13 August 2020: Victims of domestic violence assaults in NSW will no longer need a police report to have hospital fees waived for treatment of their injuries. Currently, women on temporary visas are ineligible for Medicare meaning they face large medical bills for hospital treatment if they can’t show a police report.
Reporting of domestic and family violence to police is low. The Bureau of Statistics Personal Safety Survey (2016) revealed just 18 per cent of women who experienced a physical or sexualised assault from their partner reported the assault to police, and just three per cent of men.
The reasons people choose not to report are many and varied including fears of repercussions from their abuser, concern about other people finding out, consideration of the implications for their children, and previous bad experiences with authorities to name just a small number of reasons.
For women on temporary visas, you can likely add uncertainty over their rights, previous experiences of racism, perpetrator threats to undermine or revoke their visa status, concern about housing and cultural traditions which preclude them talking with a male about their experiences.
None of these reasons, nor any other, should prevent someone from receiving necessary medical care.
Victims of physical and sexualised assaults from a family member are very often experiencing economic abuse as well, meaning their access to money is limited and controlled. The idea that you would send someone in these circumstances a bill for attending to the harm they have suffered seems particularly cruel.
Last week, the National Advocacy Group for Women on Temporary Visas Experiencing Violence, called for better access for women on temporary visas to:
- basic income
- accommodation services
- hospital and health care
- free legal advice and representation
- free interpreting services.
Today, the NSW Government came to the party on one of these, for women in that state.
Now it’s up to other state and territory governments and the federal government to do their part.