NACCHO Women’s Health News Alert : Aboriginal women’s lives really do matter

FVPLS

“Lynette was battered, bruised and ultimately destroyed by men’s violence. It was ended by the most obscene disregard for her humanity. The system did not protect her and justice has not been done.

What does it say about us as a nation that it requires an investigative journalist to bring this extreme injustice into the national spotlight before we can expect anything close to an appropriate response?

Tragically, the abuse and violence inflicted on Lynette is not an isolated case. Aboriginal women are at the epicentre of the national family violence crisis.”

Antoinette Braybrook is a Kuku Yalanji woman, the convenor of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum and CEO of the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Services Victoria.

Photo above : File image

It shouldn’t require Four Corners to expose the failure of our justice system in dealing with domestic violence towards Aboriginal women. There needs to be urgent investment to tackle this epidemic, writes Antoinette Braybrook in THE DRUM

Australians watching were confronted this week by a tragic reality for too many Aboriginal women.

Four Corners recounted – in horrifying detail – the brutal killing of an Aboriginal woman, the failure of our justice system to respond, and the failure of our community to care.

Lynette was battered, bruised and ultimately destroyed by men’s violence. It was ended by the most obscene disregard for her humanity. The system did not protect her and justice has not been done.

What does it say about us as a nation that it requires an investigative journalist to bring this extreme injustice into the national spotlight before we can expect anything close to an appropriate response?

Tragically, the abuse and violence inflicted on Lynette is not an isolated case. Aboriginal women are at the epicentre of the national family violence crisis.

This reality sadly doesn’t cut through into the national conversation. Stories like Lynette’s are rarely told and justice is a scarcer commodity. The violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women is routinely ignored and our communities’ silence stifles the kind of urgent action that is required.

To protect women like Lynette, our justice system needs to heed the evidence at hand and we need urgent investment in the services for the safety of Aboriginal women – including Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), women’s refugees and housing, counselling and health services.

Instead, like so many frontline services, FVPLSs are not funded to support all the women relying on our service for their safety. This year’s budget includes just a fraction of the funding needed for family violence services across the board – and is expected to leave thousands of Aboriginal women without access to this vital service.

Violence against Aboriginal women and their children is at epidemic levels. If you are an Aboriginal women you are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to be killed by someone who purports to love you.

It is important to note that as with Lynette, the Aboriginal women we work with are hurt by men from many different cultures and backgrounds. Talking about violence against our women is not about pointing the finger at Aboriginal men. This is about addressing men’s violence against women and the system that is failing the women it should be working hardest to support.

By 2021-22 violence against Aboriginal women is estimated to cost the nation an extraordinary $2.2 billion a year. Its moral cost – which sees lives lost and communities destroyed – is unquantifiable.

We must start listening to the voices of Aboriginal women and take strong action to ensure the lives lost and destroyed are not confined to a mere statistical footnote.

Despite these disproportionate statistics, violence against Aboriginal women rarely makes the nation’s media. Two recent cases have also broken this silence and highlighted the failure of the justice system to protect vulnerable women.

Take the case of Ms Dhu, a victim of violence, who at 22 died whilst in police custody for unpaid fines. Or that of Andrea Pickett, who at 39 died at the hands of her husband in front of her young children after police failed to uphold restraining orders.

Sadly, unlike the reporting, these deaths are not isolated. What does it say that these injustices rarely penetrate the national psyche? Can it really be that Aboriginal women’s lives don’t matter?

FVPLSs respond to this crisis by providing essential services for safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence. Our wrap around legal and support services would not reach those most in need, or at risk of violence, without our early intervention prevention programs to break the vicious cycle of violence.

Women who come to us do so after being subjected to abuse and violence for many years. Our specialist, culturally safe services ensures women can access the support they need knowing they will not be judged, knowing that we will fight hard for them and their kids in a system that has a history of forced child removal and systematically failing our community. They know that we will use their experiences, without compromising their confidentiality, to call for systemic change.

To address this national crisis we need strong national leadership and huge political will. So far political rhetoric has not been matched with funding commitments needed. And we need to set targets to reduce violence against our women.

To end the unacceptable impact of violence against Aboriginal women, like Lynette, Ms Dhu and Andrea Pickett and the many others we don’t hear about, we need all parties to back up words with investment in services for safety. This includes investment in FVPLSs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services and community legal centres.

As a nation we must draw a line in the sand. We must start listening to the voices of Aboriginal women and take strong action to ensure the lives lost and destroyed are not confined to a mere statistical footnote – out of sight, out of mind.

The NSW Attorney General has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to review Lynette’s case. This is the least that should happen. Lynette deserves better. All Aboriginal women deserve better because Aboriginal women’s lives really do matter.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 7321800 737 732 FREE or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

Learn more about the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention legal Services across Australia.

Antoinette Braybrook is a Kuku Yalanji woman, the convenor of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum and CEO of the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention & Legal Services Victoria. Follow Antoinette on Twitter @BraybrookA and the National FVPLS Forum

 

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