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Social Justice Report 2003: Chapter 5: Addressing family violence in Indigenous communities

Social Justice Report 2003

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  • Chapter 5: Addressing family violence in Indigenous communities

    There is no issue currently causing more destruction to
    the fabric of Indigenous communities than family violence. This has
    been acknowledged by all levels of government in recent years, with
    a number of significant inquiries and initiatives undertaken or commenced
    at the federal, state and territory level to address its impact. The
    intensive scrutiny and public awareness of this issue has not, however,
    led to sufficient commitments of resources and effort to date. Nor has
    it led to continuous support for innovative, community led solutions
    to address the violence or the adoption of an holistic, coordinated
    approach to it. Overall, there is still not enough action being taken
    to address this issue with the priority and urgency that it requires.

    In light of the significant attention being
    devoted to this issue in public debate and the need for a more far reaching
    response, I asked Professor Judy Atkinson and Caroline Atkinson to prepare
    an overview of the existing approaches of governments to addressing issues
    relating to family violence in Indigenous communities. Both are respected
    Aboriginal researchers with a history of conducting research and advocating
    for improved responses to family violence issues within Aboriginal communities.
    This chapter is based on the report on current approaches to family violence
    in Indigenous communities that they prepared for me in the second half
    of 2003. [1] I thank them and the students
    of Gnibi - the College of Indigenous Australian Peoples at Southern Cross
    University - for their contribution to this report. [2]

    This chapter provides a broad overview of
    the current situation regarding family violence in Indigenous communities
    in Australia from both a statistical and policy and program perspective.
    It provides an Indigenous specific perspective on family violence. An
    examination of the western traditional approach to domestic violence,
    including its narrow interpretation, and the limitations of this approach
    in addressing violence in Aboriginal communities is presented. Alternative
    models for addressing family violence in Indigenous communities are also
    considered. There is a particular focus on restorative justice models
    and healing approaches, as well as consideration of the vital role of
    community control, capacity building and governance reform in restoring
    health and wellbeing to Indigenous communities.

    Recent initiatives such as the Prime Minister's
    family violence roundtable in July 2003 and subsequent commitment of $20
    million as a 'down payment' to address family violence issues, the response
    of the Western Australian government to the Gordon Inquiry's findings,
    and the focus on family violence issues in several of the COAG whole-of-government
    community trials, demonstrate a genuine commitment from governments to
    address family violence issues. This chapter is intended to build on the
    significant goodwill and commitment of governments to addressing family
    violence in Indigenous communities. It is intended to promote an understanding
    of the wide-ranging and multi-faceted issues that contribute to, or affect
    the responsiveness of government interventions relating to, family violence
    in order to improve policy responses to it.

    Professor Judy Atkinson vividly demonstrates and reminds
    us of the urgency for identifying and implementing such improvements:

    When I started my PhD in 1993, seeking
    to understand the context of this violence, and find a healing way forward,
    I was asked by an academic to find words that would explain what I saw
    as I sat with people who had experienced violence, as children and young
    people, as adult men and women and as elders.

    The word I chose was pain. Layers
    and layers of pain, and in the unresolved pain the anger and grief that
    ensures its continuation. We carry this pain across generations, and
    we pass it down to others in our families and communities.

    I came to understand that the pain of
    a child or a woman, or a man, is the pain of us all. Often we deny the
    pain we experience in others because it mirrors our pain. Some of us
    numb ourselves with alcohol and other drugs and other addictive forms
    of behaviour and some with work. Work that in no way begins to address
    our needs.

    Any Aboriginal person who works in the
    field, and chooses not to close their eyes and hearts, is haunted by
    the immensity of the pain.

    While government demands statistical evidence,
    we do not need to count the dead and wounded as data for institutional
    archival files. We daily bury our dead and are so shell-shocked we can
    neither fully grieve our losses nor properly tend our wounded.

    What is important now is we truthfully
    name the pain in its many shapes and forms,
    and make the connections between the feelings and the behaviours that
    ensure, if we do not get about the work of healing, that it will continue
    across the generations. [3]

    Indigenous perspectives on family violence

    Violence is undermining our very life's
    essence, it is destroying us, and there are very few Aboriginal families
    that are not struggling with the debilitating effects of trauma, despair
    and damage resulting from their experiences with violence. [4]

    Indigenous concepts of violence are much
    broader than usual mainstream definitions of domestic violence.[5] For Indigenous peoples, the term family violence better reflects
    their experiences.

    Family violence involves any use of force,
    be it physical or non-physical, which is aimed at controlling another
    family or community member and which undermines that person's well-being.
    It can be directed towards an individual, family, community or particular
    group. In Tjunparni: Family Violence in Indigenous Australia family
    violence is defined as behaviours and experiences including:

    beating of a wife or other family members,
    homicide, suicide and other self-inflicted injury, rape, child abuse
    and child sexual abuse. When we talk of family violence we need to remember
    that we are not talking about serious physical injury alone but also
    verbal harassment, psychological and emotional abuse, and economic deprivation,
    which although as devastating are even more difficult to quantify than
    physical abuse. [6]

    Family violence is not limited to physical
    forms of abuse. It also includes cultural and spiritual abuse:

    People get hurt physically - you can see
    the bruises and black eyes. A person gets hurt emotionally - you can
    see the tears and the distressed face - but when you've been hurt spiritually
    like that - it's a real deep hurt and nobody, unless you're a victim
    yourself, could ever understand because you've been hurt by someone
    that you hold in trust. [7]

    Family violence in Indigenous communities
    also takes place in the broader context of violence committed at a systemic

