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A movie about one of the biggest problems today modern slavery and sex trafficking A female agent gets deep into a worldwide slave trafficking ring to catch
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The Shameful Story of Australia’s Serial Husbands The Philippines has long been a source of women for Australian men: 2,000 women are sponsored each year as wives or fiancees and from 15,000 to 20,000 men have ...
The Shameful Story of Australia’s Serial Husbands To celebrate Good Weekends 30th anniversary we have selected 30 of the magazines best features of the past three decades Story Film Classics Slave Market This article was originally published on May 6 1995 For the full list click here Coober Pedy is at the end of the world The hot harsh wind and the red earth littered with holes from opal mining only reinforce the sense of isolation We have travelled here to find a 64yearold man who its rumoured has just arrived back from the Philippines with his third Filipino wife his seventh wife altogether He knows we are coming We rang him the previous day after a local policeman advised us not to arrive at the house without warning Initially were not sure we have the right address We can see only a low dusty hill and a long wall of corrugated iron The first impressions of a young woman arriving here from the Philippines can only be imagined There are stories that scuttle away in the darkness like crabs waving their pincers to keep you from getting too close We get close on our journey talking to women it has taken weeks to find gradually realising a second story is brushing our heels one that runs like an undercurrent beneath the first The pincers recede only a little in Darwin the first afternoon in air made fragrant by frangipanis We meet Rose in Darwin a pretty wisecracking 34yearold Filipina who escapes the heat in the late afternoons by driving herself down to the pier in the harbour to go fishing Sometimes she uses her walkingframe to get herself to the edge of the pier Other times she fishes from her wheelchair casting her line into that flat jade sea This is how she relaxes watching the sea and the people coming to eat at the outdoor cafes nearby The frangipanis will never be able to provide her with the same kind of pleasure In the Philippines frangipani blossoms are used for funerals Bong Ramilo tells us that He also tells us about the flights he has been on full of drunken Australian men going to Manila But the worst experiences Ive had are here he says in Australia with taxidrivers asking him to get them a wife Advertisement Ramilo the Darwin representative for the Centre for Philippine Concerns Australia CPCA watches the huge tide of women from his country marrying Australian men most successfully many disastrously He watches too as another category of Australian men operates on the fringes where the pincers are waving Ramilo knew about Rose and what happened to her This is the shameful story of serial sponsors Australian men who traffic in Third World women under the guise of pursuing happiness Serial sponsors go shopping for wives and fiancees in countries which they regard as bargain bins of docile domesticated disposable women sexually submissive and easily controlled They may represent the extreme end of the marriagemigration market but they havent come from nowhere I cant draw the line after three or four marriages and say Thats it you cant have any more I think That would be social engineering at its worst Senator Nick Bolkus in 1993 Theyre a consequence of the conscious or unconscious attitude of many Australian men towards Asian women which is the undercurrent mentioned earlier the second story running beneath the first Serial sponsors are the kind of men who have difficulty finding partners in their own culture many are divorced because of their unyielding views of women in general Their hidden agendas for the women they import include housebound slavelabour at least one woman was expected to dig drains and concrete and oncall sex these men frequently import much younger women The influence of sex tours the perversion of 80s tourism cannot be discounted either A few years ago in Manila an Australian reportedly described Filipino women as little brown f ing machines to a visiting filmmaker a brutal turn of phrase which continues to have currency says Dee Hunt a Filipina who works with the CPCA in Brisbane Serial sponsors are men who have sponsored a wife or fiancee from overseas on more than one occasion and have abused or exploited at least one of those women When the marriage or relationship falls apart or in many cases ends abruptly when the fiancee is thrown out the men usually return to the same country for a replacement The link between racism and exploitation has strong implications for Australias image as a multicultural nation let alone raising disturbing questions about immigration policy While its made extremely difficult for other people to enter Australia boat people for instance serial sponsors appear to have carte blanche in bringing in women they may not even intend to keep for more than a few months Its a