A 24-hour helpline for migrant women experiencing domestic and family violence in Australia has been launched by the Harman Foundation. The foundation primarily supports women from the Indian subcontinent in Australia. The new helpline (1800 11 66 75) is free and staffed by trained case managers and professional counsellors.
“I miss my sister. I miss her every second.”
Those were the words of Jaspreet Singh on Sunday. His sister Kamaljeet Sidhu was allegedly murdered by her husband in western Sydney in May. Mr Singh spoke to SBS News at an event to launch the Harman Foundation’s new 24/7 helpline for women experiencing domestic and family violence. The foundation primarily supports women from the Indian subcontinent in Australia.
Ms Sidhu, who was 27, had moved with her husband from India to Australia two years ago and was on a student visa. “My sister is gone, she is never coming back, and this is a lesson to other women that they should speak up if there are any problems at home,” Mr Singh said.
Advocates for domestic and family violence survivors have long voiced concerns that temporary visa holders are particularly vulnerable as they do not have access to key health and social services such as Medicare and Centrelink. During the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary visa holders have also not had access to the government’s JobKeeper and JobSeeker financial support programs.
Mr Singh hopes more protections can be put in place. “I think the government should make policies for international students, because for the ones that face problems with domestic violence they have very little places to turn to,” he said. “There needs to be more awareness about the rights of women for international students so they can learn what they are.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Social Services told a parliamentary inquiry last month calls to Australia’s domestic violence helpline 1800 RESPECT have risen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harinder Kaur, co-founder of the Harman Foundation said demand for its services grew five to six times a week.
“Since March, calls for assistance has gone from 10 a week to 50 or 60 a week,” she said. “Now that we have the hotline, we hope we are able to better service sufferers. We have had to bolster our volunteer numbers to make sure there is always someone available to answer calls.” The new helpline (1800 11 66 75) is free and staffed by trained case managers and professional counsellors.
Volunteer Simi Bajaj said: “We hope that through events like today we can make sure cases like Kamaljeet’s does not happen ever again”. The Harman Foundation also provides a variety of grassroots services such as food relief, counselling support, as well as referrals for other services including legal assistance.
The Harman Foundation’s helpline can be accessed on 1800 11 66 75 and more information can be found at harmanfoundation.org.au
If you or someone you know is impacted by family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.