22 December 2015 | General Interest
The need to address the underlying causes of domestic and family violence has received increasing attention in Australia over the last 18 months, culminating in the release of Change the Story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia on 10 November this year. Change the Story is a collaboration between Our Watch, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) and Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS).
In November the Australian Government Department of Social Services also released a detailed research report, Reducing Violence Against Women and their Children, which includes a specific focus on enagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This research comes on the tail of the $100 million Women’s Safety Package, announced in September as part of the ongoing National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.
The incidence of family violence across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is disproportionately high in comparison to that in the broader Australian community. Family violence is not part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Dispossession, intergenerational trauma, racism and structural disadvantage are contributors towards the high prevalence of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities. Family violence causes harm to the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and impacts their rights to grow up safe and cared for in their cultures and communities.
In 2016, family violence will continue to be on the Federal Government’s agenda. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is planning to hold a family violence summit in late 2016. A particular focus at the summit will be the initial outcomes of the National Domestic Violence Order Scheme, which will come into effect in the first half of 2016.
The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (FVPLS) is calling on COAG to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices are heard by allowing them a seat at the table. Antoinette Braybrook, Convener of the National FVLS Forum, states “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Women are overrepresented as victims of family violence – 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for family violence and 11 times more likely to be murdered. Sadly our women are at the heart of the family violence crisis and therefore must also be at the heart of the response to it.”
Change the Story will also be releasing an additional resource in 2016. The new resource will emphasise the high prevalence and particularly complex nature of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, and state the need for a prioritisation of effort, funding and resources to prevent this violence.
In Victoria, Australia’s first Royal Commission into Family Violence has been running for the last ten months and has heard numerous witness statements. The Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, Andrew Jackomos, appeared before the commission in August where he stated family violence was the main reason for children entering out of home care and a key reason why children cannot be unified with their parents.
If you would like to read more, Mr Jackomos’s full witness statement is available at the Royal Commission into Family Violence website.
The Commission is due to report recommendations to the Victorian government in February 2016.
SNAICC welcomes these steps forward to put the issue of family violence impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on the national agenda. We believe that the incidence and prevalence of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children demands urgent action through measures that heal and strengthen families, with a focus on supporting community controlled services to implement good practice to respond to and prevent family violence in our communities.
SNAICC’s Safe for our Kids resource promotes good practice principles that are evidence based and promote human rights. The principles can be used as a baseline for a national approach to inform service development, programs, activities or initiatives to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities.
Through the SNAICC website you can view and download Safe for our Kids, and can can also order Safe for our Kids in hardcopy via the SNAICC Online Shop.
In 2016 SNAICC will continue to work on a range of initiatives to support family violence prevention and response efforts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These include:
- Providing Through Young Black Eyes training to support community understanding of and initiatives to prevent and respond to family violence and child protection concerns
- Participating in the University of Melbourne led project to investigate fathering in the context of family violence and supports for men
- Developing and delivering new ‘Safe for our Kids’ based training materials to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, women, children and men to respond to and address issues of family violence impacting on their families
The key to addressing Family Violence, in all communities including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, is to recognise the fundamental right to safety, empowerment and accountability for all women, children and men.
If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.