Anti-domestic violence campaigner Rosie Batty has joined calls for the Immigration Minister to reconsider cancelling the visa of a woman who killed her abusive husband.
Eileen Creamer killed her husband David in February 2008 by beating him repeatedly with a stick and stabbing him once in the abdomen.
She was convicted of defensive homicide in 2011 after the jury accepted she had been subjected to domestic violence.
The court heard this included her husband posting revealing photos of her on the internet in order to lure men into having sex with her, and pressuring her to partake in group sex she didn’t want to have.
It was a fight over David Creamer’s sexual demands that ended in his death.
Creamer was the first Victorian woman to be found guilty of defensive homicide and was sentenced to a maximum 11 years’ jail.
She has been eligible for parole since last April but because she is not an Australian citizen, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is trying to deport her to New Zealand – a move her lawyer Dushan Nikolic is challenging in the Federal Court.
“I think that it is entirely inappropriate and it undermines the Government’s stance on supporting women who have been victims of domestic violence,” he said.
“And it indicates a lack of understanding of the factors that contribute to these types of offending.”
Mr Nikolic said his client was not asking for special treatment, merely a second chance in Australia.
“She’s a woman who’s been a victim of family violence who acted out believing that was her last resort. She poses no risk to the Australian community,” he said.
“And I doubt whether the Australian community, being fully aware of the facts and the violence that she suffered, would expect her visa to be cancelled.”
She has ‘already endured enough punishment’
Ms Batty has written to Mr Dutton asking him to allow Creamer to stay in Australia.
“Like my son and myself, Eileen Creamer is a victim of family violence,” she wrote. “Ms Creamer experienced physical and sexual violence and abuse from her husband but she was too ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse or to ask for help.
“Removing Ms Creamer from Australia will further punish a victim of family violence who has already endured enough punishment and abuse.
“As a victim survivor of family violence, I am supportive of Ms Creamer being permitted to remain in Australia, to live a safe life as she continues on her journey of recovery and healing.”
‘Very bad look for the Government’
Creamer is facing deportation because of changes to the Migration Act which mean a person’s visa is automatically cancelled if they have been sentenced to at least 12 months in prison, meaning they fail a so-called “character test”.
More than 2000 bikies, drug traffickers and sex offenders have had their visas cancelled since the laws came into effect.
But Danielle Tyson, who has done extensive research about intimate partner homicide, believes those types of crimes are very different compared to somebody who offends in the context of family violence.
“You wouldn’t have committed your crime necessarily had you not been a victim of domestic violence, and you’re no longer a threat to society,” Dr Tyson said.
“And once you’ve served your time, such as in Eileen Creamer’s case, you’ve paid your debt back to society and so you are in effect punishing that person twice.”
Dr Tyson said the decision was inconsistent with the Government’s messaging around family violence.
“It’s clearly a very bad look for the Australian Government.”
No family or support network in New Zealand
Creamer’s relatives still have a room made up for her in Melbourne in case she is released into the community.
Her cousin’s husband, Pat Tatchell, said he and his wife are hoping she will be freed in her adopted home country.
“We’d be overjoyed. We would welcome her with open arms back into our home and we would support her,” he said.
Creamer’s family said she had no relatives or social network in New Zealand, a point acknowledged by Mr Dutton in his letter explaining the visa cancellation.
“I consider that her removal from her family and social networks in Australia has the potential to cause her some social isolation and emotional hardship,” he said.
However Mr Dutton’s letter, obtained by 7.30, said he had weighed that up with public safety considerations.
“I am also mindful of the principle that persons who commit very serious crimes should expect to forfeit the privilege of remaining in Australia,” he wrote.
Ms Creamer represents an unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community and the protection of the Australian community outweighed the best interests of family members and other considerations as described above.”
A spokesperson for the Minister told 7.30 he had previously overturned cancellations of visas in circumstances where the accused was the victim of domestic violence and had been convicted of similar crimes.
But the spokesperson said that given the case was currently before the courts, the Minister was unable to comment on why this case was different.
Federal Court Judge Bernard Murphy has reserved his decision to a later date.
The ABC has sought to contact David Creamer’s ex-wife and children.
Family and domestic violence support services:
1800 Respect national helpline: 1800 737 732
Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
Lifeline (24 hour crisis line): 131 114
Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277