stunning state of affairs The fact that the term serial sponsor even exists should be ringing alarm bells all over the country especially given the obvious implications for Australias reputation in Asia Pamela Brown an official with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs insists that the issue is taken extremely seriously and says new measures announced by Immigration Minister Nick Bolkus last year have made it much tougher for undesirable sponsors to operate see box page 53 But she adds that the problem is smaller than we first thought It seems that a lot of the stories about individual men get repeated over and over again The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs was sufficiently concerned three years ago to commission the report Serial Sponsorship Immigration Policy and Human Rights the socalled Iredale Report whose authors from the Centre of Multicultural Studies at the University of Wollongong identified 110 men who had sponsored more than once Of these 53 had sponsored on two occasions and 57 had sponsored at least three partners The maximum number of women sponsored by any one person in the study was said to be seven Eighty of those repeat sponsors were known to have subjected at least one of their partners to domestic violence It was the Iredale report that defined serial sponsors and revealed that over the past five to 10 years the prevalence of Australian men repeatedly sponsoring spouses from overseas has increased The report says the Philippines appears to be the major source for repeat sponsors followed by Fiji and increasingly by Thailand In 1993 while sentencing a NSW man to 18 months jail for bigamy a Fijian judge condemned Australian men for what he said was their ruthless exploitation of Fijian women According to a serial sponsorship discussion paper prepared jointly by the NSW Ethnic Affairs Commission and the NSW Ministry for the Status and Advancement of Women serial sponsorship extends to countries including Indonesia Sri Lanka India Tonga China and eastern Europe Good Weekend was told of one Australian man who had previously sponsored two Filipino wives who was currently looking for a third wife this time from Vietnam But its the Filipino women who dominate the tales were told ahead of other groups such as the Thais although cultural reticence may have a lot to do with this However even the Filipino women who are known to be outspoken are fearful of talking After many hours of conversation it becomes apparent that their vulnerability has as much to do with grief as humiliation grief from discovering how exploitable theyre considered to be Serial sponsors hold a winning hand because of the social and economic circumstances of countries such as the Philippines where women are dogged in their pursuit of foreigners to marry For many its the only way to escape lives of economic hardship and to help their families in the Philippines by sending money back to them A frustrated Cheryl Hannah the chief migration officer at the Australian Embassy in Manila describes the Philippines as an extremely determined outmigrating country these women want to leave How badly can be seen in the more extreme cases where young attractive Filipino women marry much older illeducated men who are hopeless social misfits Filipino lobby groups stress that many of these women are educated and had good jobs in the Philippines claims which can only fuel the cynicism which already exists in some quarters about the motives of the women themselves some of whom inevitably do exploit the men who bring them here But Deborah Wall of the Sydneybased Filipino Womens Working Party says bluntly Do educated women believe in these men Do they so desperately want to leave the Philippines Yes Its like the influence of Hollywood Selling a dream Serial sponsors know all about the dream and the way tourism and a diet of Western television have taken hold of the romantic imaginations of Filipinos Many serial sponsors spend their money generously dress well and generally act in a manner which their mates back home mightnt recognise Cheryl Hannah commenting that its a form of racism to suggest that women from countries such as the Philippines are less capable of making informed decisions about the men theyre marrying adds Plenty of Australian women make similarly appalling marriage decisions Two years ago Senator Bolkus was quoted as saying that he was unprepared to limit the number of women one man could sponsor I cant draw the line after three or four marriages and say Thats it you cant have any more I think that would be social engineering at its worst he added However migrant welfare workers such as Elly Wilde the administrator of the Riverlands Shelter in South Australia whose suggestion to department officials that the Adelaide Womens Emergency Shelter submit the names of the worst offenders was turned down say the human rights of the women are also at stake here Wilde like many of her colleagues believes the womans right to safety should outweigh the sponsors right to privacy if he has a history of violence Serial sponsors like all Australian citizens and residents are protected by the Privacy