NACCHO #coagvawsummit Aboriginal Health and Alcohol : Additional $25 million to tackle family violence in Indigenous communities

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“In 2008, when I arrived in Alice Springs, I was told that 15 women from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council membership region had been killed as a result of domestic violence between 2000 and 2008. And in every case, the accused partner had been under the influence of alcohol.

Since 2009, another two women from the NPY region have been killed as a result of domestic violence. There are a lot of factors behind this but it is a figure worth mentioning.

In the Northern Territory over the past three years, 23 women have been killed by someone with whom they were in a domestic relationship. And all of these partners were heavily intoxicated with alcohol, they were at least three times over the legal driving limit of 0.05.”

Alcohol creates havoc in Indigenous communities : full story below

Andrea Mason is an Aboriginal woman who has devoted her career to promoting just and fair access for Indigenous people and provides support for families across the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Lands – the central tri-state region of the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia.

Minister Nigel Scullion press release

“ Indigenous women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence than non-Indigenous women.

To address these shocking statistics, the issue of violence in Indigenous communities has been highlighted as a national priority under the Third Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

“The $25 million package of additional measures will help frontline services to intervene early to prevent violence from occurring, while also addressing the drivers of violence in Indigenous communities.”

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, said violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children had a devastating impact on communities and families.

The Coalition Government has today announced a further $25 million investment in a range of measures to reduce the violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.

Indigenous children are more than five times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be hospitalised for assault and eight times more likely to experience child abuse or neglect,” Minister Scullion said.

“The $25 million package of additional measures will help frontline services to intervene early to prevent violence from occurring, while also addressing the drivers of violence in Indigenous communities.”

The package includes:

  • trauma-informed therapeutic services for Indigenous children affected by family violence to break the cycle of intergenerational violence;
  • services for perpetrators to encourage behaviour change and prevent future offending;
  • intensive family-focused case management to address behaviours that lead to family violence; and
  • increasing the capacity of family violence prevention legal services to deliver holistic, case-managed crisis support to Indigenous women and children experiencing family violence.

“The Government has actively sought the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on how best to address family violence to inform the development of the Third Action Plan,” Minister Scullion said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities will be engaged to collaborate on these new initiatives. We will also be encouraging Indigenous community organisations to deliver services under the Third Action Plan as they are best placed to help those in need.”

Minister Scullion said that in addition to this, the Coalition Government had allocated more than $92.7 million over four years through to 30 June 2018 to ensure Indigenous Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (FVPLS) providers continued their important work.

“Under the Coalition, despite what Labor says, no Indigenous FVPLS has had funding cut under the Indigenous Advancement Strategy – and overall funding has in fact increased,” Minister Scullion said.

“Funding to 13 of the 14 FVPLS providers has been maintained through the IAS funding round – and the remaining provider has received additional funding to expand its services to another nine communities in the Top End.

“Today, I can announce that more than $9 million will be provided to nine of the FVPLS providers to deliver them certainty through to June 2018 so they can continue their critical work in supporting Indigenous victims of family violence.

“The remaining five FVPLS providers already had their funding confirmed – meaning all of the FVPLS providers now have the certainty to continue delivering their vital services.”

The Third Action Plan builds on existing work underway through the Women’s Safety Package which provided over $100 million for a range of activities to keep all women safe from violence, including $21 million for activities specifically targeting Indigenous families.

Alcohol creates havoc in Indigenous communities

Andrea Mason is an Aboriginal woman who has devoted her career to promoting just and fair access for Indigenous people and provides support for families across the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Lands – the central tri-state region of the Northern Territory, South Australia, and Western Australia.

She was recently named the 2016 Telstra Northern Territory Business Women of the Year and winner of the For Purpose and Social Enterprise Award.

The following is an edited extract of her speech at the Telstra Awards evening held in Darwin earlier this month.

Andrea  attended the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Summit on reducing violence against women and their children in Brisbane this week to further discuss these issues and advocate for change.


A low expectation accepts the worst elements of our two cultures, such as domestic violence, welfare dependency, financial abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, child neglect and child sexual abuse, and youth suicide.

From the non-Indigenous community, which makes up 97 per cent of the Australian population, Aboriginal people need your support to change the thinking from ‘me’ to ‘us’. To an ‘us’ that is inclusive of the cultural and economic prosperity of Aboriginal Australians.

We also need the 97 per cent to be generous patrons and leaders to create a safer and more secure society. Particularly when many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people struggle to create this for themselves.

One area where a ‘me’ entitlement has created havoc in communities is that of alcohol-fuelled violence, often at the very serious end of the scale – or indeed the most serious.

In 2008, when I arrived in Alice Springs, I was told that 15 women from the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women’s Council membership region had been killed as a result of domestic violence between 2000 and 2008. And in every case, the accused partner had been under the influence of alcohol.

Since 2009, another two women from the NPY region have been killed as a result of domestic violence. There are a lot of factors behind this but it is a figure worth mentioning.

