• Domestic violence statistics for First Nations women are the worst in the country. (AAP)Source: AAP
OPINION: Discrimination and racism are two of the biggest perpetrators of violence, and that abuse is evident in the statistics around domestic and family violence and Aboriginal women, writes Ashlee Donohue.
Ashlee Donohue

12 May 2021 - 2:22 PM  UPDATED 12 May 2021 - 2:22 PM

Domestic Violence does NOT discriminate.

It doesn’t matter if you're black, white or brindle. It happens in every town, city, state, country around the world!

What does discriminate, however, are the systems in place; systems that are set up to fail so many women, but especially Aboriginal women.

Discrimination and racism are two of the leading factors when it comes to systems failing Aboriginal women: they are used as a form of power and control which in turn makes them, in many instances, the enabler of violence that results in death.

They are in my view two of the biggest perpetrators of violence, because it is violence!

And that abuse is evident in the statistics around domestic and family violence and Aboriginal women and families.

Aboriginal women are more likely than any other group in Australia to be the victims of domestic and family violence; more likely to be arrested and incarcerated by the police during a DFV incident; more likely to have their children removed due to DFV, more likely to be given insufficient care at a hospital after a DFV incident, yet more likely to sustain life threatening injuries from DFV – what else can the excuse be for this lack of concern pertaining to Aboriginal women other than racism and discrimination?

Aboriginal women make up less than 2% of the Australian population and yet sit at the forefront of all the statistics I have just mentioned.

Systems and organisations fail our women because they do not listen, and many just do not care. Aboriginal women have been fighting to be heard before feminism existed, and still we are overlooked and silenced by the violence of racism and discrimination.

Yet what we are seeing is the government organisations continually getting the big funding to form legislation and run programs for Aboriginal women without proper consultation or having Aboriginal women at the table making these decisions – so we are being set up with services and action plans that are seen and developed through a white lens.

For example: safety plans.

Any number of safety plans in place for women in a DV relationship recommend hiding a mobile phone and money in anticipation of leaving. This makes the assumption that ALL women have a mobile phone on a plan or with credit, or have money to buy a mobile phone, as well as extra money to hide.

This is ludicrous. How can women who may be living below the poverty line or are marginalised have money to spare or be able to hide money and a phone from an abusive partner?

Even for those fortunate enough to own a phone, these plans do not recognise the realities of a DFV relationship.  

Any women who have been in such a relationship will know that the perpetrators oversee the phone, social media and emails. If there is a number they do not know in a phone you can best believe they will call it to find out who it is.

This in turn puts the victim at risk of violence.

Aboriginal families are not the normal mum, dad two kids and a goldfish – we live with extended family, often the offender's family, making it so much harder to escape DFV.

I have heard from many Aboriginal women in my time that, when they left, they left with the clothes on their back and their baby on their hip.

Government needs to stop rationing out annual funding to Aboriginal community run organisations and start listening to us; organisations such as Mudgin-gal Aboriginal women’s centre, Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal women’s legal centre, Nelly's Place, Deadly Connections, Djirra, Sisters Inside to name a few.

Start funding these organisations appropriately with 5–10 year funding so programs can be developed for us, by us, and not set us up to fail by rationing out one-off funding or yearly funding that we have to jump through hoops to be refunded.

Step up to the plate Australia.

Aboriginal women have the solutions, it’s time to stop making decisions for us.

Start listening to us and work beside us, not for us.

Ashlee Donohue is a proud Dunghutti woman born and raised in Kempsey, NSW. She is an Author, Educator, Advocate and speaker around the anti-violence message, and is currently the CEO of Mudgin-Gal Aboriginal Corporation – Women’s Centre.

NITV presents an all-First Nations women panel program in response to ground-breaking SBS documentary See What You Made Me Do.

We Say No More calls for real action to stop the devasting impact of family and domestic abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander families.

Wednesday, 12 May 9.30pm on NITV & Facebook Live

Join the conversation #SeeWhatYouMadeMeDo #WeSayNoMore

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