visa application for her and included false information about her previous relationships. Sally tried to understand what was in the forms and was scared that her husband was lying, but she did not have any control of the situation and he called her stupid when she tried to raise concerns.  

Sally was refused a Partner visa by the Department of Home Affairs because of the false information that her husband had provided. 

Sally then separated from her husband due to ongoing family violence perpetrated against her and her two-year-old Australian daughter. Her husband began Family Law proceedings to get custody of their daughter. Sally was terrified that she would have to return to her home country and would be separated from her daughter.  

IARC represented Sally in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and argued that there were compelling compassionate circumstances in her case because of the family violence she had experienced and the control her husband had exerted over her. The Tribunal agreed and set aside the Department’s decision. Sally has since been granted a permanent visa and is able to remain in Australia with her young daughter. 

Sunil - Workplace Exploitation

Sunil arrived in Australia on a Training visa to follow his lifelong ambition to be a chef and to learn his trade amongst the culinary diversity of Australia. He started working at a hotel as part of his training and was warmly welcomed by his colleagues.   

However, when he received his first pay cheque, he realised that substantial deductions were being taken from his pay which he had never agreed to, including for his accommodation in a tiny room, leftovers from the hotel’s breakfast buffet if there were any, and lunches and dinners which he or his colleagues would make themselves. 

After lodging a complaint about his treatment, he was terminated from his traineeship, evicted from his accommodation, and forced to live in a hostel.  His employer also reported him to the Department, which wrote to him about cancelling his Training visa. 

Sunil applied for a Student visa in an attempt to continue his culinary training in Australia, but he was refused by the Department because they did not believe he was a “genuine” student given the pending cancellation of his Training visa.  

They used words to the effect that “if he was serious about becoming a chef, he would have stayed with his employer on his Training visa.” The Department also called all his allegations regarding his former employer hearsay and refused to give them any weight.  

Sunil’s trade union then referred the matter to IARC through Visa Assist. IARC helped Sunil appeal the Department’s decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and provided submissions on his behalf. IARC attended Sunil’s Tribunal hearing and made oral submissions on the day.   

The Tribunal was so persuaded by Sunil’s evidence and IARC’s submissions that the Tribunal decided the matter on the same day, finding that Sunil was a “genuine student”.   

Sunil continues to study cookery in Australia and still dreams of being a chef and running his own restaurant one day. 

Mustafa – Visa Cancellation

Mustafa arrived in Australia in 2010 seeking protection from his home country. He had been subject to severe beatings, arbitrary arrests, and death threats from the authorities for most of his life because of his sexuality. 

He spent the first seven years after arriving in Australia in immigration detention, until he was finally released on a Temporary Protection visa. When released, he found life outside immigration detention very difficult. He did not have any family support in Australia and he found it difficult to find employment and accommodation or find any community in Australia. He was also still struggling with his sexuality, having had to conceal it for many years, and he started to develop serious psychological issues.  

Mustafa was homeless for two years and turned to shoplifting in order to feed and clothe himself. This shoplifting brought him to the attention of the Police, who would often charge him with shoplifting offences. After a number of shoplifting convictions, he was sentenced to a term of imprisonment. The Department then cancelled his Temporary Protection visa and he was returned to immigration detention, awaiting possible removal from Australia. He appealed the Department’s decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. 

IARC was put in contact with Mustafa after his first hearing with the Tribunal. IARC represented him at two subsequent hearings and made six submissions to the Tribunal in support of his case. IARC connected Mustafa with multiple support services so that he would have access to basics like food, accommodation, and mental health support if he was released. IARC also highlighted the dire consequences were Mustafa’s visa to remain cancelled – indefinite detention or being sent back to a country where he had been persecuted. 

After eight months of hearings and deliberations, the Tribunal found in Mustafa’s favour and he was released from immigration detention the same day. 

As a Temporary Protection visa holder, Mustafa must apply for a new visa every three years. IARC continues to support Mustafa with these visa applications. 

Jamie - Carer Visa

Jamie first sought legal assistance from IARC in 2014. She was struggling to look after her son Isaac, who has a severe disability, while also caring for her three other children. Jamie wanted to bring her mother to Australia to help her care for Isaac.

IARC helped Jamie fill out the forms and prepare the supporting documents for a Carer visa application for her mother. With IARC’s assistance, Jamie was then able to lodge a valid application for her mother and the Department of Home Affairs put her application in the queue for final processing. As the number of Carer visas that can be granted each year is capped, applications can take five to six years before they are considered for grant.

In 2019, Jamie received a letter from the Department telling her that her mother’s application had been released from the queue and giving her a long list of information to update and clarify. Jamie again sought IARC’s assistance. IARC helped Jamie understand what the letter meant and assisted her to provide the further information required. IARC also helped Jamie to request a reduction of the visa application fee, due to her limited income.

