Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are overrepresented in statistics on family and domestic violence, child removal, sexual violence and imprisonment.  In working to overcome this violence and trauma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are helping to build strong communities and families with women’s and children’s safety at the centre. 

What we know now is:  

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Indigenous women.[1] 
  • Their experiences of violence are likely to be more severe and to occur more often than for women from non-Indigenous backgrounds. This results in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women being 35 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of domestic or family violence and up to 3.7 times more likely than other women to be victims of sexual violence.[2] 
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are overrepresented in child removal:“In 2013, peak Aboriginal and community service organisations warned the Victorian government that the rate of Aboriginal child removal in Victoria was exceeding levels seen at any time since white invasion”[3]. 
  • At 30 June 2015, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children on orders was nine times that for non-Indigenous children.[4]
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are far more likely to be imprisoned that non-Indigenous men.[5]This makes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women the fastest growing prison population. 
  • A 2003 study of Aboriginal women in NSW prisons found that over 75% of Aboriginal women had being sexually assaulted as a child, just under 50% had been sexually assaulted as adults and almost 80% were victims of family violence.[6] 
  • 1 in 2 Indigenous Australians report image-based abuse victimisation while the rates of image-based abuse for non-Indigenous population is 1 in 5.

It is critically important to recognise that these measures of violence and imprisonment are inherently linked to the ongoing impacts of colonisation, including the continued dispossession from cultural lands, the breakdown of traditional social, cultural and legal institutions, forced removal of children, and the ongoing experience of discrimination and marginalisation that results in significantly lower health, education, employment outcomes and welfare dependency and poverty for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  

These factors increase the risk of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing family violence and sexual violence. In addition to this, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experience of social and cultural marginalisation, racism, and lack of culturally sensitive services also act as barriers to accessing support services. Interacting with these historical and current factors, gender inequality negatively impacts the well-being and day to day experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait women and girls.  

In the face of these challenges, there are many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women working to create safe and connected families in which women and children can flourish, by speaking out about violence and supporting others, including men, to create positive changes. Some examples of this work include: the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance, the Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara Women’s Council (NPY Women’s Council)Baabayn Aboriginal CorporationHey Sis, and the Wirrpanda Foundation’s Deadly Sista Girlz program. 

Below are some resources on the causes and consequences of violence, child removal, and incarceration, which offer solutions to advance the rights and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Overall, there is an urgent need for the stronger inclusion of First Nations People’s voices in policies and practice.  

 

Resources:  

 

Cited references: 

[1] Government of Western Australian (2001) Gordon Inquiry Report. Available at http://www.strongfamilies.wa.gov.au/about/How_it_started/gordon_inquiry    

[2] See: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Family Violence Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (2006). 

[3] ALWAYS WAS, ALWAYS WILL BE KOORI CHILDREN. Systemic inquiry into services provided to Aboriginal children and young people in out-of-home care in Victoria http://www.ccyp.vic.gov.au/downloads/always-was-always-will-be-koori-children-inquiry-report-oct16.pdf  

[4] Children Protection 2014-2015 AIHW 

[5] Baldry, E., Cunneen, C. (2014). Imprisoned Indigenous women and the shadow of colonial patriarchy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. 

[6] Lawrie cited in Natalie Taylor & Judy Putt, “Adult sexual violence in Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia,” Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice, Australian Institute of Criminology, September 2007 at 2.