    It is violence to move people forcibly
    from their place of birth and to dump them in strange places... It is
    violence to separate family members by policy or by designed economic
    hardship and necessity. It is violence to classify people by race in
    order to deny privileges to some and heap privileges on others. It is
    violence to systematically deny the most basic human rights in the service
    of such a system. The obvious physical violence that reaches wide attention
    is the merest tip of the iceberg of such ignored, routinized, structural
    violence. [8]

    Hence, it is crucial to acknowledge the
    impact of broader systemic violence when considering the impact of family
    violence in Indigenous communities. It is vital that definitions of violence
    incorporate not only physical dimensions, but also emotional, social,
    economic, spiritual and institutional dimensions. The expansive framework
    of family violence is imperative in developing and implementing broad,
    holistic, prevention/intervention strategies at various levels of critical

    Such a frame of reference brings into focus
    the interconnecting and trans-generational experiences of violence within
    Indigenous families and communities. As Caroline and Judy Atkinson state:

    The term Family Violence is more suitable
    as it brings focus to the trauma of the interconnecting and trans-generational
    experiences of individuals within families, to show the continuity between
    how Indigenous peoples have been acted upon and how in turn they may
    then act upon others and themselves. [9]

    Further, family violence embraces the historical
    nature of violence occurring in Indigenous communities, including the
    violence perpetrated by non-Indigenous people. As Harry Blagg states:

    [F]amily violence ... represents an historical
    narrative about the collective suffering of a people, rather than a
    simple term demarcating a discrete social problem or one specific set
    of power relationships. [10]

    A critical aspect of this broader conception
    of what constitutes family violence is that it recognises the centrality
    of Indigenous culture in framing the experiences, choices and ultimately
    the responses to violence, of Indigenous women:

    In understanding Aboriginal world views
    in relation to Family Violence, it has to be understood that an Aboriginal
    woman cannot be considered in isolation, or even as part of a nuclear
    family, but as a member of a wider kinship group or community that has
    traditionally exercised responsibility for her wellbeing as she exercises
    her rights within the group. [11]

    This factor is often overlooked by current
    policies and other intervention strategies aimed at addressing violence
    against women which are primarily guided and directed by a liberal feminist
    framework. The major criticism of western feminist based intervention
    strategies for dealing with violence against Indigenous women is that
    they have evolved from the very structures that served to subordinate
    and oppress Indigenous peoples. Moreover they embody white middle class
    women's experiences. Indigenous women, however:

    do not have a purely gendered experience
    of violence that renders them powerless. They, along with their men,
    experienced and continue to experience, the racist violence of the State.
    Aboriginal women do not share a common experience of sexism and patriarchal
    oppression, which binds them with non-Aboriginal women in a unified
    struggle ...

    The notion of patriarchy is foreign to
    traditional Aboriginal communities, which were relatively separate but
    equal in terms of male/female roles. While Aboriginal societies were
    gendered, women were not victims of men's power, but assertively affirmed
    their place and role in the community. According to Berndt & Berndt
    (1964) this provided both independence yet an essential interdependence
    between gender groups. [12]

    Accordingly, Indigenous women's experience
    of discrimination and violence is bound up in the colour of their skin
    as well as their gender. Strategies for addressing family violence in
    Indigenous communities need to acknowledge that a consequence of this
    is that an Indigenous woman 'may be unable or unwilling to fragment their
    identity by leaving the community, kin, family or partners' [13] as a solution to the violence.

    As Harry Blagg notes, choosing to leave
    the family 'with all its complexly embedded ties of mutual responsibility
    and obligation, and connection with country and culture - is not an option'.
    These 'considerable limitations on the ability of Aboriginal women to
    abrogate responsibilities to family' must be accepted as 'the starting
    point - rather than the problem - in victim support'.[14]

    A practical example of how this manifests
    is the different way that Indigenous and non-Indigenous women use refuges
    and shelters. The latter tends to use them as an exit point from abusive
    relationships, whereas Indigenous women use them as a temporary respite. [15]

    Liberal feminist approaches to domestic
    violence also tend to emphasise the experience of the victim, as opposed
    to the experiences of the perpetrator. This differs from an Indigenous
    community-based perspective, which includes the issues of both perpetrator
    and victim. Indigenous women are saying that men's issues must also be
    addressed if real solutions are to be found and lasting changes are to

    Overall, these factors point to the need
    to recognise that:

    The unique dimensions of violence against
    Aboriginal women are a result of complex factors and socio-historical
    and contemporary experiences and must be considered when attempting
    to provide solutions that are relevant to the specific situations and
    needs of Aboriginal women. Solutions to problems, no matter how well-intentioned,
    can create further problems for subordinated groups within a society,
    particularly when the 'solutions' are based in a systemic structure
    that has functioned abusively on the subordinated group. [16]

    Of particular concern in this regard is
    that the typical 'western' response to family violence is to criminalise
    such behaviour through specific domestic violence legislation, with the
    strong possibility of imprisonment being the outcome for those convicted
    of offences. As Caroline and Judy Atkinson note, however, 'tighter controls
    from the criminal justice system in dealing with violence against Indigenous
    women can in fact make their situation worse' .[17] They argue:

    Aboriginal women say that when their men
    go to jail, they emerge more violent, and their voices are ignored.
    Because of this, and despite having no real option apart from the criminal
    justice response, these women are still hesitant to use the legislation
    to its full intent. Whilst it is important to acknowledge that violence
    against women is an offence, the question that needs to be asked in
    relation to Aboriginal perpetrators, is how can we also recognise that
    their behaviours have been influenced by the violence of the State against
    Aboriginal communities, while at the same time holding perpetrators
    accountable and providing programs whereby the perpetrators are able
    to change their behaviour?

