• Social Entrepreneur Josephine Cashman, anthropologist Marcia Langton and elected member of the Alice Springs Council Jacinta Price. (AAP)
Three Indigenous women have joined forces to demand a national task force to combat the epidemic of family violence in Aboriginal communities.
Source:
NITV News, AAP
18 Nov 2016 - 11:45 AM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2016 - 12:08 PM

University of Melbourne Professor Marcia Langton, Alice Springs Councillor Jacinta Price and Josephine Cashman from the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council made their case at the National Press Club in Canberra.

"In remote communities, traditional culture is shrouded in secrecy which allows perpetrators to control their victims," Ms Price said.

"Indigenous women are 32 times more in danger of being hospitalised as a result of domestic violence and assault compared to non-Indigenous women."

"I call upon the Federal Government to do what has been done in light of Aboriginal youth in detention and hold a Royal Commission into the countless homicides, acts of violence and sexual abuse perpetrated against this country's most marginalised."

It comes as the Productivity Commission's report reveals Indigenous women are 32 times more in danger of being hospitalised as a result of domestic violence and assault compared to non-Indigenous women.

The report also revealed that the full extent of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is difficult to establish due to under-reporting by victims, and that children who experience or witness violence have a greater risk of becoming perpetrators of such behaviour.

Ms Cashman said a fear of reprisals or becoming homeless stops victims reporting it, which then manifests as youth suicide, substance abuse and the continuation of a destructive cycle.

"Australia as a nation must, must take responsibility right now for ensuring that our human rights and freedoms from criminal violence and sexual abuse is upheld alongside all other Australians."

“Within this culture of silence, the police are the enemy and anyone who reports or talks to them is called a dog and a snitch for collaborating with the white authority.”

Prof Langton criticised the government's national action plan, which recommends an avoidance of police and courts to resolve the problem amid disproportionately high Indigenous incarceration rates.

“We are witnessing the Stockholm Syndrome writ large by Indigenous perpetrators, and their government and agency partners explaining this horrible situation as a matter of culture,” she said.

“This is the most racist of all stereotypes, so much worse than Bill Leak's cartoon of an Aboriginal man asking the police officer for his son's name.”

The trio said the No More campaign in the Northern Territory, a grassroots effort that started in football teams but has since spread to entire communities, is the most effective in forcing men to take responsibility.

“In a community in Arnhem Land, this program reduced violence rates by 70 per cent,” Prof Langton said.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten have committed to linking arms before parliament ends this year in a symbolic gesture to support the No More campaign, founded by Darwin's Charlie King.

Mr King wants members from all sides of politics to join in and spark a national conversation before Christmas.

“There's always a spike over the holiday season. But this can unite a nation,” he said.

Ms Cashman has called for an intergovernmental task force and says the Turnbull government is dragging its feet.
“People's lives are at risk. And it's time to actually match the rhetoric with action,” she said.

“I have reapproached the PM in his new term and there's been complete silence.”

Worimi lawyer, Josephine Cashman and member of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, serving as Chair of its Safe Communities Committee, says Domestic and community violence needs to be addressed.

"Australia as a nation must, must take responsibility right now for ensuring that our human rights and freedoms from criminal violence and sexual abuse is upheld alongside all other Australians."

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the report was a reminder that governments have an extremely long way to go in closing the gap.

"Of concern is lack of improvement in family violence in the Northern Territory," he said.

"The report notes that an Aboriginal woman in the Territory is 11.4 times more likely to be the victim of violence than a non-Aboriginal woman," he said.

"My Government will work with Aboriginal Territorians to ensure we deliver real decision-making power back to the bush," Mr Gunner said.

Domestic violence factors

Despite the disproportionate burden of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the report suggested violence is not normal or customary in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

There is no single factor, but rather a multitude of interrelated factors that contribute to the occurrence of family and community violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, including:

  • The trauma attributable to colonisation and dispossession 
  • The breakdown of traditional culture and kinship practices
  • The removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families 
  • Experiences of violence, including childhood experience of violence and abuse
  • Low education and income levels and high unemployment levels, welfare dependency 
  • Poor and overcrowded housing conditions 
  • Poor physical and mental health 
  • High levels of alcohol misuse and illicit drug use