The Carer visa has since been granted to Jamie’s mother and her mother has arrived in Australia and is assisting Jamie with her son Isaac.

Lance – Family Reunion

In 2012, Lance arrived in Australia as a skilled migrant from a country in West Africa. In 2015, he went back home to marry his fiancée, Sarah. Shortly after the wedding, Sarah’s brother and his wife were tragically killed in a natural disaster. In accordance with local custom, Sarah took on the responsibility of caring for her orphaned niece (12) and nephew (7).  

When he returned to Australia, Lance took on a second job to save the nearly $10,000 needed to sponsor Sarah and the children for visas to join him in Australia, while sending as much money as he could spare back home to support Sarah and the children.  

The children’s visas were refused because Sarah had not legally adopted them. With IARC’s help, Lance challenged the refusal in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, arguing that the Department of Home Affairs had incorrectly applied the law and failed to consider customary adoption, which is recognised in Australian migration law. IARC helped Lance gather evidence proving Sarah’s relationship with the children, including school and medical records and DNA evidence, and prepared legal submissions about customary adoption in the region. In May 2021, the Tribunal found in favour of Lance and Sarah and set aside the decision.  

When their case was returned to the Department for finalisation, IARC worked with Lance and his lawyers back home to obtain court orders permitting the children to leave their home country and the visas were granted.  

Sarah and the children have arrived in Australia and have been reunited with Lance.  

Fran - Protection Visa

Fran is a trans woman who experienced persecution in her home country because of her transgender identity. As a trans woman, Fran faced regular and ongoing discrimination, harassment, and violence in her home country, from both the authorities and the community at large. 

She often missed out on opportunities because she was transgender and was regularly stopped by police on the street and interrogated, physically assaulted, and abused. 

Fran left her home country and came to Australia on a subclass 600 visa.  Realising she could not safely go home, she enquired about remaining in Australia permanently. 

IARC met with Fran and helped her to apply for a Protection visa. While preparing the application, Fran’s lawyer at IARC worked closely with her to ensure the language and pronouns used in documents were appropriate, consistent, and respectful of Fran’s gender identity. 

IARC also helped Fran connect with services, including LGBTQ+ services, for support while she awaited the outcome of her visa application. 

A lawyer from IARC attended Fran’s interview at the Department of Home Affairs as her advocate and ensured that Fran was not misgendered, that her correct pronouns were used consistently, and that the questions to her were respectful and sensitive to her experience as a trans woman. 

Fran was successful and she was granted a permanent Protection visa. 

Molly - Partner Visa, Family Violence

Molly is a mother of two young children who are Australian citizens. Molly was living in regional New South Wales with her children and her husband. Molly was on a temporary visa and she and her husband applied for a Partner visa so that they could stay together in Australia as a family. They lodged the application over four years ago. After lodging the application, the relationship deteriorated and Molly’s husband became increasingly abusive, making Molly scared for her safety and the safety of her children.  

Molly had limited access to support in her area. She tried to move out with her children, but she could not access any crisis accommodation. She could not afford to pay rent on a private property and pay for childcare at the same time. She was told that she could not access Centrelink benefits or public housing because she did not have a permanent visa. Molly felt that she could not leave her husband because she had nowhere to go with her children and no way to support her family financially.  

IARC had several appointments with Molly to talk through her situation and the possible option of asking the Department to consider her application on the basis of separation. IARC also raised Molly’s matter with the Department of Home Affairs, highlighted the hardship the delay in processing was causing, and pressed for priority processing of her visa application.  

Within a few months, Molly’s permanent Partner visa was granted. Molly is now able to apply for Centrelink and public housing, helping her build a safer life for herself and her children.  

Fatima - Refugee and Humanitarian Visas

Fatima, in her late twenties, worked as a journalist in Kabul and appeared on national television. Like many female journalists in Afghanistan, Fatima worked under a pseudonym. However, her pseudonym was exposed and she received threats to her safety. Once the Taliban seized power, female journalists began being targeted and killed. Many female journalists went into hiding or sought to flee the country. Fatima and one of her children managed to find their way to the airport in Kabul and were evacuated by Australian soldiers on a subclass 449 visa.  

On arrival in Sydney, Fatima was put in contact with IARC to assist her with her permanent residency application. IARC, through the help of volunteer solicitors, assisted Fatima and her child apply for a Refugee and Humanitarian visa.

Fatima and her child are now living in Sydney and have received permanent residency. She is studying English and has made friends in the local community. However, while Fatima and her eldest child had a lucky escape, her husband and two younger children were unable to leave Afghanistan at that time. The family has been separated for nine months. Fatima now needs assistance to bring the rest of her young family to Australia, and IARC is currently helping with her split family application.