The Guardian • Issue #2014

The tragedy of inaccessible housing and domestic violence

Photo: – Public domain (CC0 1.0)

On 1st February at 11:35 PM, I was given the news that my friend, Aminah Hayat, had been allegedly killed by her husband. I had dreaded this news for years, in fact the last thing I said to her before she dropped off social media was that if she married Meraj Zafar she would end up dead. But her story isn’t one of her own mistakes; it is a story of an incredibly bright, kind, young woman who was failed by a system that is designed to uphold the rights of property investors to make a profit at the expense of human life.

She first confided in me about the horrors of her home when we were in Year 12. Purportedly, Her family viciously abused her, and her father allegedly stood back and watched. Once, when it was too much to bear on her own, she video called me and I answered to the sound of women screaming and bashing on her door. The police were called and she stayed at my family’s house for the first of two times that year.

But the police were useless and refused to remove her from her home and place her in public housing, and she was denied the youth allowance because Centrelink, an institution designed to be as inaccessible as possible, didn’t deem her situation dire enough for her to need to move out despite the incredible efforts of her support worker. She also told me that she was being pressured into an arranged marriage, and she eventually married her abusive husband, Meraj Zafar. I believe she saw him as an escape from her unliveable conditions.

Her story is far from uncommon, with one woman a week and one man a month being killed due to domestic violence, but even with Labor’s policy of increasing funding for domestic violence support, the Australian government refuses to tackle the core of why people can’t escape domestic violence; the inaccessibility of housing. Victims are unable to leave because housing is left to the hands of the market, meaning that simply leaving is not an option for victims. They would have to fork out for ludicrous rental payments on top of the fact that many victims are not allowed by their abusers to get a job or control their own income.

Further, many women, trans men, and assigned female at birth (AFAB) nonbinary people are forced to have a child or are only subjected to abuse after they have a child. Their partners use their child as a trap because it is exceedingly difficult to raise a child as a single parent: financial costs, the difficulty of finding accommodating work, and stigma compound to allow abusers to exploit a parent’s love for their child.

Like Aminah, many victims are financially trapped into abuse. Until housing is accessible to everyone and comprehensive social welfare programs are put in place, as they were in the GDR and the USSR, and currently are in China and Cuba, property investors and the Australian government will continue to be complicit in the senseless murder of countless victims of domestic violence.

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