University educated Indigenous woman, “Mary”*, aged 59 year old, was a stolen generation child, sent to a remote community at 3 weeks old. She had been in a relationship with her husband, “Bob”*, for nearly 36 years and there was ongoing domestic violence by Bob against Mary. Bob was a binge drinker and would return home after a bender and become abusive. The domestic violence included physical violence by Bob against Mary, ongoing threats, verbal abuse, abusive behaviours, intimidation and assaults on Mary’s biological daughter, “Gina”*, as a means to hurt and control Mary. Mary lived under the constant shadow of Bob’s violence. Bob had broken her life, leaving her constantly depressed and anxious for her safety and the safety of her daughter, Gina.
Police were aware of Bob’s history of domestic violence. Police had been called to the home on occasions and had some years previously, applied for a Protection Order for Mary. On the last occasion that Bob came before the Magistrates Court for an assault on Mary, the Magistrate told him that if he ever assaulted Mary again he would go to jail. After this, Bob changed his domestic violence tactics. When he was angry at Mary, he would assault Gina. He continued to threaten, abuse and intimidate Mary and Gina. Due to the housing shortage in the community, Gina moved back to her mother’s home when she was an adult with children of her own. Mary was happy to have Gina and her grandchildren living in the home, but Bob continued his domestic violence against Mary and Gina. Bob continued to be verbally abusive and threatening. If Bob’s dinner wasn’t ready when he wanted it, he would call Mary and Gina insulting names, intimidate and threaten them. Bob’s abuse occurred in front of Mary’s grandchildren.
Gina and her children were living with Bob and Mary in 2016, when the police attended Mary’s home after a violent incident by Bob, involving Gina. Mary’s grandchildren were exposed to threats and verbal abuse by Bob during the incident. The police intervened by arresting Gina, who was not the leaseholder for the house, although they had knowledge of Bob’s history of domestic violence. The police removed Gina from the home, and Mary was left in the home with Bob, and with her grandchildren. The police acknowledged that there was an ongoing risk of domestic violence by Bob. The morning after the domestic violence incident, Mary quietly left the home while Bob was sleeping. Mary took her grandchildren to a Women’s Shelter, where she and the grandchildren remained for 2 months. Bob resided in the family home alone while Mary and her grandchildren lived in a women’s shelter. Bob’s domestic violence did not stop. He continued to harass Mary on Facebook. Mary had to arrange for someone to accompany her to work every day as she was too scared to walk to work for fear that Bob would come after her.
Mary was referred to ATSIWLSNQ while she was living in the Women’s Shelter. The ATSIWLSNQ solicitor, assisted Mary to apply for a Protection Order (pursuant to the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2012) and the court granted a Temporary DVO. The DVO included an ouster Order, requiring Bob to leave the home. Mary and her grandchildren were able to return home.
Mary’s life has changed since a DVO was made. For the first time in 30 years she has been free of the constant threat of domestic violence by Bob. Mary’s daughter, Gina, is no longer being held to ransom by Bob as a weapon against Mary.
Mary’s grandchildren were previously at risk of removal by child protection authorities because of the exposure to domestic violence, but they are now being raised in a home free of Bob’s domestic violence. Bob is prohibited from coming to the house. Mary and Bob’s relationship had been over for a long time, and it had become a prison for Mary because she had no means to safely leave.
The assistance provided by ATSIWLSNQ was life-changing for Mary and also provided early intervention to prevent the children becoming the subject of child protection intervention. Aside from the benefits to Mary and her grandchildren, ATSIWLSNQ’s intervention represents savings real savings, economically and socially.
*Pseudonyms are used for all people named in this case study