Act as well as by the Australian Governments concern with the right and freedom of its citizens to marry the person of their choice a right enshrined in various international conventions and covenants Joan Dicka a wellknown Filipino welfare worker in Adelaide and a former antiMarcos activist accelerates the argument by pointing out the potential for abuse by serial sponsors who are mentally disturbed Dicka knows of one man a former patient at Glenside an Adelaide psychiatric hospital who has had five wives at least one of whom was a Filipina Other women sponsored on fiancee visas discover theyve been brought to Australia to act as housekeepers cooks and sex partners Often theyre dumped before any marriage takes place Most of them end up in refuges or in social security offices Very few are deported according to the Iredale Report although some vanish into the community and become illegal Iredale also comments The flowon to the social security system is a serious problem The abusive sponsor feels little responsibility towards supporting his exspouses or children and the government picks up the tab In one documented case a man who had previously sponsored two women from the Philippines changed his name by deed poll to evade questions at the Philippines Consulate He was granted a visa in his new name and sponsored a third woman as a fiancee whom he then sexually assaulted before the wedding One notorious Adelaide man hands out instructions to his friends on how to bring in Filipino women on visitor entry visas One of the Filipinas he sponsored he allegedly beat her when she would not have sex with him claims he told one of his friends Its cheaper to get someone like her on a visitors visa for six months than to see prostitutes One of the worst cases in the Iredale Report involved a man aged 50 who married and sponsored a Filipino woman in her 20s After some time they sponsored her sister who in time became his girlfriend He moved between the two women one upstairs the other downstairs After a period they left him and he sponsored a third sister in the same family In time she also left and he sponsored a younger more compliant Filipina in her early 20s A South Australian man now in his 70s is believed to have sponsored at least five Filipino women one of whom was aged 23 when he dumped her outside the Migrant Resource Centre in Adelaide a few years ago telling workers there that she was no longer good in bed Many of these men are outright tyrants who use violence including sexual violence and threats of deportation to keep the women in a state of stress and insecurity The former Filipino wife of one serial sponsor says her husband told her he married Filipino women because he could push them around in a way he couldnt do to women Another who was 25 when she married an Australian in his 50s says her husband told her he could change wives whenever he liked the familiar refrain of the serial sponsor As contemptible as they are its intriguing how they come to resemble each other They all use the same vocabulary of abuse they all have a diabolical need to control A common pattern is for the man to do all the shopping and to control the household finances or to take his wife or fiancee somewhere isolated to live If hes on a disability pension or is unemployed he may arrange for his wifes social security payment a partner allowance for instance to be put into a joint bank account denying her access In a statement given to Good Weekend a Filipino woman in her 50s who was a widow with three children in the Philippines when a divorced Australian in his 70s asked her to marry him describes her life with him in Australia until she finally left him four years later He insisted on getting my oldest sons unemployment benefit and my other childrens family allowance He also wanted our pension to be only in his name We couldnt argue with him because he made us believe that we were receiving this money because of him The same woman also describes her sex life with her husband He was forcing me to perform oral sex have anal intercourse and masturbate him anywhere and anytime he felt like One time we had a fight because he was masturbating while we were watching TV and he wanted me to help in the presence of my sons Good Weekend was also given a copy of a bizarre marriage bond written by a serial sponsor in South Australia for his Filipino wife which included the lines I will be obedient and do the things he advises me to do I will go with my husband to any place to care for him I will not go to or contact any commission public department dispute party or court I agree for my husband to collect and post all letters to or from the Philippines and Australia or any other country I agree for all letters to be written in English so my husband can read them Theres no respite in this story no moment when the sense of oppressiveness lifts And it is oppressive the knowledge that these men have no scruples in exploiting Third World women in a way they wouldnt dare with women from their own culture The damage bill becomes evident when you meet women like Rose who try to keep up the bravado as they tell their stories There is always a