    What has been revealed is that using Western
    law in isolation is not necessarily a viable option due to issues of
    access, particularly for women in isolated and rural communities, and
    a general reluctance to use the criminal justice system based on past
    and present experiences of abuse ... [18]

    An emphasis on criminal justice responses
    to family violence poses two main concerns for Indigenous women. The first
    is that the system is generally ineffective in addressing the behaviour
    of the perpetrator in the longer term. The effect of imprisonment is to
    remove them from the community and then, without any focus on rehabilitation
    or addressing the circumstances that led to the offending in the first
    place, to simply return them to the same environment.

    The second is that there are a range of
    barriers in the accessibility and cultural appropriateness of legal processes
    which discourage Indigenous women from using the criminal justice system
    in the first place. Such barriers include an historic distrust of the
    police and legal processes which has developed due to factors such as
    an historically high level of police surveillance of Indigenous peoples; [19] a negative relationship with police
    due in part to the over-representation of Indigenous peoples, including
    Indigenous women, in public order and other petty offences; as well as
    experiences of inaccessible and culturally inappropriate court processes. [20]

    It is not being suggested that incidents
    of family violence in Indigenous communities should be condoned or that
    responsibility of perpetrators be diminished. Instead, these barriers,
    highlight a failure to acknowledge the unique characteristics of Indigenous
    family violence has the potential to render approaches for dealing with
    this violence ineffective, with the consequence that Indigenous women
    ultimately do not enjoy the protection of the law.

    Accordingly, responses to family violence
    in Indigenous communities need to be cognisant of these broader issues
    and responsive to them. I return to current initiatives and proposals
    for making the criminal justice system more responsive in protecting Indigenous
    women from family violence later in this chapter.

    The extent of family violence in Indigenous communities

    There are significant deficiencies in the
    availability of statistics and research on the extent and nature of family
    violence in Indigenous communities. Data that is available tends to be
    confined to situations where there has been a criminal justice or welfare
    intervention, and also significantly under-counts the true extent of family
    violence due to under-reporting by Indigenous peoples.

    Recent reports such as the Gordon Inquiry
    in Western Australia and the Cape York Justice Study in Queensland, for
    example, have relied on the limited available data rather than gather
    new quantitative evidence. The 2001 report Violence in Indigenous Communities,
    commissioned by the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department, provides
    the most recent and comprehensive analysis of the available data and is
    consistently cited by other reports on the subject.[21] It is anticipated that the Indigenous General Social Survey, conducted
    by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2002, will provide some new
    information when it is published in mid-2004.

    Despite this dearth of statistics, numerous
    inquiries have concluded that rates of family violence are significantly
    higher among Indigenous peoples than for other Australians. Statistics
    and research dating back to the 1980s also reveal that this situation
    has existed for at least the past two decades with no identifiable improvement. [22]

    At the national level, the Steering Committee
    for the Review of Government Service Provision's national report on key
    indicators of Indigenous disadvantage for 2003 notes higher rates of substantiated
    child protection notifications for Indigenous children, as well as higher
    rates of deaths from homicide, hospitalisation for assault and of being
    a victim of murder, assault, sexual assault and domestic violence for
    Indigenous peoples than for non-Indigenous peoples. [23] The report identifies that in Western Australia the rate for substantiated
    child protection notifications is 8 times higher than for non-Indigenous
    children. Caution must be taken in interpreting these figures in terms
    of rates of violence however. For instance, there is a clear trend for
    Indigenous children to be substantiated on the basis of neglect rather
    than abuse.

    Significantly, there are real variations
    in the pattern of substantiations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous. For
    example, sexual abuse is reported at a higher rate among non-Indigenous
    children, although this may simply reflect a lack of reporting in Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander communities. Similarly, the over-representation
    of Indigenous children in the reporting statistics may be due to over-monitoring
    of some Indigenous communities.

    A further key concern highlighted in the
    Steering Committee's report was the high rates of hospitalisation experienced
    by Indigenous Australians. Data collected by the Australian Institute
    of Health and Welfare (AIHW) revealed that per 1000 Indigenous people
    entering hospital 13.3 were admitted due to an assault, whereas the figure
    is only 1 in 1000 for non-Indigenous people. The figures for Indigenous
    females were highest in Western Australia (27.2 per 1000) and the Northern
    Territory (25.7). These rates are approximately 10 times higher than those
    of the non-Indigenous female population. These figures may, however, reflect
    a number of factors of which family violence is but one. [24]

    The available statistics for the Indigenous
    adult population equally presents a grave picture. The Australian Institute
    of Criminology analysis of Indigenous and non-Indigenous homicides in
    Australia found that between 1989 to 2000 Indigenous persons comprised
    15.1% of all homicide victims and 15.7% of all homicide offenders, even
    though Indigenous people make up only 2.1% of the total population of
    Australia. [25] In relation to family violence
    54.2% of Indigenous homicides occurred between family members, in contrast
    with 38.1% of non-Indigenous murders occurring between family members.

    Available statistics also suggest that there
    is a clear link between alcohol and drug misuse and violence within Indigenous
    communities, with between 70 and 90 percent of all assaults being committed
    while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. [26]

    In Queensland, the Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Women's Violence Task Force Report on violence in Indigenous
    communities (the Robertson report) from 1999 identifies the following
    statistics which relate to Queensland Indigenous communities:

    • In 1988, the Queensland Domestic
      Violence Task Force estimated that domestic violence affects 90 per
      cent of Indigenous families living in Deed of Grant in Trust (DOGIT)
      communities; [27]

    • Barber, Punt and Albers reported over 70 per cent of
      all assaults on Palm Island were committed against females, and most
      of these involved 'boyfriends or husbands who were said to be drunk
      at the time'; [28]

