April 2019, a school chaplain from SU QLD referred “someone in need” to my charity. The woman was stated to be a victim of DV and facing homelessness. We provided immediate support by way of money for rent, food & furniture. She explained to us that she had a lot of debt and had been selling herself to cover living costs. We offered her an honest job as a cleaner and paid her wages according to Fairwork Australia.
She explained to us that she had over $50,000 on credit card debts and consequently had to make a minimum of $700 per week just to cover all the interest payments and basic living costs. She was married to an Australian man in the middle of nowhere in the outback. She had met him online and moved to Australia to marry him. She explained that not long after they were married he became violent and had to leave the marriage. She then moved onto another relationship and that relationship was also violent. The daughter was with her first marriage to a man in the United States. She said he was also angry and violent. She said he had abandoned them when he learned that the daughter had a disability. She described him as a “loser”.
She didn’t have a car. While she was engaged with our services, her daughter wasn’t allowed to attend school because of issues with their Visas. This meant for her to go to work, her daughter had to attend. We specifically sought after cleaning jobs that were flexible and with clients who were understanding and would allow her daughter to be there. Not only that but we had to drive both her and the daughter, and the other staff, and the equipment to each job. Fortunately, we were able to secure several bond cleans which met all these criteria.
She asked for legal support to help her obtain Permanent Residency status here in Australia. She explained that because she was divorcing her Australian husband she was at risk of being deported back to the U.S. Her daughter had been ill & they were not eligible for medicare as they were now on a Bridging Visa. Her daughter also has a disability and required medical support. She had already accrued thousands of dollars in debt from various hospitals around Australia. I spoke to a friend of mine who is a great lawyer. He agreed to do what he could to help her get her visa. I relayed this to her and asked her for all her documents to give to the lawyer to assist with her immigration application.
Around the 14/4/19, we had a conversation. One of the lawyers had raised the possibility of a Criminal Justice Visa and asked if there were any current charges pertaining to the domestic violence. If there were charges pending against one of her partners that she was allegedly abused by then she may be eligible. She did not know about the Criminal Justice Visa. She said that no charges were made against anyone despite her contacting police many times in an attempt to charge them.
I relayed this good news to her and met with her to collect the supporting documents. I asked to meet with her at a cafe to collect documents (instead of in her home). We had to go through the documents so I imagined it would be thirty minutes to an hour. I was very clearly not asking her on a personal romantic date. The purpose of the meeting was to collect the documents, review them and assist with compiling what was actually necessary for the lawyer. She stated she did not want to meet with me at a cafe. I said “that’s fine”, attempting to address what I perceived to be the awkward subtext and indicate this wasn’t social but professional. However, if she wanted me to collect the documents then we would have to meet.
She seemed to understand but then insisted I just collect them from her home and go through them there. For the sake of expediency and lack of reasonable alternatives I agreed. Her daughter was present the entire time but no other adults were present. What’s ridiculous about all this is that no accusations have been made about me being alone with her in her home. In my mind at the time, this is what I was most worried about.
Now, upon receiving the documents it was apparent she was lying about many details of her story. It’s actually fairly normal for people in crisis to lie about their situation. It’s so frustrating as a support worker. It seems the extremity and distress of their crisis situations leads them to disregard their higher virtues to most swiftly get back to a semblance of safety. These lies might look like stating that they would “never take drugs” but then not disclosing that they’re smoking marijuana every day. Or saying they “don’t have a criminal history” and then it turns out they got charged for shoplifting several times when they were younger. This sort of thing is common.
The real issue is when someone you’re supporting is lying to you about the entire situation and effectively using you to achieve some ulterior or wicked motive. I’ve come across this several times over the years and we developed these organisational principles to help guide our responses when coming across these extremely complex cases.
The documents she gave us revealed that she was here in Australia with her daughter illegally. I calmly questioned her about the discrepancies in her story in contrast with the documents. At that point, I still thought she might have been a legitimate victim but was embarrassed about the stupid decisions she’d made. One court document revealed that the biological father of the daughter had taken her to court to have shared custody of the child. This was fitting the description of a “loser who’d given up on his daughter because she had a disability”. Amongst the documents was information about her Australian husband and the “domestic violence” she had endured. The husband’s police records were there too. There were 2 pages detailing all the crimes he’d committed. He was a dangerous violent criminal. His psych records showed that he’s a diagnosed schizophrenic. Amongst the crimes were assaulting police officers, robbery, assault and more. What’s more is that he, and his family, claimed that she had used him to come to Australia.
