Meet April

Find out about the legal and non-legal issues that she is experiencing. April’s story includes AVOs, Community Services and housing issues.

April is a fictional character. Read the case study in full and find out what the legal and non-legal issues are by clicking on the highlighted text on the next page.

April is a 27-year-old Aboriginal woman who lives in a small regional town in NSW. April has recently left her partner Barry; they had been together for 6 years. Barry is Anglo Australian and he and April have three kids together, Jessie (5 yrs), Talisha (3 yrs) and Robbie (18 mths). April is also 22 weeks pregnant with their fourth child.

April tried to leave Barry many times before, but Barry would always find April and demand that she come back. Barry was very violent and if he didn’t get his way, April always ended up paying for it.

The police were involved in the past with varying responses to the violence. On one occasion the police showed up and they had a warrant for April’s arrest for a minor theft offence. April was arrested and taken to the police station but the police did nothing about the domestic violence. After that incident, April never called the police again.

As a result of the last violent incident, April ended up in the hospital with severe facial bruising and broken bones. The police showed up and applied for an AVO for April’s protection. The police then informed Family and Community Services (FaCS, previously known as DoCS) that April had been involved in domestic violence. FaCS arrived and took the three children away.

April is currently living in a Women’s refuge and is scared that Barry will come and find her. April wants to get her children back and move to the city far away from Barry. April is also scared that FaCS will take her baby away once the baby is born.

April has been told that FaCS will not give her children back until she has a home for them, but she has heard that it is very difficult for an Aboriginal woman to rent privately and Housing NSW has a long waiting list.

One of the refuge workers hears talk in the town that Barry’s parents are trying to get custody of April’s children. Barry had threatened once before about taking April to the Family Law Court and that it would cost April a lot of money for a solicitor. Barry had also told April that she is not entitled to any of their joint property, as they were not married.

April is too scared to involve her family and she doesn’t have any other support. April has come to you for assistance.

Legal and Non-Legal Issues

April is a 27-year-old Aboriginal woman who lives in a small regional town in NSW.

Non-Legal

In NSW an Aboriginal woman is six times more likely to be the victim of domestic violence than a non-Aboriginal woman, and nationally Indigenous women are 31 more times likely to be hospitalised for family violence related assaults. See the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services page for more information. For information on how to be culturally appropriate when working with indigenous clients, please see our webinar and factsheet on Working with ATSI Clients.

April is also 22 weeks pregnant with their fourth child.

Non-Legal

According to social science, research pregnancy is a risk factor for violence to escalate in a DV relationship. See the Domestic Violence and Pregnancy factsheet for more information.

April tried to leave Barry many times before, but Barry would always find April and demand that she come back.

Non-Legal

Research shows the average woman leaves an abusive relationship 7-8 times before leaving the relationship permanently.

The police were involved in the past with varying responses to the violence. On one occasion the police showed up and they had a warrant for Aprils arrest for a minor theft offence. April was arrested and taken to the police station but the police did nothing about the domestic violence.

Legal

NSW Police are required by law to take out an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order for the protection of domestic violence victims. If Police have not responded appropriately to the domestic violence, April should get legal advice about getting Police to take appropriate action and/or making a formal complaint against the Police about the lack of response to the domestic violence. See the 5 Quick Tips for Reporting Domestic Violence to Police factsheet for more information.

In situations where a domestic violence victim has a warrant out for their arrest, NSW Police Standard Operating Procedures instruct Police Officers to respond to the domestic violence incident first. Police Officers cannot ignore the warrant for arrest when there has been a domestic violence incident, but they must deal with the victim in the most appropriate way and not exclude the domestic violence incident.

After that incident April never called the police again.

Non-Legal

April is likely to have a distrust of the police after her experience of being arrested. Aboriginal people have continually suffered discrimination by the Australian Government and as a result, many Aboriginal people have a distrust of institutions and Government authorities. See the ATSI services page for more information

As a result of the last violent incident April ended up in hospital with severe facial bruising and broken bones.

Non-Legal

April will need follow up medical support as she has domestic violence injuries and is pregnant. April could be referred to the Aboriginal Medical Service or a Women’s Health Centre for appropriate medical support. April may prefer to seek medical assistance outside of her community to limit the number of people knowing about the violence and the shame.

The police showed up and applied for an AVO for April’s protection.

Legal

The police have applied for Apprehended Domestic Violence Order for April’s protection. April should keep a diary of any incidents of abuse or violence that she experiences. April should be given a copy of the AVO Breach Book to assist her with recording any future violence against her and to empower her to report any breaches to police.

For more information on AVOs, please see our webinars on AVO  Basics and AVOs Advanced.