point though when the bravado crumbles Rose whose husband returned to the Philippines after their marriage ended he has subsequently sponsored a second Filipino wife 24 years younger keeps the bravado up longer than most But then her sangfroid cracks Tears run down her face when shes asked how soon her mother back in the Philippines guessed how she was being illtreated Rose reckless Rose the black sheep of a poor strict Filipino family desperate for a more exciting life agreed to marry an Australian three days after meeting him in Manila only letting her parents know what she had done after she had already flown to Darwin Rose was diagnosed a quadriplegic in December 1988 11 months after a final brutal episode in which her husband deliberately dropped two large heavy pot plants from an upstairs balcony while she was kneeling on the ground The pots struck her hard on the neck and shoulders The incident ended the marriage Rose is convinced that this and a long period of emotional stress triggered her collapse and paralysis some months later she is now a paraplegic having recovered the feeling in her arms The Darwin doctor who treats Rose says he believes it is possible there is a link between the events although nothing has yet been established Rose made the mistake of marrying a man who wasnt interested in the things she wanted a nice house children Initially until she started fighting back eventually getting a job he wouldnt let her go out he wouldnt let her meet people For the first three months of their marriage they lived in a caravan All he wanted to go was back to the Philippines for holidays says Rose When she started working he demanded almost half her wages every week reminding her that she owed him a debt for bringing her to Australia Its easy to get a woman from the Philippines Filipino women are crawling to get overseas he told her once Rose doesnt hide the fact that she married her Australian husband in order to have a better life But she also wanted her marriage to work In the Filipino culture marriage is highly valued and to fail as a wife is a great humiliation There is still something lost in Roses expression when she adds with a flash of her previous defiance Its good now Im free at last Noone will abuse me No more Wheres my food you bloody woman We find Emilio Chignola in his halffinished house behind the corrugated iron wall The atmosphere strained from the start becomes tense seconds after we sit down Chignola gestures at the taperecorder Turn that on and Ill smash it We face each other over a kitchen table his new Filipino wife is nowhere to be seen Chignola whos an invalid pensioner wants to know the premise for the story He doesnt make any more threats but theres a jittery mood that never really vanishes Since he refuses to have anything recorded in writing either an intense conversation develops neither of us taking our eyes off the other We touch briefly on his upbringing in Italy and the influence of his schoolteacher an admirer of Mussolini A complex man he becomes quite genial towards the end even discussing Barbara Thierings book Jesus the Man a brilliant book although he never loses his initial suspicion and seems unnaturally aware of noises elsewhere in the house We are sitting in the finished main room Theres an old piano in one corner a television set that doesnt work and a framed note from Olivia NewtonJohn who once came to film in Coober Pedy Jocelyn Chignolas new wife six months pregnant finally walks into the room and leans shyly devotedly against her husbands shoulder Shes 27 but seems years younger She stays in the same devoted position until its time for her to leave for a job interview in town After she has gone walking off through the dust Chignola tells us she studied accounting in the Philippines Hes proud of this Hes also pleased about her pregnancy He hints he wouldnt mind another baby after this one Chignolas first two wives were Italian and Yugoslav Five Filipino wives followed Two of these were de facto relationships and its believed Chignola met these two women in Australia he brushes off the subject His wives are said to have worked hard for him helping him build his house The only time Chignola mentions his previous wives is a reference to being used He does makes it clear that his marriages have been mercy missions He has rescued women from lives of poverty in the Philippines and he expects to be looked after in return At one stage he makes a comment with a kind of repressed rage about one of his wives sitting in her room painting her nails till 11 am At another stage discussing marriage in general he remarks that you cannot get the kind of wife anymore who will look after her husband with real devotion down to washing his feet He says hes confident his latest marriage will work adding that he sometimes tests Jocelyn by saying that he knows she doesnt really love him that she doesnt really need him This he says with some satisfaction makes her plead with him telling him she does love him Later she returns and goes to sit beside him Chignola suddenly gets up and moves to the other end of the table remarking that he wants to look at his wife Jocelyn