    • In another North Queensland community, with a total female
      population of 133 women over 15 years of age (107 were over 20 years
      of age), there were 193 cases of injuries due to domestic assault in
      a twelve-month period to 30 June 1990; [29]
    • The Study of Inquiry in Five Cape York Communities in 1997 found that 86 per cent of domestic violence injuries affected
      people in the 16-44 years age group and that 91 per cent of these injuries
      were suffered by women; [30] and
    • The Queensland Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
      (DPP) 1997 report Indigenous Women within the Criminal Justice System found sufficient evidence to suggest that the degree of violence being
      experienced by Indigenous women was much higher than the statistics
      recorded. [31]

    The key findings of the Robertson report into violence in
    Indigenous communities in Queensland concluded that:

    • Dispossession, cultural fragmentation and marginalisation
      have contributed to the current [family violence] crisis in which many
      Indigenous people find themselves;
    • A more rigorous understanding of the impact of high unemployment,
      poor health, low educational attainment and poverty on the incidence
      of family violence is warranted;
    • Family violence in Indigenous communities has a critical
      issue for many years which is continually recognised by Indigenous communities
      as being a problem;
    • At times, government representatives appeared to regard
      violence as a normal aspect of Indigenous life, therefore, interventions
      were dismissed as politically and culturally intrusive in the newly
      acquired autonomy of Indigenous communities;
    • Violence in all its forms, whatever its locale and in
      any circumstances, is unacceptable, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous
      peoples must work together to help in its eradication;
    • While governments have made funding available to address
      the issues pertinent to violence in the lives of Indigenous peoples,
      only minimal intervention has occurred to date;
    • Violence in Indigenous communities must be stopped through
      proactive intervention as opposed to prevention alone; and
    • A whole of government approach to tackling violence is
      required along with Indigenous people taking responsibility to repair
      the broken lives as a result of violence. [32]

    The Cape York Justice Study similarly noted
    that up to 90% of families living in DOGIT communities are affected by
    violence. This Study also revealed that abuse of Elders is increasing:

    Research in the Rockhampton area concluded
    that abuse of older people is a relatively recent phenomenon in Aboriginal
    communities following colonisation, and is related to the loss of traditional
    culture and values, including respect for elders. [33]

    In Western Australia, the Gordon Inquiry
    into the Response by Government Agencies to Complaints of Family Violence
    and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities in Western Australia identifies
    the situation as follows:

    Family violence and child abuse occur in Aboriginal
    communities at a rate that is much higher than that of non-Aboriginal
    communities. The statistics paint a frightening picture of what could
    only be termed an epidemic of Family Violence and child abuse in Aboriginal
    communities. Aboriginal women account for 3 percent of the population
    but 50% of domestic violence incidents reports to police. Aboriginal
    children were the subject of substantiated child abuse at more than
    7 times the rate of non-Aboriginal children. These figures stand within
    the context of under reporting. [34]

    An earlier study on domestic violence in
    Western Australia concluded that:

    The rates of domestic violence amongst
    Aboriginal women were staggering. Although these women make up only
    3% of the adult female population in WA, they accounted for half of
    the domestic violence incidence reported to the police in 1994. Based
    on police figures Aboriginal women are more than 45 times more likely
    than non-Aboriginal women to be victims of domestic violence. [35]

    That study also noted that it was not only
    Indigenous men who were the perpetrators of violence against Indigenous
    women but increasingly Indigenous women are becoming violent against other
    Indigenous women.[36] It has also been suggested
    that the violence perpetrated by Indigenous women against Indigenous women,
    comes in part from the sexual and psychological violence they themselves
    have experienced. [37]

    Statistical data from the NSW Bureau of
    Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) shows that in New South Wales:

    • Aboriginal females are four times more likely than other
      females to be a victim of murder;
    • Aboriginal females are four times more likely to be a
      victim of an assault or domestic violence;
    • Aboriginal females are seven times more likely to be
      a victim of grievous bodily harm;
    • In 73 percent of sexual assaults where the victim was
      Aboriginal the offender was also Aboriginal;
    • In 80 percent of assaults where the victim was Aboriginal,
      the offender was also Aboriginal; and
    • In 85 percent of domestic violence related assaults,
      where the victim was Aboriginal, the offender was also Aboriginal. [38]

    In a 2001 discussion paper, the NSW Aboriginal
    Justice Advisory Council (AJAC) also cited statistics compiled from BOSCAR
    which reveal that:

    • Approximately 270 per 100,000 of alleged sexual assault
      offenders in NSW are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in comparison
      with only 90 per 100,000 of the general NSW male rate. That is, Aboriginal
      men are 3 times more likely than the general population to be sexual
      assault offenders.
    • At least 130 per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait
      Islander men are alleged child sexual assault offenders compared to
      only 50 per 100,000 of the general population. That is, Aboriginal men
      are 2.6 times more likely than non-Aboriginal men to be child sexual
      assault offenders.
    • Approximately 3400 per 100,000 Aboriginal and Torres
      Strait Islander men are alleged domestic violence assault offenders
      compared to 550 per 100,000 of the general population. That is, Aboriginal
      men are 6.2 times more likely than non- Aboriginal men to be the offender
      of (domestic) violence. [39]

    The NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council
    observe that:

    The facts indicate a significant level
    of over representation of Aboriginal males in the criminal justice system
    for family violence related offences and [in rates] of Aboriginal victimisation... [40]

    The discussion paper further claims that:

    • 68% of Aboriginal women surveyed said they had been abused
      as a child, and approximately 75% of those women said they were sexual
      assaulted as children. Over 82% of those women did not tell anyone what
      had happened. In some instances the women revealed that the survey was
      their first point of disclosure.
    • Approximately 68% of women abused as children said they
      still need counselling and or support to deal with the abuse they had
      suffered as children.
    • Over 73% disclosed that they were victims of abuse as
      adults. Of those women who were assaulted as adults, 42% had been sexually
      assaulted, 6% of those disclosed they were sexually assaulted by a relative,
      79% were physically assaulted (including family/domestic violence).
    • 61% of those women abused as adults said that they did
      not tell anyone what was going on at the time. [41]

