The Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group have traveled from the town camps of Alice Springs to Canberra to highlight the scourge of family violence in communities
27 Mar 2018 - 1:10 PM  UPDATED 27 Mar 2018 - 1:14 PM

One by one colourful bouquets of flowers are planted into the grounds of Parliament House. They're to remember the women who've passed from family violence. 

"And to commemorate our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, daughters, sisters, nieces, granddaughters, great-granddaughters," said long-time campaigner Barbara Shaw. 

"We're just a small group of women who want to make a change," she said fighting through tears.  

An emotional Shirleen Campbell, a resident of Hoppy's Camp, spoke of her two aunties who suffered at the hands of perpetrators - asking those present to remember them and many others with a minute silence. 

"We are gonna do a sorry sit-down for my two aunties, the Murphy and McCormack, and all the other ladies that are experiencing family and domestic violence," she said. 

"People who have escaped, people who have had hard, troubled times and who are still here fighting the good fight."  

The two women travelled with about fifteen others from Alice Springs to bring their message to Canberra. 

"We want our top decision makers to know that Aboriginal women, Aboriginal victims of family violence, are not just statistics but real people,” Ms Campbell said. 

"We need them to know that the voices of Aboriginal women from the grassroots, people like us Town Campers, need to be heard and we are a big part of the solution." 

"We want them to listen and stand with us women"

The women who make up the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group say they live with violence on a daily basis. Now they're urging the government to listen to them. 

"We want them to listen and stand with us women, hear about our solutions and our experience and recognise the important work that is being done on a community level to deal with issues of domestic and family violence," Ms Campbell said. 

Barbara Shaw said while the group of women are small, they're defiant. 

"We're just a small group of women who wanna work on prevention to keep our communities safe, to keep our children safe and out of harm's way, to support our men who are also going through hardship and hard times," she said. 

The Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group was developed out of a need identified by female town camp residents for a voice and action on family violence, and comprises women aged between 17 years to 65 years of age from the local area. 

"We're here wanting to make a difference and show the government we want to make a difference, and we're standing up strong together to tackle family and domestic violence, to support our communities, to support families and children who are being hurt today" Ms Shaw said. 

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner and one in three Australian women experience physical violence from the age of 15. 

For First Nations women, it is much worse. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls are 35 times more likely than the wider female population to be hospitalised due to family violence according to the Council of Australian Governments. 

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In Central Australia, family and family violence is very high for its population size. 

The Alice Springs Integrated Response to Family Violence project, an initiative of the Northern Territory government, found over half of assault offences were family and family violence related in 2014.

It also found, on average, eighteen family violence related disturbances were attended by police each day. This doesn't include violence that is not disclosed or reported to authorities. 

These group of women hope to change these statistics. 

"We thought about taking our message to Canberra and showing Aboriginal women all over the country that we can stand up and be heard, that we have the solutions and need to be part of the decision making," said Shirleen Campbell. 

"We need to get behind these women" 

They've garnered widespread support from their local community to federal politics - but much more is needed. 

"They need support - local, grassroots solutions need the support of men and women in parliaments everywhere," said Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy. 

"As the ladies have said, racism is real but domestic violence knows no racism. Family violence knows no racism, it impacts so many Australians in this country. These women are standing here before you saying they are doing something about it," she said. 

The group's calls for support follows action in Alice Springs last year where more than 300 people marched to draw attention to Aboriginal women and children living with or dying because of violence. 

It was one of the biggest marches the town had seen. 

"It was because these women had the courage to walk the streets and call for help," Senator McCarthy said. 

Fellow Labor parliamentarians Linda Burney, Pat Dodson and Warren Snowdon were also in attendance to show their support. 

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the women of the Tangentyere Women's Family Safety Group are showing true leadership. 

"They're helping women and children, and the men have an excellent program as well. This is important, not only for the women and children now, but the children into the future who are being traumatised by this violence and the life-long impacts," she said. 

"We need to get behind these women." 

Shirleen Campbell said she is grateful to be able to stand in Parliament and tell her story of her family and work. 

"We are grateful that we are here today to share our work that we're doing because really we need to be out there as grassroots women, children, men because we know that works best for our people," she said.  

"Coming here today is a great privilege and a honour to be here on behalf of the whole of Australia and right across the board, no matter what colour race you are, we're here to support you." 

She has one last plea to the government. 

“We urge the Government to listen to a wide range of Aboriginal voices regarding family and domestic violence issues and commit to genuine collaboration and partnerships with people and organisations at the community level when making family and domestic violence policies," she said. 

“It’s not all about the money but Aboriginal community based organisations do need long-term
investment in grassroots programs.”

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