NACCHO Women’s Health News: New study finds Aboriginal mothers are 17.5 times more likely to be murdered


We have to keep reminding ourselves that Aboriginal women are the most disadvantaged group in Australia,”

Antoinette Braybrook from the Family Violence Legal Prevention Service told BuzzFeed News Indigenous women are often forgotten about in the national conversation around family violence.

“Aboriginal mothers die from external causes like accidents, suicides and homicides at a rate over six times higher than other mothers in Western Australia.

And in most cases they left behind very young children, with traumatic results.

Policies, interventions and health promotion that promote healthy mental wellbeing, prevent and manage substance abuse, reducing domestic violence, and the stresses associated with the persistent marginalisation of Aboriginal people in present day Australian society, are all likely to protect mothers and their children from these preventable events,”

Head of Aboriginal Research Development Mr Glenn Pearson

“Nationally, Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised due to injuries caused by domestic violence than non-Indigenous women. According to the Productivity Commission’s Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report at least 25% of all Indigenous women reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence.”

By NITV Staff Writers and Buzzfeed

Those are the grim findings of a study by the Telethon Kids Institute, which crunched data from four State bodies for the 27 years between 1983 and 2010.

“Maternal loss can have a particularly traumatic impact on children and their development,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr Carrington Shepherd.

“This can include prolonged periods of grief, depression, stress, anxiety, problems with identity development, the difficulties associated with the transition to out-of-home care, and the onward elevated risks of substance abuse and suicide in later life.”

The study, published in BMC Public Health, also found:

  • Aboriginal mothers are 17.5 times more likely to die of homicide

  • They are 3.5 times more likely to suicide

  • They often leave behind a child under five

  • Poverty and housing go to explaining half of these excess risks

For children left behind, studies on the impact of life stress, including parental loss, show that trauma in early life can lead to substance abuse, self-harming, suicide, anti-social behaviour, and other adversities into adulthood

These four women below are just a handful of the Indigenous women who have endured horrific family violence. Some were murdered by their partners, while others survived violent relationships and are now using their stories to raise awareness. From Buzz Feed Allan Clarke

Andrea Pickett

Aboriginal woman Andrea Pickett, a mother of 13 children, was killed by her estranged husband Charles Pickett who stabbed her 17 times in North Beach, Western Australia, in 2009.

Andrea was terrified of her estranged husband, who she had left in 2008. At the time of her death, she had a restraining order in place making it illegal for him to come near her. Charles was on parole from a previous charge for threatening to kill Andrea when he found her. He stabbed her repeatedly in front of one of their younger children.

The day before she was murdered, Andrea had called the Crisis Care hotline, run by the WA Department of Child Protection, seeking safe accommodation to protect her and the seven children in her care.

Lani Brennan

Lani Brennan survived years of unimaginable abuse at the hands of her former partner Joseph Timbery. Lani was routinely tortured, raped and assaulted. In 2000, Lani was subjected to almost a year of frenzied attacks, which including being stabbed multiple times with a knife and a chisel, having her jaw smashed, being hit in the head with an iron bar and almost dying several times while being held captive.

After leaving Timbery, Lani complained to the police in 2002. Despite the police having substantial amounts of evidence against him, he was not sent to trial until 2006. Lani says she felt like she was on trial and had to fight to have a suppression order of her name lifted so she could speak out against family violence.

Adeline Yvette Rigney-Wilson

In May this year, Aboriginal woman Adeline Yvette Rigney-Wilson and her two children, aged five and six, were found dead at their Hillier home in South Australia.

Steven Graham Peet, Wilson’s partner, has been charged with the triple homicide. Police described the deaths at the time as a domestic incident.


Lynette Daley

Lynette Daley died on 10 Mile Beach on the NSW north coast on Australia Day in 2011 from blood loss following severe genital tract trauma, allegedly at the hands of her boyfriend and his friend. Lynette, a mother of seven, was heavily inebriated at the time of her death and was more than likely unconscious during the sexual acts. A forensic pathologist likened her injuries to someone who had given birth.

Manslaughter charges against the pair were dropped after the Director of Public Prosecutions said there was not enough evidence to convict. The men have since been re-charged.

The study concluded that more research should be done on the risk factors associated with these potentially preventable deaths so better health strategies could be rolled out.

Head of Aboriginal Research Development Mr Glenn Pearson said the findings were compelling and confirmed the need for researchers, health professionals and policy makers to continue to work together to implement evidence based solutions.



3 comments on “NACCHO Women’s Health News: New study finds Aboriginal mothers are 17.5 times more likely to be murdered

  1. I am not surprised by these findings. What I would find important as a follow-up are the steps taken to address the issue. I would hope that we look not only at trying to ensure the women and children are not dependant upon abusers, but
    1. How do abusers come to be abusers in the first place,
    2. Can abusers be treated such that they will not continue behaviours leading to abuse,
    3. Preventive measures that restrict the movement of a person with a history of abuse such as the use of a tracking device.

    I am by no means an expert in this area, but I have to wonder if the response would be as limited if it was a businessman or politician being routinely attacked by a an angry lobbyist. Shelters and food banks, while they show how hospitable populations can be should not be necessary in a culture that promotes itself as just and fair.

    I see no evidence of this when we see repeated examples throughout places like Australia, Canada, the US… etc

  2. It is quite sad. I work front-line with all levels of the family I am amazed and shocked at the justice system on and off reserve when it comes to convicting or protecting aboriginal women and children. Even the police enjoy their sick twisted torturous comments towards us all.

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