picks up his coffee cup and walks around the table to join him She leans against his shoulder again and he smiles Its a strange uneasy moment In the course of our journey we meet Rebecca and Tess Rebecca lives in Darwin Tess in Adelaide Rebecca is a survivor Tess survived Rebecca resembles Rose in many ways the same straightforward defiance the vulnerability beneath the hard edge Shrugging as she talks gesturing with her cigarette she makes no excuses for her deliberate decision to marry a 59yearold Australian in the Philippines when she was 19 She says that even when she discovered that her future husband had been married three times previously twice to Australian women once to another Filipina she ignored the warning signs Rebecca who already had a child from a de facto relationship in Manila was working as an entertainer in an Australianowned bar when she met the man who asked her to marry him only three days later I was in a hurry too she says bluntly I said yes I looked at my baby and I thought this is good for my babys future and mine She adds without embarrassment that everyone in the Philippines is trying to marry a foreigner Id heard that white people had good futures and plenty of money When she went to the Australian embassy to fill out the forms for her visa she says embassy staff talked to her at length showing her a video about Filipino women who had disappeared in Australia They also gave her pamphlets about where she could go in Australia in an emergency But Rebecca used to a hard life in Manila shrugged it off I didnt really think about it she says Its violent in the Philippines too It doesnt worry me For the first three days of married life in Cairns everything was fine After three days he changed she says He didnt want me to go out he didnt want me to meet anyone He said he didnt want me to learn anything He had an attitude that when he wanted something done you had to jump Rebecca worked harder than she ever had in her life Story Film Classics Slave Market Her husband became angry if she wanted to stop and rest If she did sit down he would tell her to get up immediately When he was drunk he used to lock her out of the bedroom He found more and more work for her to do He always scared me by saying he could always send me back to Manila At one stage she collapsed completely from stress fatigue and emotion Her husband had also begun insulting her nationality to a point where she completely lost her confidence I couldnt do anything anymore I couldnt face people anymore It changed me a lot One of the worst incidents was when Rebecca insisted they hold a barbecue for the neighbours who had taken an interest in her I cannot describe to you she begins her voice faltering for the first time She describes how her husband insulted her in front of their guests pointing to the steak and remarking She didnt even know what that was until she came here you should have seen how she lived I was so humiliated she says softly To say such things about how you live in the Philippines is such an insult To his friends her husband would say things like Look at my wife Shell do anything I ask Cook wash do the gardening In 1985 she had a baby Two days later her husband forced her to have sex with him I could handle some of the things that he did to me but that was what broke me she says looking away Id just had his child for Christs sake She stayed with him for another year but by then she was beginning to meet other Filipino women at the baby clinic she attended and was making friends The Australian neighbours too told her she didnt have to put up with the treatment she was getting In 1986 she left living in refuges around Australia before finally ending up in Darwin She has never asked her former husband for money I was born with nothing and I dont care if I die with nothing she says My husband used to say I bought you I spent money on you So you do what I want She pauses and again like Rose looks lost But I tried very hard to be a good wife she says and then continues to smoke in silence Her husband in the meantime has married a Thai Tess never had the chance to be a good wife The abuse she suffered was so ugly that it has taken years of counselling for her to be able to deal with the past Her story is the hardest to listen to For two days and two nights Tess lay on the bathroom floor wrapped only in towels still bleeding heavily From time to time she screamed and wept thinking of the tiny miscarried foetus on the tiles Occasionally when her husband needed to use the bathroom he unlocked the door and dragged her to the laundry where he locked the door again She struggles as she tries to explain this part of the story how she couldnt grasp what had happened to her how she kept wondering how her family back in the Philippines would react if they knew about her life now the beatings the choking the monitoring of her every move She was forbidden to raise the blinds in the house forbidden to go outside forbidden to use the telephone forbidden to write to her family forbidden to wear sweaters or anything long only shorts and Tshirts When it was time to eat she was forbidden to sit at the table Her husband made