TRLS addresses an access-to-justice gap that manifests from the unique circumstances of refugees, asylum seekers & other humanitarian entrants into the Tasmanian community.


Because of family violence, Lucy left her relationship and sought help from family violence services. Her permanent (subclass 801) partner visa had not yet been granted when the relationship ended.

Lucy was in a relationship with an Australian citizen and applied for a partner (subclass 820/801) visa in July 2017 with her husband as the sponsor. She was assisted by a private migration agent at first before the development of our family violence migration service.

During the relationship the sponsor perpetrated family violence against Lucy including exercising coercive control over her and perpetrating sustained verbal, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse.

Because of this violence Lucy eventually left the relationship in July 2019 and sought help from family violence services. Her permanent (subclass 801) partner visa had not yet been granted when the relationship ended.

Lucy’s previous migration agent lodged a family violence claim in September 2019 under Division 1.5 of the Migration Regulations 1994.

A year later the Department of Home Affairs informed our client that the case officer was not satisfied that our client had experienced family violence and her case was being referred to an independent expert.

The Independent Expert interview was immensely traumatic for Lucy, who was required to provide detailed information about the family violence she had experienced and subjected to lengthy questioning without an interpreter or legal representative present.

After the interview in July 2020 it was another year until Lucy received the outcome.

In October 2021 Lucy received a section 57 Natural Justice letter advising that the Independent Expert was not satisfied that relevant family violence had been suffered and that her partner visa was going to be refused.

It was at this point that our client sought assistance from TRLS and appointed us to assist her to respond to the s 57 natural justice letter.

In February 2023 TRLS provided a detailed response including:

  • a detailed statutory declaration from our client
  • an independent report by a registered psychologist who interviewed our client and reviewed the Independent Expert’s decision.
    The psychologist concluded that our client had experienced family violence and heavily criticized the independent expert decision
  • an additional statutory declaration by a specialist family violence counsellor
  • an additional statutory declaration by a corroborating witness TRLS also provided detailed legal submissions arguing that the Independent Expert:
  • Made factual errors in respect of key aspects of the applicant’s relationship with the sponsor, and the evidence provided by the applicant
  • Erred in her assessment of the applicant’s credibility and reliability and gave disproportionate weight to information provided by the sponsor
  • Erroneously concluded that the applicant has not been the victim of relevant family violence as defined by regulation 1.21 by:
  • 3.1 Inappropriately characterising the relationship between the applicant and sponsor as
  • being one of ‘mutual discord’ and failing to identify the power dynamics present in the relationship.
  • 3.2 Failing to identify patterns of behaviour which clearly fell within the regulation 1.21 definition of family violence.
  • 3.3 Erroneously concluding the applicant did not endorse being fearful or apprehensive about her safety or wellbeing.

In early November 2022 the Independent Expert sent an invitation to our client to attend a further interview later that month.

TRLS worked closely with Lucy to prepare for the interview and support her through the process.

Ultimately, based on the information we provided in response to the s 57 natural justice letter, together with the information provided at interview, the Independent Expert reversed her previous decision and concluded that our client had been the victim of family violence.

Our client’s permanent partner (subclass 801) visa was granted in February 2023 nearly four years after the relationship ended, this was a significant result for Lucy and she is now a permanent resident of Australia.

*Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the client.

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