This visa sub-class is peculiar to NZ citizens and is available for any family member(s) of a Special Category (sub-class 444) (SCV) allowing them to travel to Australia or stay in Australia with the SCV visa holder.
Unlike the SCV however, the NZ Family Relationship (Sub-class 461) visa is not issued automatically upon entry to Australia, but must be applied for – either inside or outside Australia – and the visa must be granted before the applicant can travel. If applied for in Australia, the applicant must already hold a valid Australian visa.
This is a very beneficial visa in that in particular for de facto partners of SCV holders, they are not required to meet the usual 12 month relationship rule. However the department does have the ability to look at similar relationship factors as the more substantial partner visas, such as social evidence, degree of financial connection between the parties, 3rd party support evidence and other usual relationship information. As with most relationship based visas , the longer the period of the relationship the better. Cohabitation is not essential but it is arguably the best evidence of the existence of a legitimate relationship.
Also, the visa lasts for 5 years and can be renewed continuously by the 461 visa holder, regardless of the status of the relationship relied upon for the visa, as long as the 461 visa holder does not become part of another SCV holder’s family unit!