her sit on the floor in the corner where she ate biscuits and coffee three times a day This was all the food she was allowed The food she cooked for her husband was for him only She was allowed to sleep only if her husband wanted to sleep If he wanted to stay up she was forced to as well He burnt her crucifix her college diploma He used to tie her to the bed if she refused to have sex with him Tess remembered the night she asked him I dont know why you married me why you took me out of my country I dont deserve to be your prostitute your slave Who do you think you are her husband replied You are just a beggar from the Philippines When she first met him in the Philippines in 1986 on a boat while going to her job as a government clerk in Cebu he had seemed so nice a tourist asking for directions He had visited her at her office had employed her in her spare time as a guide She was cautious though she had a son from an earlier marriage in the Philippines and she had no plans to get married again But after the Australian returned home he kept writing to her and telephoning her Then suddenly he was back kneeling in front of her begging her to marry him in an emotional manner Tess was touched He seemed like a good man Her workmates were encouraging her she thought of her sons future and she introduced the Australian to her relatives They got married in Cebu planning to return to Adelaide It was decided Tesss son would remain in the Philippines living with her family so his schooling wouldnt be interrupted Tess was full of optimism about her marriage He had my trust she says of her husband All my trust But once in Adelaide the man she had met in the Philippines changed dramatically He wouldnt let her leave the house telling her she didnt need to He wouldnt let her use the telephone amazing and alarming her She discovered he was a heavy user of antidepressants and other medication and used to take Tess with him whenever he needed to see a doctor Not surprisingly they began arguing It was hardly turning out to be the sort of marriage Tess had envisaged Once she says her husband began abusing her saying You are a bullshit Filipina You use Australian men to come here Youre all shit in the Philippines He wasnt working had gone on to a sickness benefit She was a prisoner in the house Their arguments grew worse He began slapping her kicking her punching her dragging her by the hair When she told him she was pregnant she says he replied No I dont want children Get rid of it Tess deeply shocked refused One night when she was already ill and deeply stressed her husband kicked her viciously in the crotch to provoke the abortion she refused to have She remembers screaming with pain he was such a big man and like many Filipino women Tess is tiny She says she started bleeding almost immediately He stuffed a towel in her mouth the minute she started to scream and dragged her by her arms to the bathroom where he had filled the bath with cold water and forced her in making disgusted remarks about the blood she was losing before leaving her lying on the tiles Nothing like this had ever happened to me before she says I couldnt realise it My mother and my father brought me up with love and respect One day unable to cope anymore with her existence she went crazy began beating on the walls Her husband tied her to a chair and injected her with what she believes was heroin She lost consciousness When she woke she was naked and tied up Her husband told her she was crazy Tess left her husband several times after that but he kept persuading her to return Then one day he broke her nose and she got out for good after intervention by neighbours her husbands parents who knew about the violence but were afraid of their son and the police Her husband was charged with multiple assault and with threatening her life and received a twoyear prison sentence Hes still in prison on separate charges He isnt a serial sponsor not yet anyway Prison has prevented him from returning to the Philippines as he once told Tess he would Their marriage lasted five months Jocelyn Chignola stands in the shade provided by the front door and for a moment were alone She points to a halffinished brick and cement wall which she helped her husband to build at 6 am and says they sang as they worked Asked if shes happy she smiles and nods remarking that she has never been out of the Philippines before that everything is an adventure We leave while its still hot driving back past the corrugated iron wall which hides the house and Mr and Mrs Chignola from our view HOW THE COURTSHIP BEGAN In a speech given at a seminar on serial sponsorship organised by the Ethnic Affairs Commission of NSW in 1992 Justice Elizabeth Evatt referred to research revealing that while migration from the Philippines to other countries such as the United States was greater the incidence of marriage involving Filipina women and Australian men was four times as high as those involving American or Canadian men if measured on a per capita basis Why asked Evatt are Australian men so eager to seek out relationships which are riddled with structural power imbalances such as age difference isolation