We first met Ming at one of our advice nights in August last year. She had a two month old daughter, an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order (ADVO) against an estranged husband prone to drug and alcohol abuse and a Bridging Visa that was about to expire. Her situation was precarious and she desperately needed someone to help her.
Ming had come to Australia from China in April 2008 on a student visa to study for a Master of Applied Linguistics; when she arrived she already had a PhD. In late 2010 Ming had married Bruce, an Australian citizen. About a month later, upon completion of her study, Ming’s Student Visa was cancelled. Ming did not immediately lodge an application for a Partner Visa as she could not afford the application fee.
In January 2011, Ming was seriously assaulted by her husband. The assault only ended when a security guard intervened. At the time Ming was a few months pregnant. The Police charged Bruce and applied for an ADVO for Ming. After this, Bruce became increasingly controlling and refused to let Ming lodge a Partner Visa application.
Bruce had substantial drug and alcohol abuse problems which had a negative impact on his relationship with Ming. Throughout their relationship he was violent and controlling towards her, and he abused Ming both verbally and physically. He prevented her from studying, working or contacting her family in China. Bruce took control of their finances and prevented Ming from receiving any personal or business correspondence. He also made constant threats to have Ming deported to China without their unborn child.
Eventually, with the assistance of NSW Police, Ming left Bruce. This occurred following a number of serious incidents of domestic violence, and fears for the safety of Ming and her unborn child. Despite an ADVO and assault conviction, Bruce continued to stalk and threaten Ming.
June 2011 brought some joy back into Ming’s life with the birth of her daughter, Annabell. With an Australian father, Annabell was an Australian citizen by birth.
The respite was short lived. In August, not long after we met Ming, the two month old Annabell was removed from both of her parents by the NSW Department of Community Service (DoCS). DoCS were notified of a domestic disturbance that occurred at Bruce’s house in Ming’s absence. Ming had allowed Bruce to babysit Annabell for a short period of time in exchange for him agreeing to sign some important documents; a decision she regrets to this day. Following Annabell’s removal, DoCS made an application to the Children’s Court for Annabell to be placed in the Minister for Community Services’ care until she reached 18 years of age.
Ming had lost her child and was facing being forced to leave Australia. The difficulty for Ming was that her situation did not come under any of the standard classes of visa application, as she was no longer in the relationship with Bruce.
In certain situations, where an application for a visa has been unsuccessful a request can be made to the Minister for Immigration and Citizenship to exercise his discretion to intervene in a case and make a decision allowing that person to remain in the country permanently. This was our best hope for Ming.
With our assistance Ming lodged a Protection Visa application and was granted a Bridging visa, which allowed her to remain in Australia on a short term basis. We knew the Protection Visa application would be unsuccessful but were hopeful that the application would act as an “artificial pathway” to allow us to put Ming’s case before the Minister. As expected, Ming’s Protection Visa application was refused. In refusing her case, the Departmental officer recommended that this may be a compelling case that could be given consideration under the Minister’s guidelines for intervention.
Before we could apply to the Minister directly however, Ming needed to apply for a review of her application. We attended the Refugee Review Tribunal with Ming. Again, as was expected, the Tribunal affirmed the refusal of Ming’s Protection Visa application. In doing so however, the Tribunal identified grounds for Ministerial intervention and referred the matter directly to the Minister’s office for consideration.
We now had an opportunity to put our case before the Minister and request that due to the unique and exceptional circumstances of Ming’s situation the Minister exercise his discretion and allow Ming to remain in Australia with her young daughter.
While we were working with Ming on her visa application, the Children’s Court made a favourable decision regarding Annabell. The Court found that Ming was an appropriate carer for her daughter. This meant Ming and her daughter were reunited. Before those orders were finalised we assisted Ming in her efforts to obtain a Chinese passport or alternatively a permanent visa for her daughter from the Chinese Consulate. If Ming could not remain in Australia she wanted to make sure that she could take her daughter with her to China. Unfortunately, we did not succeed in our efforts. This meant that if Ming was required to return to China she could end up being permanently separated from her daughter.
Meanwhile, back at the Children’s Court, while we were ultimately successful, the Children’s Court decision prevented Ming from removing Annabell from Australia for a period of three years. This undertaking meant that if Ming was forced to return home to China, she could not take Annabell with her. Thus, if Ming was ordered to return to China, Annabell would be placed with DoCS and could eventually be placed in the care of her father. Given her father’s history of long term drug and alcohol abuse we strongly urged the Minister to allow Ming to remain in Australia so that she could continue to care for Annabell.
Ming’s situation has been put to the Minister and we are currently awaiting a decision. We are hopeful that there will be a favourable outcome, allowing Ming and Annabell to remain together in Australia. Australia has international obligations to act in the best interests of the child. This is an extremely complex but clearly deserving case, which we will continue to fight for.
Whilst we wait for the Minister’s decision, Ming continues to remain in close contact with us and other support services available to her through The Salvation Army. With many people appealing to the Minister to intervene in their case the wait may be a long one. In the meantime this intelligent and passionate woman is enjoying every moment she can with her young daughter.