My rights under Australian Law

1. What are my rights under Australian federal/state law?

In Australia, everyone has a right to live free from violence, in a happy relationship and community. Under Australian law, women and men are treated equally. A person who commits family violence can go to jail, whether they are a man or woman.

In South Australia, the Domestic Violence Act (1994) allows victims of domestic violence to apply for restraining orders if domestic violence has been committed by a family member (partner/spouse, former partner, parent, child).

2. What are the penalties for domestic violence in Australia?

Domestic violence is taken very seriously and penalties can include fines, good behaviour bonds, community service orders, intensive rehabilitation orders, home detention or imprisonment. Penalties depend on several factors: the nature of the act, the seriousness of the case, and the criminal history of the person charged with assault.

3a. What is a restraining order? 

Restraining orders, also known as ‘intervention orders’, are made under State laws. They provide a quick way of obtaining legal protection from domestic violence. An order may be:

  • interim (for a short period) OR
  • final (for a longer or indefinite period)

Restraining orders can prevent someone who is harassing, threatening or abusing you from having contact. This can include:

  • not being allowed to enter your home or workplace
  • not being allowed to go to your children’s school
  • not being allowed to contact you via telephone or messages
  • not being allowed to follow or keep you under surveillance

The conditions of restraining orders are made to be appropriate to you and your situation.

b. Who can apply?

A restraining order may be issued for the protection of any person who

  1. is fearful for his/her safety OR
  2. believes that the family member will commit an act of abuse OR
  3. is a child who hears or witnesses the effects of abuse in the family home

c. How do I apply?

An application can be made to a Magistrates’ Court by:

  • You
  • A friend or support worker (with your consent)
  • A police officer

Once an application is made, a hearing will be held quickly. The purpose of a hearing is to ensure that there is sufficient evidence for a restraining order to be given.

d. What happens if it is violated?

It is illegal to violate a restraining order and police may arrest a person who is suspected of violating the order. The maximum penalty for disobeying a restraining order is 2 years in prison.

Visit for information on restraining orders in your language.

4. Is rape in marriage a crime in Australia?

Rape and sexual assault, either in marriage or a de facto relationship, are crimes under Australian law. It is a crime to force your partner (spouse or de facto) to engage in a sexual act against their will. Many victims of marital rape do not report their experiences to police because they may have a different understanding of sexual assault. For example, they may believe that within marriage a wife belongs to her husband and therefore must continue to engage in sexual activity, even if she does not want to. This is a crime against the law.

5. Are there safe places I can go to if I need to leave my home because of domestic violence?

Yes, you can go to a Women’s Refuge or Shelter. These places offer safe short or long-term accommodation, assistance in moving furniture and other belongings to the shelter, facilities for cooking and washing, clean bedding. They also offer confidential services such as legal, financial, housing and other support services.

Please see the SUPPORT SERVICES page for more information.

6. What do I do if I hold a temporary Partner Visa (subclass 300, 309 or 820) and experience domestic violence and my relationship ends?

If your relationship with an Australian partner ends because you or another family member has suffered domestic violence, you may remain in Australia and apply for a permanent Partner Visa (subclass 100 or 801).

For more information, please visit: and Family Violence and Partner Visas information sheet

OR visit: Adelaide Visa and Citizenship Office
Location: 70 Franklin Street, Adelaide SA 5000
Counter hours: Monday to Friday, 9am – 4pm

7. What are my responsibilities as a parent if my partner abuses my children?

Parents, caregivers and those with parental responsibility have a duty, by law, to provide children in their care with adequate financial support, food, clothing, accommodation, healthcare and access to education.This duty generally extends to children up to the age of 16 years, but may apply to older children who, for example, have a severe disability.

Parents and caregivers also have a duty to protect children in their care from abuse or neglect. Child abuse occurs when someone hurts, neglects or fails to protect a child. Child abuse and is often closely linked to family violence. Child abuse is a crime under Australian law. Keeping children safe from abuse and reporting suspected child abuse is the responsibility of everyone in the community.

8. If I was dismissed from work because of a domestic violence related issue, what should I do?

This is a form of discrimination. If you believe you were harshly, unjustly or unreasonably dismissed, you can seek help from the Fair Work Commission within 21 days of the termination.

Dismissal reasons might include temporary, unplanned absence from work because of

  • Illness and depression
  • Injury
  • Fear of violence, harassment and stalking from partner
  • Need to seek protection for children
  • Fear of exposing personal experience of domestic violence to colleagues

An employee has protection from unlawful dismissal under the General Protections provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009.

For more information, please visit




South Australia Police

Australian Institute of Criminology

Department of Immigration and Border Protection

Women’s Safety after Separation

The National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children

Australian Law Reform Commission

Australian Institute of Family Studies

Relationships Australia

Fair Work Ombudsman