Then there was the issue with her parents. She told us they were abusive and she could never speak to them or return to the U.S. because of them. After one job she asked us to stop in to the post office because she had a parcel from the U.S. she was very excited to receive. When she collected she explained that it was filled with her favourite American candy. I asked who it was from. She said, “her mom”. She explained her parents were very wealthy and had a big beautiful home but they were very strict and mean. She said they could send her money so that she wouldn’t have to be poor but they chose not to because they wanted to control her. She said her mother had paid for open ended plane tickets for her and her daughter to return home but she wouldn’t take them.
It seemed considering all this we weren’t supporting someone who actually sincerely needed help. She was not facing imminent homelessness. She has a safe home in her country that she could choose to return to. However, she would have to co-parent with the father of her child and be a responsible adult. Instead, she was choosing to risk her daughter’s life in a foreign country, with no medical insurance and prostituting herself to pay for rent.
I also found out that the chaplain who had referred her to us was continuing to support her. Only a week or so earlier she had been singing our praises. Then toward the end of April, she had gone cold on us. Out of professional respect, I called her up and explained the concerns we were facing and the evidence we had found against her. The chaplain seemed unwilling to discuss it and was quite vague on the phone. I thought she must have been fed the same story “H” had told others.
There are several issues here though. A woman has brought a child to Australia illegally. It’s effectively a case of child stealing/abduction. The child has complex medical needs and has no medical insurance or cover whatsoever. The mother has had the child around violent and dangerous individuals, not been able to adequately feed the child or care for her responsibly. But the chaplain was continuing to support her. In my mind and in my experience working in this field, these factors compelled me to report her actions to the authorities.
I contacted the Chaplain’s manager at SU Qld who I personally know from working together supporting other individuals in complex situations in the community. I requested a meeting to sit down with the chaplain and ideally the client too. I was hoping a plan could be worked through to discuss the concerns and work out a solution that is ultimately best for the child, that is legal, safe and fair. SU Qld management and the chaplain declined to have a meeting. In the subsequent weeks I heard the chaplain was relaying gossip that came from “H” to donors of Liberty. At that point, I sent the chaplain a stern email requesting she discontinue any further defamatory remarks.
On 1st May 2019, one of the Liberty Services commercial clients sent me a message out of the blue saying that she would not be paying me but would be paying the money owed to me: to “H”.
I started receiving death threats from these thugs demanding I give “H” money. I’m not one to be easily intimidated. I just said I wouldn’t be paying her any more money. I said to both these idiots that were threatening me and directly to “H” that Liberty would be willing to provide free food. We’re a charity but demanding money from a charity is not charity. “H” had given them my personal address. They said they were going to come to my home and kill me/hurt me/etc unless I give her money. That’s extortion. I wasn’t going to continue to enable someone who has deceitfully brought a child to another country and is risking their life.
While assisting people in need in the community over the years I have regularly worked with the police. The police generally aren’t good at dealing with complex cases. Anything involving mental health, personality disorders, people with disabilities, etc. Also, any protracted crime which involves multiple events. They just don’t know what to do. When it comes to this the police either often overreact or avoid it altogether. I was reticent to go to the police for fear that they would make the situation worse. My fears were correct.
I contacted Ken Farmer who is the local OIC (Officer in Charge) of Carseldine Police station. As I mentioned in the previous posts I had worked with Ken and Ken’s team with several difficult matters in the community. Ken knew what I did in the community. He had donated to the organisation before. He knew that I had worked with many severely mental ill female criminals in the community to obtain a safe and just outcome. This is the email I sent.
It’s commonplace when addressing a complex matter to request an appointment with the police when they know they have time to sit down and go through it properly. If you just walk in it’s like going to a barber. They might be available or they might be busy. If they’re busy. Which they always are. They can’t spend the time necessary to deal really difficult situation. So, it’s respectful to email the OIC and organise an appointment. Moreover, this is not something a young police officer could handle. It needed the attention of someone who understands the complexity of extortion, theft of a clerk, international law and fraud.
I continued to receive death threats every day from this woman’s thug friends. On the 26th May I walked into the station.
To be continued…