    The paper comments that:

    at least 80% of the women surveyed said
    that their experience of abuse was an indirect cause of their offending.
    Some women revealed that the underlying cause of their drug and criminal
    habits was to avoid dealing with, or because they had not been able
    to address, the abuse that they had suffered as a child, in particular
    child sexual assault. A significant number of women interviewed suggested
    appropriate ways to deal with abuse, nearly all which included Aboriginal
    healing programs, in particular involvement with Elders. [42]

    In 2003 AJAC conducted research into the
    experiences of Aboriginal women in New South Wales prisons which revealed

    • 70% of the women participating in the survey said that
      they been sexually assaulted as children;
    • Of this group 98% say they now have a drug problem;
    • 78% said they had been victims of abuse as adults;
    • 44% said they had been sexually assaulted as adults and
      5% said they had been sexually assaulted by a family member; and
    • Approximately four in five said they had experienced
      domestic violence. [43]

    In 2000, the South Australian report Reshaping
    Responses to Domestic Violence
    detailed that:

    • 90% of Aboriginal families are affected by family violence;
    • Aboriginal men are four times more likely to die a violent
      death than non-Aboriginal men, and women are six and half times more
      likely to die a violent death than non-Aboriginal women;
    • The incident rate of domestic violence for Aboriginal
      women is 45 times higher than for non-Aboriginal women;
    • Aboriginal women are more likely to be killed as a result
      of family violence as compared to non-Indigenous women - their rate
      of homicide is 10 times that of all Australian women; and
    • South Australian Government statistics suggest that the
      instances of family violence are 'likely to be between seven and 16
      times higher than rates among non-Aboriginal people'. [44]

    The Northern Territory Law Reform Committee
    noted in 2003 that 'family violence is a major concern for Indigenous
    people, eclipsing issues such as property crime'.[45] They summarise research on family violence as follows:

    • rates of violence in Aboriginal communities are significantly
      higher than in non-Aboriginal communities;
    • improving the situation for Indigenous victims requires
      a whole of government approach;
    • programs need to be delivered within a cultural framework as only Indigenous people can challenge the myth of Aboriginal
      male entitlement to violence;
    • strategies must include recognising Aboriginal law as
      fundamental to the long term health of Indigenous communities;
    • Aboriginal youth are the most vulnerable gourp in society
      to become the direct or indirect witnesses of violence. [46]

    The 2002 Tasmanian report on family violence
    - ya pulingina kani - Good to See You Talk -documents in a narrative
    form the stories of experiences of Tasmanian Aborigines with violence.
    It demonstrates the devastation of family violence in Indigenous communities
    in Tasmania and most importantly, the desires of the community to take
    responsibility for it, work in partnership with government to address
    and to heal.[47] The report recommends:

    • Reciprocity through the government forming an Indigenous
      Violence Working Party to enable healing of Indigenous Tasmanians, the
      provision of adequate funding to implement the strategies the community
      wants and that the stories contained within ya pulingina kani are protected;
    • Healing by training Aboriginal participants in the grief
      and healing work;
    • Partnerships between the Aboriginal community, government
      and community service providers; and
    • Funding of Indigenous art, performance and culture to
      bring out the stories of ya pulingina kani to mainstream Tasmania. [48]

    The findings of these reports, and of the
    available statistical data, indicate the existence of serious problems
    relating to family violence in Indigenous communities and the need for
    governments to address these issues as a matter of the highest priority,
    in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

    Government Responses to Family Violence in Indigenous

    Addressing family violence is a shared responsibility
    between all levels of government with prime responsibility resting with
    health and community service agencies in federal, state and territory
    governments. A list of recent inter-governmental, federal, and state/territory
    initiatives follows.

    1) Commonwealth Initiatives

    The main program at the federal level for
    responding to family violence issues is the Partnerships Against Domestic
    Violence (PADV) scheme administered by the Department Family and Community
    Services. This was launched in 1997 at the National Domestic Violence
    Summit. The federal government has allocated $50 million to PADV over
    the 1999-2003 quadrennium, including $6 million for the Indigenous Family
    Violence Grants Program. [49]

    The Ministerial Council of Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Affairs (MCATSIA) Working Group on Family Violence
    established a set of principles for funding community-based organisations
    addressing family violence. These principles have now been incorporated
    into the design of the National Indigenous Family Violence Grants Program
    under the PADV. [50]

    In 2000, 30 Indigenous organisations from
    across Australia received funding of $2.2 million for 31 projects addressing
    family violence. Three of these were funded through ATSIC, with the majority
    of the remaining initiatives funded through the Department of Family and
    Community Services. [51]

    There was no new funding for Indigenous
    family violence in the 2001-02 or 2002-03 Budgets. It was revealed, however,
    that the Office for the Status of Women underspent by $4.3 million in
    administering its programs for domestic violence in 2001-02. ATSIC claimed
    they could easily have spent this funding on programs to improve community
    safety for Indigenous women and children. [52]

    There was new funding in the 2003-04 Budget
    to ATSIC under its 'working for families' initiative. This funding was
    for the wages component of 1000 additional places in the CDEP program
    over 4 years [53] at a cost of $61.5 million
    to address family violence and substance abuse issues. ATSIC is providing
    on-costs components for the initiative from its existing budget allocation.
    The focus of the initiative is on remote Indigenous communities.

