Frances* is a 42 year old asylum seeker from Malaysia. She and her husband fled to Australia in 2008 seeking freedom from persecution, yet their claim for asylum is yet to be determined. They are separated from two of their children, who are resident with Frances’ parents in Malaysia, and their bridging visas mean they continue to live in this country in a legal limbo.
Without permanent Australian residency, Frances and her husband cannot work and rely on the Red Cross to support them and their third child, who was born after they arrived in Australia.
Since Frances and her husband arrived in Australia, the family has been intermittently homeless. To make matters worse, Frances has had a number of health concerns, having to undergo major surgery and counselling for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Frances was active in her community in Malaysia. She helped out at her local temple and assisted with running women’s groups. When she came to Australia she naturally sought to involve herself again in the Malaysian community. Unfortunately, her trust was abused when she helped another Malaysian friend with a motor vehicle registration.
Frances had two cars registered in her name. Her husband drove one of the two cars and they loaned the other car to friends from Malaysia. Although both cars were registered in her name, Frances only had a learner’s permit and was too afraid to drive.
When Frances’ friends left the country she sold the second car. Soon after the Sheriff came to her door with 15 warrants for unpaid fines totalling $3500.
Frances tried to organise a payment plan to deal with the fines racked up in her name by her friends. But her payment plan application form was misplaced and she was arrested. Frances was facing up to 23 days imprisonment. And with only $1029 for her family to survive on per fortnight, her ability to pay off the fines anytime soon was slim.
Frances’ Refugee Torture Trauma Counsellor referred her to our service for assistance. We made representations to the Magistrate on her behalf and argued that imprisonment would have a devastating impact upon her already fragile health. The Magistrate accepted this argument and discharged the fines without penalty.
*Not her real name or image