• National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women's Alliance (NATSIWA) Board. CEO, Sandra Creamer has urged Parliament to listen to Blak voices. (NATSIWA Facebook)Source: NATSIWA Facebook
First Nations women's safety groups are urging the minister for women's safety to meet with Indigenous women and remote communities - where women are experiencing some of the highest rates of violence in the country.
Sarah Collard

7 Apr 2021 - 8:15 PM  UPDATED 8 Apr 2021 - 10:29 AM

Women's advocacy leaders are urging the government to meet with First Nations communities, as Indigenous women continue to be more likely to experience violence and assault than their non-Indigenous counterparts.

Sandra Creamer, CEO of the National Aboriginal Women's Alliance urged Anne Ruston, the newly appointed minister for women's safety, to elevate and amplify Indigenous voices. 

"We need to be at the table — if we're not at the table, we're going to be a discussion on the table anyway. A lot of us have solutions that can benefit our women." 

The Waanyi and Kalkadoon woman told NITV News that she wants Senator Ruston to meet with women and leaders on the ground working to tackle violence against women.

'Visit Indigenous communities'

Ms Creamer urged Ms Ruston to visit First Nations communities herself, to connect with Indigenous women.

"She should go out into some of those remote communities and and speak to the women on the ground... We're silent enough. They're putting us in the corner to make us even more silent and invisible." 

Minister for women Marise Payne and women's safety minister Anne Ruston met with states and territory leaders on Wednesday for the women's safety taskforce, as the government prepares its national plan on eliminating violence against women and children. 

'We've really had to battle it ourselves.'

Ms Creamer said violence against women and sexual assault was something unspoken about for too long, and experienced too often, all the more true in Indigenous communities. 

"We're supporting our non-Indigenous women but for Indigenous women we've had these issues going for many many years — we've really had to battle it ourselves," Ms Creamer said. 

Indigenous women 'voiceless' in national discussion

Indigenous women and those living in remote and regional areas are especially voiceless, according to Olive Whap, a Mura Kosker Sorority family violence support worker . 

"We always seem to be part of the bigger picture (but) there isn't specific things - we're not part of the decision making and we often don't have a voice," Ms Whap said. 

Mura Kosker services the 17 islands across the Torres Strait. President Regina Turner said Indigenous women are rendered invisible.

"We have a saying up here in the Torres Strait: 'out of sight and out of mind'. The more remote you are, the more you are forgotten," Ms Turner told NITV from her Thursday Island home. 

Minister to visit remote communities 

Women's safety minister Anne Ruston told NITV News that the government is working with First Nations peoples and communities to tackle violence against women and children. 

The minister said she is travelling to remote communities next month in the Northern Territory and the Kimberley regions of Western Australia. 

"I'm very much looking forward to being able to speak to Indigenous women in community about the specific issues that they face in their communities," the minister said. 

The minister said Indigenous women and communities will play a key role in the upcoming national action plan working to eliminate violence against women. 

"We do need to elevate that in the next plan to make sure that the statistics that we see a disproportionate representation of Indigenous women in our statistics around domestic violence - we do need to address that."Ms Ruston said. 

The minister said she is working closely with her cabinet colleagues including the Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt to eradicate violence against women and children.

She told NITV News that further discussions and consultation are planned with Indigenous women's safety groups ahead of the commonwealth's national action plan.

'We just become invisible in the mainstream action plan' 

Antoinette Braybrook, a Kuku Yalanji woman and CEO of the Aboriginal family violence prevention and legal service Djirra in Victoria said Indigenous prevention services are in need of more funding. 

"We cannot continue to have short-term investments - we need to have long-term investment. There hasn't been any significant increase in our funding for several years."

She is urging the federal government to establish standalone policies to address the staggering rates of family violence experienced by Indigenous women and children.

"We need a dedicated national action plan to address violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children because we just become invisible in the mainstream action plan," Ms Braybrook told NITV News. 

The federal government will hold a national women's safety summit in July.