    In July 2003, the Prime Minister held a
    national roundtable on Indigenous family violence. Following the roundtable,
    a working group was established to advise the Prime Minister on ways of
    advancing strategies to address family violence in Indigenous communities.
    ATSIC Commissioner Alison Anderson, Lowitjia O'Donoghue, Jackie Huggins
    and Ian Anderson were selected from the national roundtable to form this
    working group to draft a family violence strategy with the aid of government
    representatives. [54] At the time of forming
    the working group it was envisioned that the draft family violence strategy
    would inform the public about the violence crisis as well as be discussed
    and supported by COAG . [55]

    Subsequent to the roundtable, the Prime
    Minister announced a commitment of $20 million as a 'down payment' to
    address the consequences of violence in Indigenous communities. [56] It is anticipated that there may be further budget announcements in the
    2004-05 budget. The approach to addressing family violence in Indigenous
    communities proposed by the Prime Minister includes focussing on support
    for non-government organisations; diversion programme for alcohol and
    drugs; communities in crisis; and community initiatives to combat sexual
    assault. [57]

    The Prime Minister advised the community
    that he will seek COAG's support for his approach to family violence.
    COAG has not yet endorsed his family violence approach. However, despite
    the absence of COAG's support, in December 2003, the new Minister for
    Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs renewed the government's
    commitment to addressing family violence when she announced that in 2004
    she will be focussing on Indigenous governance and family violence with
    a particular emphasis on harnessing women's leadership. [58]

    2) ATSIC initiatives

    As the peak advisory body for Indigenous
    affairs, ATSIC provides another major avenue for Commonwealth funding
    of Indigenous Family Violence programs and policy advice in this area.
    Historically, approximately 70 percent of ATSIC's budget has been quarantined,
    with the remaining discretionary funds to be spread across a range of
    social, cultural and economic programs, including family violence.

    In recent years, ATSIC's expenditure on
    family violence initiatives has increased from $4.9 million for the financial
    year 2001-02 [59] to $8.2 million in the
    financial year 2002-2003. [60]

    In 2002-2003 this included $4.69 million
    through its Legal and Preventative Program on 13 Family Violence Prevention
    Legal Services (FVPLS) to provide support to the victims of violence and
    sexual assault and to work with the families and communities affected
    by violence. The services provided by the FVPLS include:

    • legal assistance;
    • information and referral (eg medical help, food, clothing
      and accommodation);
    • crisis counselling and ongoing support;
    • court support and other support and awareness raising
    • community education, consultation and planning;
    • production of publications and other resources; and
    • advocacy.

    These FVPLS are located in Kempsey, Moree
    and Walgett in NSW; Cairns (Cape York) and Mt Isa in Queensland; Port
    Augusta in South Australia; Kalgoorlie, Fitzroy Crossing, and Geraldton
    in Western Australia; Darwin, Katherine and Alice Springs in the Northern
    Territory; and Melbourne in Victoria. A further FVPLS will be established
    in 2003-04 in Victoria, and each service will also receive additional
    technical and administrative support, with an emphasis on specialised
    training to increase capacity in sexual abuse services.

    $3.4 million was also spent on Regional
    Council family violence projects in 2002-03. [61] The type of initiatives supported includes alcohol restriction trials;
    family violence prevention/outreach workers providing support and referral
    to women escaping violence; safe houses for women and children; youth
    and children's services; men's and women's counselling and support groups;
    night patrols; men's, women's and youth conferences; service evaluation;
    and strategic planning.

    During 2001-02, ATSIC also convened a series
    of roundtable meetings on family violence in accordance with commitments
    it had made to the Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander Affairs (MCATSIA). [62] These roundtables
    included separate men's and women's roundtables, in October 2001 in Adelaide
    and September 2001 on Palm Island respectively, as well as a combined
    roundtable to consider culturally appropriate responses to family violence. [63]

    As a result of these roundtable meetings,
    ATSIC has created a National Indigenous Working Group on Violence to lobby
    for the coordination of programs and the resourcing of community-driven
    approaches to violence based on Indigenous self-determination. The NIWGOV
    operated from February to December 2002 and played an integral role in
    informing the development of the ATSIC Family Violence policy. [64]

    The most significant development from ATSIC
    on family violence to date is the adoption by the ATSIC Board of a national
    family violence policy statement and action plan in March 2003. The ATSIC
    Commissioner's national statement is reproduced on the next page.

    Figure 1: Our Family
    - ATSIC Board of Commissioners Family Violence Policy Statement

    Family violence has a deep and lasting
    effect on us physically, mentally and spiritually. All Indigenous
    people have the right to enjoy life and security in our own country,
    free from violence, fear and conflict. Our extended family as the
    basis of our culture is entitled to the widest possible protection
    and assistance in relation to family violence.

    Indigenous people hold the key to
    stop family violence through self-determination, ownership and empowerment
    at the local, community and family level.

    Urgent interventions must take place
    to ensure the well-being and safety of our children so that they
    can take their rightful place in Indigenous society.

    This Board of Commissioners of ATSIC
    accepts its mandated responsibility to act against family and sexual
    violence and therefore as leaders we declare that:

    • Family and sexual violence is not part of the Aboriginal
      or Torres Strait Islander culture.
    • We will stand against it in our communities and
      personally commit to changing and reducing its escalating and
      unacceptable levels.
    • We must help break the silence by empowering our
      peoples to speak out and at the same time protect them from reprisals.
    • All interventions must focus primarily on the child
      and must be culturally appropriate.
    • Women, children and men have the same rights before
      the law and their interests must be represented equally in public
    • At the national, community and state level we will
      advocate for action and monitor and report on progress to achieve
      a significant reduction in the elimination of family violence,
      in line with our statutory obligations.
    • We will formally partner government, non-government
      and community in developing a responsible, coordinated and holistic
      approach to bring about change and healing for Indigenous family
    • We will place the highest priority on delivering
      locally appropriate strategies
    • We will engage all levels of our communities
      through capacity building and collaboration, building on their
      strengths and resources in advocating action to eliminate the
      underlying causes of family violence.
    ATSIC Board of Commissioners, 2003

    This policy includes a Family Violence Action Plan [65] which identifies the following three guiding principles:

    • Interventions must focus on children and young people
      and provide protection;
    • Women and children have the same rights as men before
      the law and their interests must be represented equally in public policy;
    • Adults deserve to be supported to break the pattern of
      violence by working with victims and perpetrators to prevent and reduce
      family violence.

