Family violence, rape and sexual assault are serious issues for indigenous women. Research has shown that incidents of violence against women and children, by both white and indigenous men, continue to increase in indigenous communities. At the same time, women are either reluctant or unable to report the violence to the authorities.
Many indigenous women have identified difficulties in trying to obtain information, advice or support as victims of domestic violence, rape or sexual assault. Some of these difficulties include
- History of poor experiences with the legal system.
- Lack of knowledge about existing services and their roles.
- Lack of access to these services.
- A general lack of appropriate services.
- Anxiety related to approaching services.
- Existing services being unsympathetic to victims of violence or giving unhelpful advice; and
- Lack of willingness on the part of many ATSI women to disclose a history of domestic violence to non-ATSI people, including family report writers.
- Lack of trust in the courts to be cultural understanding.
- The stigma attached to victims of violence, particularly in rural communities.
Where to get help and information
The following people and/or groups can provide help and information:
- Police liaison officers.
- Local Aboriginal social justice groups.
- Groups of Aboriginal elders.
- Sexual assault services (sometimes have an indigenous worker).
- Aboriginal community health workers.
- Aboriginal housing organisations.
- In schools, community education counselors, parent liaison officers and teacher’s aides who work specifically with Aboriginal children.
The Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria have developed a series of Policy Papers.
Paper 1: Strengthening law and just outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault and women and children: National policy issues – a Victorian perspective.
Paper 2: Strengthening on-the-ground service provision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault in Victoria.
Paper 3: Improving accessibility of the legal system for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault. These papers are available at: http://www.fvpls.org/Policy-and-Law-Reform.php#PolicyPapersSubmissions
Some of the issues raised in these papers include:
Information from the Australian Government Productivity Commission report, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009:
- Indigenous women are 35.1 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than are non-indigenous females
- Out of every 1000 Indigenous children, 41 were on care and protection orders, compared to 5 per 1000 non-Indigenous children at 30 June 2008.
- ATSI women and children who present for legal assistance in relation to family violence almost always have complex legal issues to deal with, including intervention orders; child protection issues; child disputes often requiring family law intervention; and victims compensation rights for both current and past crimes.”
- Need for a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s legal program (incorporating children) should be considered.
- Need for cultural awareness training for psychologists/counsellors working with ATSI victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault both in the community and in the legal system is critical.
The Women’s Legal Service NSW has an Indigenous Women’s Legal Program. More information is available on their website and has a number of publications such as ‘Our Dream: Stopping the Violence” and “Our Silence is Abusing our Kids”. They can be ordered at http://www.wlsnsw.org.au/resources/other-publications/
The Australian Human Rights Commission has information “Discrimination: Know your rights Information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”. You can find it on their website
The Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research has an Indigenous Forum. It also has a fact sheet: Strong women – Hard yarns