language difficulties economic dependency and race The Philippines has long been a major source of women for Australian men around 2000 women are sponsored from there each year as wives or fiancees and its estimated that between 15000 and 20000 Australian men now have Filipino wives Current research suggests that a great many of these marriages are successful although its still intriguing that so many Australian men are going offshore particularly to the Philippines to search for partners Filipina women are more loving says Roy Fittler a Brisbane man divorced from his first AngloAustralian wife and now married to Gelna a Filipina They put more into a marriage than Australian women do They dont drink they dont smoke they dont hang around the house with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth The irony is that Gelnas cousin Azucena Azing Pollard who also married an Australian went missing along with her oneyearold son in NSW in 1987 Fittler made a promise to Azings family that he would pursue the case Both he and Gelna say they have exhausted every avenue they are bitter that the case has never gone to court despite a coronial inquest which concluded in 1989 that a prima facie case existed against Azings husband a former Presbyterian lay preacher Police recently reopened the case In 1991 there were 73673 Filipinoborn people living in Australia Of these 65 1 per cent were women In 199192 6917 Filipinos came to live in Australia of whom 1157 were identifiably spouses or fiancees of men living here In the three years from 1989 to 1992 4130 spouses or fiancees came from the Philippines The Iredale report says that from 1986 the sponsorship of spouses and fiancees from the Philippines escalated to a peak in 1988 Tourist traffic from Australia to Asian destinations began in the late 1960s and grew significantly in the 1970s thanks to the growth of package tours including sex tours In 1990 legislation enacted in the Philippines outlawed the operation of introduction agencies But by the late 1980s enough Filipinos had arrived in Australia for informal networks of friends and family to be established These networks as Iredale points out have become the major means for Australian men seeking partners Australians travelling to the Philippines dont need a visa if they stay less than 21 days If an Australian man meets a potential partner he usually returns to Australia and applies to sponsor the woman as a fiancee or arranges for her to come on a visitors permit If his partner comes in as a fiancee shell receive a temporary visa for six months stay in Australia Marriage must occur within that period and she must also apply for permanent residency within the same timespan If a foreigner wishes to marry a Filipino woman in the Philippines he must first obtain a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry from the Australian Embassy Then he applies for a marriage licence from a local civic registrar This takes 10 days to process His wife then applies for a permanent visa to enter Australia and is subject to the usual health and character checks which apply to all immigrants If a problem arises during these checks a criminal conviction for example she may be denied entry CANBERRAS VIEW ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS The Iredale Report made nine recommendations six of which the Government adopted These were mainly concerned with developing ways of identifying and monitoring serial sponsors of concern enhanced information and overseas counselling The two recommendations they turned down the two considered the most important by migrant groups were the disclosure by sponsors of abuse and assault records as well as any history of protection orders issued against them and secondly payment of a bond by serial sponsors of concern Included amongst the reasons the Government gave for turning down these recommendations were the complex legal and privacy considerations affecting the rights of Australian citizens and residents to marry the partner of their choice and to have that partner join them in Australia There was also the fact that the provision of more comprehensive information about a sponsor within the migration context was often too late to have significant if any bearing on the foreign partners decision to migrate or stay in Australia Such measures may be seen as attempting to regulate the lives of Australian citizens or residents particularly in terms of a persons right to marry the partner of their choice and establish a family The Government said it was also concerned that even where sponsorship history was known the significant extent to which domestic violence doesnt become public where it doesnt result in convictions or domestic violence orders further limits the effectiveness of disclosure proposals Last year Immigration and Ethnic Affairs Minister Nick Bolkus announced new measures designed to make it harder for serial sponsors to operate including improvements to the Governments computer records on migration sponsorship The computer will now start kicking up the names of sponsors who have sponsored before previously their names were recorded only with the names of