The police then informed Family and Community Services that April had been involved in domestic violence. FaCS arrived and took the three children away.

Legal

April should get some urgent legal advice about the removal of her children.

As a community worker, ask April questions such as:

– Who is looking after the children now?
– Are the carers Aboriginal?
– Do you have any paperwork or documents from FaCS?
– Are you able to see your children?
– Do you have any upcoming court dates that you know about?
– Are you being represented in the Children’s Court?
– Can you tell me how you protected your children from Barry?

The answers to these questions will help a solicitor advise April on what she can do to get her children back.

When taken into care Aboriginal children need to be appropriately placed with Aboriginal community members. April is entitled to be legally represented at the Children’s Court with a solicitor from Legal Aid, or a private solicitor with a grant of legal aid.

For information, please see our webinars and factsheets on FaCS and Child Care and Protection and Restoration Orders, and our booklet 10 Things You Need to Know if FaCS Remove Your ChildVisit the Family and Community Services website for information for your clients about ‘what if a report is made about me or a child in my care and information on your client’s ‘rights as a birth parent‘ when their kids are in care.

April is currently living in a Women’s refuge and is scared that Barry will come and find her. April wants to get her children back and move to the city far away from Barry.

Legal

April will need to get family law advice to look at her parenting options and whether she will be able to relocate and move away from Barry with the kids. See the Living Without Violence – Parenting after leaving domestic violence factsheet for more information.

April is also scared that FaCS will take her baby away once the baby is born.

Non-Legal

April may need the help of a support worker or a solicitor to communicate with FaCS that she is no longer in a domestic violence situation. If April is no longer experiencing domestic violence than the baby will not be at risk of harm once it is born.

April has been told that FaCS will not give her children back until she has a home for them, but she has heard that it is very difficult for an Aboriginal woman to rent privately and Housing NSW has a long waiting list.

Legal

April might not be aware of her option of going back to the family home. If April is a tenant see the Domestic Violence and Renting booklet and our Domestic Violence and Tenancy Webinar which explains what her options are as a tenant or occupant of the home. Refer April to the Tenants Union of NSW, the Women’s Legal Services NSW Domestic Violence Advice Line, or her local community legal centre for tenancy advice.

If April and Barry own the home, April can be referred to Staying Home Leaving Violence to discuss going back to the home safely. This would involve applying for an exclusion order on the AVO, which would exclude Barry from residing at or approaching the house. See the Want to Stay at Home and Leave the Violence? factsheet for more information. April should also be referred for legal advice so she can find out what her rights are to the property.

If April does not want to go back to the home she will need support finding long-term accommodation or housing.

Non-Legal

April should be referred to a specialised ATSI support service and Housing NSW. A support worker should go with April to Housing NSW where she can be assessed by a Housing NSW worker. If April has any problems with Housing NSW she can be referred to a tenancy service or a community legal centre.

Read the Housing NSW policy on domestic and family violence

One of the refuge workers hears talk in the town that Barry’s parents are trying to get custody of April’s children. Barry had threatened once before about taking April to the Family Law Court and that it would cost April a lot of money for a solicitor.

Legal

April may be eligible for a grant of Legal Aid, which means she can be represented by a private solicitor in the Family Law Court for free. April will need to be referred to Legal Aid and may need assistance from a support worker to fill out the application form. For more information on Legal Aid, see our webinars; Legal Aid, What is it? How Does it Work? and Legal Aid and Family Law

Barry had also told April that she is not entitled to any of their joint property, as they were not married.

Legal

As a defacto partner of Barry, and the mother of Barry’s children, April does have property rights. April should get some property law advice to discuss her options about a property settlement. See the Property: Women and Family Law 10th Edition toolkit and the Defacto relationships and family law factsheet for more information. See also our webinar and factsheet on Property Settlement and the Property Settlement Workbook.

April is too scared to involve her family and she doesn’t have any other support.

Non-Legal

April would really benefit from an advocate or a case worker to assist her to manage the different legal and non-legal processes that she is facing. April should be given a ‘warm referral’ to a specialist service, which is culturally appropriate to assist April.

April may assist from having access to counselling to help her heal from the domestic violence that she has experienced. Victims Services offers 10 free counselling sessions for victims of crime including victims of domestic violence. For more information visit the Victims Services website

April should be informed of the Centrelink Crisis Payment, which assists people who are escaping domestic violence. See the Living Without Violence – Centrelink Payments and Domestic Violence factsheet.

April has come to you for assistance.

Legal

A support worker or advocate should enquire whether Barry has been charged with criminal offences and if he has not, then ask the police why not!

April should seek legal advice about personal injury and victims support – to ensure that she knows about all her legal options as a victim of violence. For more information on victims support visit the Victims Services website

 

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