A new case study funded by the ARC explores the pertinent issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women in Australia and internationally as part of the Deathscapes project.
The Deathscapes project brought together multidisciplinary investigators and researchers from various universities across the world including Macquarie University in New South Wales and John Curtin University in Western Australia to map custodial deaths across Australia, the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.
Curtin University's Distinguished Professor Suvendrini Perera, lead researcher, says that the case study about Indigenous Femicide is arguably the most important component of the Deathscapes project.
This comonent documents the spaces and contexts in which Indigenous women die outside the formal custody of the state: on the streets; on the open roads; in their own homes or at the edges of communities.
According to the research team in these spaces, although outside of its carceral confines, the violence of the settler state is enacted through diverse practices that render Indigenous women’s lives unsafe and produce their deaths.
The incidence of Indigenous women’s deaths in these disparate places is not accidental or random.
“We are saying that something connects all of these deaths in different places and what connects it, we are putting forward, are the state policies; the types of state violence that are extended towards Indigenous women," Professor Perera said in an interview with NITV Radio.
She adds that, in a sense, the study is making a new theoretical connection between deaths that are usually seen as isolated and separate. They say a pattern showing that these deaths and disappearances are not accidental.
"The pattern begins with the type of violence that colonization inflicted on Indigenous communities in particular on Indigenous women and girls and Trans people," Professor Perera says.
"This form of violence took very specific forms; sexual violence, removal from families, trafficking across borders... These kinds of violence we want to say have continued in different ways and have compounded in the present."
In Canada where a similar pattern has been observed the parliament has gone as far as categorizing these deaths and unexplained disappearances as genocide.
In Australia the debate had been confined to Indigenous circles and academia till recently when MP Linda Burney called for a parliamentary inquiry.
Australian academics do not go as far as talking about genocide however they use the term Femicide.
Their website explains that the word Femicide underlines that the incidence of Indigenous women’s deaths in these disparate places is not accidental nor random, but a systematic outcome of the logic of settler colonialism.