the women they were sponsoring Databases have been developed at four posts Manila Bangkok Suva and Damascus with plans to link them up in the future From September 1 a revised form for sponsors was introduced Sponsors must now state whether they have sponsored before and give reasons why these other relationships failed Nothing forces them to tell the truth when they fill in this particular question the example options given on the form are death divorce separation did not marry However they must now give the forms to the women theyre sponsoring providing them with a chance to read the information which is fine as long as the women can read English Some may have to rely on the sponsor to interpret the form The women must also attend counselling sessions at the Commission for Filipinos Overseas set up by the Philippines Government to counsel all departing spouses and fiancees before the Australian Embassy will give them the application forms for their entry visas We do train our officers about serial sponsorship before they go overseas says Pamela Brown She adds that with the extra questions a sponsor now has to answer immigration officers can try to draw out suspected serial sponsors in front of their partners The problem is that immigration officers are allowed to deal only with the bona fides of each case and are not allowed to make personal judgments Another major problem is determining the genuineness of a relationship especially if the couple is already married The Australian Embassy in Manila will shortly start screening a new video which specifically addresses the issue of domestic violence and serial sponsorship Brown says the video doesnt pull any punches and will be addressed to both the sponsor and the applicant But she adds that at the point of departing Manila theyre in love Trying to get them to address the issue of domestic violence in their first week of marriage is unrealistic The Iredale Report said that in 1992 the Australian Embassy identified three repeat sponsors including a man who was on to his seventh sponsored spouse and in all three cases the women chose to ignore the advice Our interview with Rebecca see main story illustrates this syndrome Pamela Brown says that if a relationship breaks down because of domestic violence in cases where the couple isnt married and the woman is here on a temporary visa she will be given permanent residency if she has already applied for it She also needs an interim order to prove domestic violence We are limited by the legal implications of the Privacy Act but we are working very hard to make sure the women are kept informed of potential problems and of their status should they need protection Brown adds Cheryl Hannah says the Filipino community in Australia has a responsibility to tell the truth about aspects of Australian culture and lifestyle to their relatives back home as more and more Asian women have arrived in Australia informal networks have sprung up allowing the introduction of other Australian men to family and friends in the home country Hannah has a point Melba Marginson the Melbournebased National CoOrdinator for the CPCA refers to the case of an Australian man who was charged with the murder of his Filipino wife recently and was subsequently acquitted after a key witness changed her evidence The same year the husband began courting his now second Filipino wife whose sister introduced them The sister was a friend of the murdered first wife THE HIGHEST PRICE Since 1980 five Filipino women have been murdered by their husbands or fiances a sixth was murdered in Western Australia by her American husband One of those women Mila Milagros who was deaf and mute was repeatedly bashed on the head with a blunt object by her de facto husband who was subsequently found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in Brisbane Another seven Filipino women have died in violent circumstances in two of the cases their husbands were acquitted through lack of evidence One of them a man in Victoria has subsequently remarried another Filipina In a separate incident in 1987 in NSW 35yearold Lusanta de Groot and her 11monthold baby were repeatedly hit on the head with a hammer Lusanta survived the baby died Jacob de Groot the 53yearold husband committed suicide There have also been at least three suspicious disappearances including the case of Azucena Azing Pollard the 33yearold wife of a former Presbyterian lay preacher who went missing with her oneyearold son in Tumbarumba NSW in 1987 Last year in Brisbane Elma Young a 42yearold Filipina married to a former Queensland policeman was found dead and dumped by the roadside She was five months pregnant Her husband who was charged with her murder was recently found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment Most of the women interviewed for this report posed willingly for photographs but Good Weekend has decided not to publish most of these in the interests of the womens future safety To celebrate Good Weekends 30th anniversary we have selected 30 of the magazines best features of the past three decades This article was originally published on May 6 1995 For the full list click here