After listening to Warren Mundine AO speak on violence against women over the last few days, we thought we'd put the conversation into the hands of those most affected by this social issue - women.
While men are a part of the problem and consequently a part of the solution of domestic abuse, a call for action from largely male parliamentarians from a male Indigenous leader puts conversations and decisions into the male space, only. How should we be treating women in the home? Well, why not hear from some strong women in the community.
1. Djapirri Mununggirritj
A Yolgnu elder, Djapirri Mununggirritj helped to establish the Yirrkala Women’s Patrol which saw elders walk the streets at night to deal with domestic violence, alcohol and other community safety issues. Djapirri coordinates patrol rosters, participates in patrols and liaises with police and community members in order to ensure the Patrol is as effective as possible. She was a National Finalist in the Local Hero category of the 2011 Australia Day Awards.
2. Hon Linda Burney MP
As the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Representatives and as someone who has experienced domestic violence herself, Linda Burney has been an active voice in the area of women’s welfare. During her time as a politician in NSW Ms Burney helped establish the Tackling Violence program in partnership with regional rugby league clubs to promote changed attitudes around domestic violence. She has also publicly challenged the funding cuts to programs that address domestic violence, to women’s refuges and to legal services that assist women who are escaping from situations where domestic violence has occurred.
“The challenge of domestic violence in our communities is a national crisis – strong rhetoric must be matched with strong action and leadership.”
3. Dr Kyllie Cripps
Pallawah woman, Dr Kyllie Cripps has been a leading academic in the area of family violence in Indigenous communities for the last fifteen years. A Senior Lecturer and Acting Director of the Indigenous Law Centre in the Law Faculty at the University of New South Wales she has lead two major research projects into the area of domestic and sexual violence, looking at the services that are available and identifying the barriers to successful partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous services as well as examining the factors that influence the sentencing of Indigenous sex offenders in the Northern Territory.
4. Antoinette Baybrook
Antoinette Baybrook is CEO of the Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service of Victoria and an outspoken advocate in support of victims of domestic violence. Her innovative approach to domestic violence education and support for victims has led to the creation of the Sisters’ Day Out outreach program, Young Luv program on healthy relationships for young people, the 'Dilly Bag' workshop and the Sisters Retreat.
5. Celeste Liddle
The active voice behind blackfeministranter.blogspot.com, Celeste Liddle, an Arrernte woman, has been writing on the issue of domestic violence against Indigenous women for years; from discussing the culture of 'victim blaming' to her project, recording Aboriginal women killed by violence on her Counting Dead Aboriginal Women blog page.
“It was always stated that one woman a week dies as a result of violence against women,” she told SBS in an interview last year, "but we’re actually averaging two women per week in Australia, and 18 per cent of them have been Aboriginal which is extraordinary.”
6. Dixie-Link Gordon
A community educator in the Redfern community, Dixie-Link Gordon has received many accolades for her work on domestic and family violence at local, state and national level.
She has worked across many women's services for over 20 years, including being a founding worker at the Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Women’s Centre in Sydney's Inner west, a project worker for Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia on ‘Hey Sis, we’ve got your back!’; a program designed to protect Aboriginal girls against sexual abuse and rape in NSW communities and in 2004, Dixie helped facilitate the first ‘Blackout Violence’ (BOV) campaign at the Redfern football carnival, talking to over 1000 men about saying ‘no’ to violence and promoting a healthy lifestyle.
In 2012, Ms Gordon shared the Mudgin-gal Aboriginal in Urban Society Story at the United Nations ‘Status of Women Forum‘ - a highlight of her career.
7. Professor Gracelyn Smallwood AO
Prof. Smallwood was awarded Queensland Aboriginal of the Year in 1986; an Order of Australia medal in 1992 for service to public health, particularly HIV-AIDS education; and in 1994 was the first woman, Indigenous person and non-paediatrician to receive the Henry Kemp Memorial Award at the International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.
Prof. Smallwood was one of the founders, and the first registered nurse to work at the Townsville Aboriginal and Islanders' Health Service, working for a year in a voluntary capacity. To which she received an Aboriginal Overseas Study Award in which she studied cross-cultural comparative health of Maori and First Nations in New Mexico and Arizona, and then Polynesian disadvantage in Hawaii.
She has spent many years and practised remote nursing in Western Australian, South Australian, northern Territory and Queensland communities, and she was the coordinator of the 'Condoman' HIV-AIDS prevention campaign aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait people, now a mainstream campaign in the fight against the spread of HIV-AIDS.
Prof. Smallwood currently at the largely Indigenous Cleveland Youth Detention Centre as nurse and mentor, and at Townsville Hospital as a nurse and midwife. She is also an Associate Professor and Indigenous Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor at James Cook University.
8. Louise Taylor BA
A Kamilaroi woman, Louise Taylor is a lawyer who has practised almost exclusively in the area of criminal law and specialises in family violence. She has a particular interest in women’s issues especially in relation to family, domestic and sexual violence and is passionate about the importance of access to justice for women, particularly for Aboriginal and other marginalised women. She has published works in The Guardian on the subject.
Based in Canberra, Ms Taylor is a long time Convenor of the ACT Women’s Legal Centre Management Committee, a past member of the ACT Domestic Violence Prevention Council and former Chair of the ACT Ministerial Advisory Council on Women.
Ms Taylor was the ACT Woman of the Year 2009, recipient of the ACT International Women’s Day Award.
9. Marcia Ella-Duncan OAM
A pioneer for diversity - particularly in sports - Marcia Ella-Duncan, a Yuin woman, was the first Aboriginal scholarship holder at the Australian Institute of Sport and the first Aboriginal woman to represent Australia in netball. In 2015, she was inducted into the Australian Netball Hall of Fame.
Outside the sporting arena, she is still invested in community and Ms Ella-Duncan has 25 years of experience in Aboriginal affairs in areas such as criminal justice, family and child safety and well being, community development. She has a particular interest in family and child safety and has worked in related service delivery and policy and legislation development positions for the Sydney region. She was the former elected ATSIC regional chairperson and is currently the chairperson of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force. Ms Ella-Duncan was also a panelist on the 2016 Garma Festival's 'No More' Panel on domestic violence.
10. Lani Brennan
Author of the confronting and compelling memoir, Lani's Story, Ms Brennan is a survivor of extreme physical and sexual abuse at the hands of her male partner. She is also a survivor of the difficulty of braving the courts, the police, and her community. Ms Brennan's book reminds people that violence against Aboriginal women is prevalent in the suburbs of urban cities and not only happening in remote Australia. Her story has touched many by educating people on the reality of domestic violence in Australia and demonstrates how survivors can overcome such violence.
"As an Aboriginal woman I had to stand up and say no to sexual violence," she told the court. "Joseph Timbery [her abuser] made me stay silent for a long time, but I won't be silent any more. I believe justice needs to be seen and done in Aboriginal communities."
Ms Brennan is a public speaker and shares her story with advocacy groups to inspire change in behaviours.
These ten remarkable women are just some of the are dozens - hundreds - of Aboriginal women working to prevent violence against Aboriginal women. Aboriginal people are not staying silent, they do want to talk about it, so let them have their say.
If you need assistance or information on domestic violence, contact RESPECT on 1800 737 732