In the Northern Territory over the past three years, 23 women have been killed by someone with whom they were in a domestic relationship. And all of these partners were heavily intoxicated with alcohol, they were at least three times over the legal driving limit of 0.05.

At NPY Women’s Council, we know that alcohol isn’t the only trigger for violence, but it does escalate that violence. If we are to stop these domestic partner deaths, the excessive drinking in our community must be curbed. It’s estimated that if drinking were to be reduced to a level equivalent to the national average, there would be a 50 per cent drop in violence across the Northern Territory.

As a strategic business leader, I believe it would be an absolute tragedy if in 2020 the number of women killed by their partner as a result of alcohol-fuelled violence were to continue on this trajectory, which would see 51 women killed in seven years in the Northern Territory. This would be shocking and a disgrace, so change must happen today.

In regard to this, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Northern Territory Government for the leadership it is taking on this issue.

When I talk about a shared responsibility, reducing the number of women killed due to alcohol-fuelled violent attacks is one of many areas. Reducing Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is another. Reducing suicide is a third.

All these major health concerns will be significantly improved by addressing alcohol with evidence-based policies that we know will work.

At NPY Women’s Council, we have worked with victims of domestic violence since 1994. Today, we are also working to gather a critical mass of men who in time will become leaders, to advocate to others to change their violent behaviours and to seek better lives for themselves and their families.

It is of interest to me that even though NPY started its domestic violence service in 1994, the NPY region’s men cross-border program, set up to work with men to change their behaviour as part of the sentencing process, only began in 2007. Why haven’t we seen a community wide men’s initiative in the NPY Lands to stop the violence and – more importantly – what if a such a men’s movement to stop domestic violence had started in 1994? Women have had no choice but to lead the way for their own safety.

Our Aboriginal women, and now men, are doing their part. It is time for the whole Australian community to implement key policies on alcohol that will benefit everyone but especially the most marginalised people in our community.

It is Aboriginal people who suffer disproportionally because mainstream Australia cannot accept the need to turn down the tap a little for the benefit of everyone.

PLEA FOR PM TO STEP IN AND FIX INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS POLICY AND FUNDING CHAOS

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders are calling upon Prime Minister Tony Abbott to personally step in to address the federal Indigenous Affairs policy and funding environment, which they say is descending into chaos.

Representatives of the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative body National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples (Congress), National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS), National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (NFVPLS), National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Secretariat for National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care (SNAICC), and the Healing Foundation – supported by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) – met in Canberra today to discuss the detrimental impact of the 2014 Federal Budget on key organisations and frontline services.

The group said that, despite Government assurances to the contrary, Budget cuts to Indigenous Affairs were impairing the ability of community-controlled organisations to deliver frontline services in critical areas such as legal assistance, family violence, children, youth and women, drug and alcohol misuse, and health.

“This threatens long term damage to outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and prospects for a reconciled nation,” the group said.

“There is virtually no evidence of coordination between government agencies responsible for funding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and programs. Buck-passing appears to be the norm.

“This environment is one of confusion and this is causing instability, anxiety and uncertainty. Despite requests for information from many of our organisations, there are few answers. We’re simply told to ‘put it in writing’. Then, when we do, we get no response.

The group said there was a disconnect between the Government’s stated narrowly-focussed priorities of jobs, school attendance, and community safety and its actions.

Under the new Indigenous Affairs arrangements:

– Funding for 38 Children and Family Centres throughout the country ceased on 30 June this year. These centres have been vital hubs in our communities.

– Funding for Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services, which support thousands of Indigenous women and children every year, is currently due to cease on 30 June 2015.  There is no recognition of the national program under the strategy or any other form of commitment to extending these essential and specialised frontline services.

– Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services around the country are yet to learn how $13.1 million in cuts to their operations will be applied to frontline services, and their national advocacy and reform body NATSILS has been defunded. Due to this uncertainty, legal services are being forced to close offices, staff are leaving, positions are going unfilled and services such as duty solicitors reduced.

“How is community safety advanced when important building blocks such as crucial support for women and children experiencing family violence, and access to legal representation, are stepped away from?” the group said.

They called for:
– Emergency talks between Mr Abbott – who declared himself ‘Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs’ – and national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders beyond the Indigenous Advisory Council and other individual advisors.

– Immediate extension of transitional funding arrangements under the Government’s new Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) from six months and a year to a minimum of 18 months and two years. The IAS open grant and tender process due to commence on 8 September should be deferred while the Government urgently clarifies eligibility criteria and other areas of concern.

– Government assurance that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, service providers and advocacy bodies will be respected and supported to undertake community development and service delivery to their constituents.

– A Parliamentary Inquiry into the recommendations of the Forrest Review into Indigenous employment and economic development. The group expressed serious concern that the review dramatically overstepped its original terms of reference, denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities an opportunity to make submissions on the range of issues it went on to cover and now seeks to limit and rush responses to recommendations contained in its ‘Creating Parity’ report.

“We call on the Government to start talking to the leadership that is backed by our communities, to stop the confusion, instability and chaos, and to provide much needed clarity and certainty,” the group said.