    The Action Plan also recognises that:

    • All individuals have the right to be free from violence;
    • All forms of family violence are unacceptable;
    • Most forms of family violence are against the law and
      must be dealt with accordingly;
    • The safety and wellbeing of those subjected to family
      violence must be the first priority of any response;
    • Those who commit family violence must be held accountable
      for their behaviour;
    • Those who commit family violence are in need of appropriate
      interventions; and
    • The community has a responsibility to work toward
      the prevention of family violence and to demonstrate the unacceptability
      of all forms of family violence.

    The Action Plan identifies four key areas for action to
    address family violence in Indigenous communities:

    • Develop an overarching family policy framework that incorporates
      prevention of violence in families.
    • Take a lead role in identifying and promoting new initiatives
      to reduce family violence.
    • Engage with Commonwealth and State government agencies,
      non-government agencies and communities to work in partnership on family
      violence strategies.
    • Support and strengthen the capacity of ATSIC Regional
      Councils to develop, implement and monitor family violence action plans.
    • Enhance the capacity of ATSIC to develop and implement
      (appropriately resourced) initiatives at the national and local level.

    Over the past six months various regional
    councils have endorsed the national family violence policy by announcing
    their region-specific action plans to combat family violence. In particular,
    the Yilli Rreung Regional Council in the Northern Territory, the Many
    Rivers and Kamilaroi Regional Councils in New South Wales and the Central
    Queensland Regional Council have all expressed support for the national
    policy and announced plans to address family violence in their respective
    regions. [66]

    3) Inter-governmental initiatives

    The Council of Australian Governments (COAG)
    has made a commitment to address family violence and other forms of social
    dysfunction in Indigenous communities in its communique on reconciliation
    of 3 November 2000. It committed itself to an approach based on partnerships
    and shared responsibilities with Indigenous communities, program flexibility
    and coordination between government agencies, with a focus on local communities
    and outcomes.

    Family violence is to be considered within
    the priority action area of 'reviewing and re-engineering programs and
    services to ensure they deliver practical measures that support families,
    children and young people'.[67] As discussed
    in chapter 2 of this report, COAG also agreed to take a leading role in
    driving changes, with the various Ministerial Councils to develop action
    plans, performance reporting strategies and benchmarks.

    Reconciliation Australia stated in their Reconciliation Report Card for 2002 that progress had been slow
    in addressing family and community violence, despite the COAG commitment
    of November 2000. [68] Progress in responding
    to Reconciliation Australia's call for an audit of services, capacity-building
    and identification of best practice models for addressing violence had
    been particularly slow. COAG itself also reported that ministerial councils
    progress in developing action plans under the reconciliation framework
    has been slower than expected. [69]

    In April 2002, COAG commissioned the Steering
    Committee for the Review of Government Services to produce a regular report
    against key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage. The finalised framework
    is discussed in detail in chapter 2 of this report. Issues relating to
    family violence are included within the headline indicators and strategic
    change indicators of the framework.

    In 2003, northern Tasmania was identified
    as a trial site for the COAG whole-of-government community trials. This
    trial is particularly focussing on family violence issues. This focus
    arose out of the report commissioned by the Tasmania government on Indigenous
    family violence, ya pulingina kani - Good to see you talk. The
    COAG trials are discussed in detail in Chapter 2 and Appendix 2 of this

    On 28 July 2001, MCATSIA was addressed for
    the first time by an Indigenous delegation, which consisted of representatives
    from the ATSIC Indigenous Women's Roundtable. MCATSIA agreed to conduct
    an audit of existing Indigenous family violence strategies, and to a seven-point
    strategy for addressing Indigenous family violence by focusing on:

    • reducing alcohol and substance abuse;
    • child safety and well-being;
    • building community capacity (including cultural strength);
    • improving the justice system;
    • creating safe places in communities;
    • improving relationships (focusing on perpetrators and
      those at risk of offending); and
    • promoting shared leadership. [70]

    Two and half years after the commitment
    to conduct the audit of family violence strategies, MCATSIA has not finalised
    or released the audit.

    4) Significant State and Territory initiatives

    New South Wales

    The New South Wales Aboriginal Justice
    Advisory Council and the New South Wales Attorney General signed an Aboriginal
    Justice Agreement on 13 June 2002. The overall aims of the Aboriginal
    Justice Agreement are to improve Aboriginal access to justice and improve
    the quality and relevance of justice that Aboriginal people receive. [71] It provides a framework for ongoing partnership in addressing justice
    issues and allows Aboriginal people to take leadership and make key decisions
    in solving their own justice problems.

    The Justice Agreement includes among its
    key actions local community justice forums, which provide a mechanism
    for addressing local justice concerns through local solutions, the implementation
    of circle sentencing and Aboriginal community justice groups. These ensure
    Aboriginal communities can be actively involved in taking some control
    over local justice issues, especially for offenders and victims.

    The NSW Aboriginal Family Health Strategy
    is a framework for immediate government action to family violence and
    sexual assault. This strategy:

    is the first step in the Department's
    commitment to work in conjunction with Aboriginal communities to put
    in place a range of services and other resources to alleviate the factors
    leading to violence, the suffering occurring daily as a consequence
    of that violence and the long term effects of family violence on the
    wellbeing of Aboriginal communities. [72]

    The strategy acknowledges that the success
    of any proposed solutions to family violence is hinged upon Aboriginal
    community control of responses to family violence.

