NACCHO Aboriginal Women’s Health and Safety : Community domestic violence is out of control


Domestic violence is a contagion. In the Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory it is literally out of control, says NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh

Those words alone should have been enough to prompt outrage, if not action.

But it didn’t. Nor did the damning statistics revealed by NT police: almost 75,000 domestic violence incidents reported in three years, more than 80 per cent of them involving Aboriginal people. ‘

Matt Cunningham reporting for Skynews and writing in the Daily Telegraph see full article 2 below  

Previous NACCHO Aboriginal Woman’s Health :

Silence over Aboriginal violence condones it:


The Alice Springs Women’s Shelter calls on the NT Government to implement as a matter of urgency legislative and policy changes recommended by Coroner Greg Cavanagh aimed at increasing the safety of women and children impacted by domestic violence.

ASWS CEO Di Gipey said the Coroner’s report into the deaths of two women after long histories of domestic violence again highlighted the pressing need to make real changes that will make women and children safe.

“Coroner Greg Cavanagh’s findings are extensive and make horrifying reading but sadly they don’t tell us what we already know in the NT,” Ms. Gipey said.

“Yes domestic violence is out of control, the justice system doesn’t adequately protect women, and yes there needs to be new approaches.

“But the big questions are when will the Coroner’s recommendations be put in place and when will our Governments and the wider community accept we are already paying far too high a price by not acting or dragging our heels.

“The ASWS is asking the NT Government to urgently implement the Coroner’s recommendations, particularly in regard to changing legislation to allow footage captured on new police body cameras to be used as evidence in chief.

“This takes the onus off women to provide evidence against their partners.”

Ms Gipey said support for alternative intervention strategies was also a priority.

“We cannot rely on the criminal justice system to solely protect women and children from domestic violence.

“Frontline services such as ASWS working in partnership with police, health and community organisations have a proven role to play in preventing violence and making sure women and children are safe.

“But our programs often face an insecure future due to the short term nature of some Government funding.

“This can make continuity of service delivery and staffing a challenge, which in turn has a direct impact on vulnerable women and children.

Currently ASWS has no guarantee of funding after June 30th 2017 apart from one position which ends June 2018.

“Demand on our services is increasing and we are hoping to introduce and expand innovative programs that will make a real difference to the safety of women and children.

“But we can’t do this with no guarantee of funding security from year to year. This increases the vulnerability of our service and in turn the vulnerability of women and children who are already at risk.

“If tackling our unacceptably high rates of domestic violence, which should be a cause for national shame, is a real priority for our leaders and the community we cannot afford to waste any more time talking.

“We have to just do it.”

Mr Turnbull, where’s the royal commission into this

THERE were no video cameras at Hoppy’s Camp on December 20, 2014. There’s no footage of the horror that took place in the shed behind house 19. No video evidence of the night Stanley Scrutton came home drunk, again, and beat his partner so severely she died of her injuries.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and that an image, particularly a moving one, can have an impact that could never be achieved with black ink on a white page. If you need proof of this, consider the haste with which Malcolm Turnbull called a royal commission after seeing video footage from inside the Don Dale detention centre.

But let’s imagine what the scene at Hoppy’s Camp might have looked like in the final minutes Wendy Murphy was alive. She had cuts, abrasions and bruises to her head, neck, back, arms and legs. Her lungs were bruised and so was her bowel. Her ribs were fractured. Her brain was covered in blood, after she was repeatedly punched, kicked and stomped. All this caused by an abusive partner who had beaten her for more than a decade.

Coroner Greg Cavanagh handed down his report into Murphy’s death two weeks ago. It was covered in the local media, just as the Don Dale incident was two years earlier. But, beyond the Northern Territory, few seemed to care. There were no outraged politicians calling for inquiries or smarmy journalists tweeting their disgust. Perhaps if there had been video footage they might have taken notice. Or perhaps the coroner’s report revealed a truth too uncomfortable to bear. “Domestic violence is a contagion. In the Aboriginal communities of the Northern Territory it is literally out of control,” Mr ­Cavanagh wrote.

Those words alone should have been enough to prompt outrage, if not action. But it didn’t. Nor did the damning statistics revealed by NT police: almost 75,000 domestic violence incidents reported in three years, more than 80 per cent of them involving Aboriginal people.

Australians are gold medallists at campaigning against domestic violence. When a Victorian father beat his son to death with a cricket bat we rightly lost our minds with rage. Yet when the victim is a black woman or child, we want to turn the other way.

In the past two months, two Aboriginal women were beaten to death near Darwin’s Nightcliff foreshore. If this happened in any other Australian city it would lead every news bulletin in the country. Yet the nation has never heard of these women and will never know their names.

On the day Malcolm Turnbull became Prime Minister, every newspaper in the country dedicated its front page to the news; every newspaper except the NT News.

Conway Stevenson was being sentenced in the NT Supreme Court for bashing his partner to death over three hours, punching and kicking her in the face before jumping on her head. That story ran on the top half of page 1 in the NT News the next day, a front page that did catch the nation’s attention.

Canberra journalists retweeted it and morning TV shows talked about it. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote an article about it. But it had nothing to do with domestic violence in Aboriginal communities. They were captivated by the headline at the bottom of the page: “Rich dude becomes PM”. If that rich dude has a copy of that paper somewhere, he might want to read the words at the top of the page.

“What have we become?” Justice Judith Kelly asked.

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