    In December 2001 and March 2002 the NSW
    Department of Aboriginal Affairs co-hosted two roundtable meetings which
    brought together a number of Aboriginal community workers from across
    the State and relevant government agencies to discuss appropriate ways
    toward addressing Family Violence. A committee has been established to
    manage the implementation of the roundtable actions.

    Northern Territory

    The Northern Territory government has
    committed to the development of Aboriginal Law and Justice Strategies
    in communities across the Territory. These aim to provide a whole-of-community
    and whole-of-government approach to addressing community justice issues
    within a law and justice planning process. This approach was originally
    implemented at Ali-Curung in 1996 and in Lajamanu in 1999 and emerged
    from initiatives of these communities. Representatives from both communities
    are engaged in peer modelling with the Yuendumu community.

    The Tangentyere Night Patrol and Social
    Behaviour Project (Central Australia) has become a best practice example
    of community solutions for addressing substance abuse, public order issues
    and family violence in Indigenous communities. Funding for night patrols
    is now available from a mixture of Commonwealth and State agencies.


    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Women's Task Force on Violence (the Robertson report), established in
    December 1998 at the instigation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    women, finalized its report in December 1999. The report made 123 recommendations
    regarding actions required by the government to address family violence
    in Indigenous communities. [73]

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Advisory Board (ATSIAB), formed in 1999 to advise the Queensland Government
    on Indigenous matters, was responsible for monitoring Queensland Government
    responses to the Robertson report. Part of the response was to include
    an audit of what the Queensland Government is currently doing to address
    issues associated with family violence.

    Family violence was identified as one of
    eight key priority areas under the Queensland government's Ten Year
    with Indigenous peoples, which aims to reduce the incidence
    of family violence in Indigenous communities over the next decade. It
    was also a significant focus of the Cape York Justice Study into
    alcohol and violence in Cape York.

    In April 2002, the Queensland Government
    introduced a new whole-of-government policy called Meeting Challenges,
    Making Choices
    (MCMC) which is designed to address the alcohol
    and violence issues in Indigenous communities, such as those highlighted
    in the Cape York Justice Study. [74]

    MCMC focuses on the key areas of
    alcohol intervention, economic development, healthier people, education
    and training and land and sustainable natural resource management. MCMC is hinged upon the premise that alcohol and violence are inextricably
    linked. Therefore, within this framework, strategies to combat violence
    in communities, concentrate on alcohol abuse intervention.

    South Australia

    The state vision for domestic and family
    violence prevention is set out in the State Collaborative Approach for
    the Prevention of Domestic Violence. Preventing domestic and Indigenous
    family violence has been identified as an area of core business of the
    Justice Portfolio planning documents, Strategic Directions and Priorities
    for Action
    . Prevention of domestic and Indigenous family violence
    has also been identified as a key result area for the Crime Prevention
    Unit in its Strategic Plan 2001-2004.


    An Indigenous Family Violence Task
    Force has been appointed to lead the Victorian Indigenous Family Violence
    , which aims to resource and support an Indigenous-led
    approach to prevent, reduce and respond to violence in Victorian Indigenous
    communities. The key components of the strategy are:

    • establishment and operation of the task Force;
    • establishment and resourcing of nine Indigenous family
      Violence Action Groups;
    • employment of a state-coordinator and nine family violence
      support officers; and
    • establishment of an Indigenous Family Violence Community
      Initiative Fund. [75]

    This Indigenous community-led approach is
    endorsed by the Victorian Government and is part of a parallel and complementary
    whole-of-government approach.

    The successful implementation of the strategy
    requires maintenance of a partnership between the Indigenous community
    and the Government through the establishment of appropriate structures
    to oversight implementation and to monitor progress. The Victorian Aboriginal
    Justice Agreement, which formalised arrangements under the Aboriginal
    Justice Plan, is a likely model.

    Western Australia

    In December 2002, the Western Australian
    government tabled in Parliament - Putting People First - the Government's
    implementation plan in response to the findings of the Western Australian
    government's Inquiry into Response by Government Agencies to Complaints
    of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities (the Gordon

    The Gordon Inquiry was established as a
    direct result of a coronial inquest into the death of a 15 year-old Aboriginal
    girl in the Swan Valley, Western Australia. The coronial inquest found
    that the deceased girl had experienced sexual abuse, violence and drug
    and alcohol misuse, which led to her death despite government department
    intervention. [76] One of the aims of the
    inquiry was to examine how government departments could better deal with
    family violence and child abuse in Indigenous communities.

    The Gordon Inquiry made 193 recommendations
    in relation to the prevention of violence, service delivery and development,
    alternative models for service delivery, best practice principles for
    addressing family violence as well as recommendations regarding the implementation
    of the report's findings. [77]

    In June 2003, the WA government released
    its first progress report on implementation of Putting People First.
    This identified a range of specific priority initiatives which are designed
    to strengthen responses to child abuse and family violence; responses
    to vulnerable children and adults at risk; the safety of communities;
    and the governance, confidence, economic capacity and sustainability of
    communities. [78]

    The Western Australian government has committed
    $75 million to implementing initiatives to address family violence. Examples
    of the specific priority initiatives include:

    • Establishing an independent Child Death Review Committee;
    • Employing 25 additional Child Protection workers;
    • Developing culturally appropriate counselling services;
    • Funding community-based initiatives to strengthen families
      and communities;
    • Provision of remote policing services and multi-function
    • Recruiting domestic violence liaison officers within
      the police service;
    • Expanding Victim Support and Child Witness Services;
    • Extending community based offender programs;
    • Expanding Sexual Assault Resource Centre services; and
    • Developing the Community Futures Foundation to provide
      financial assistance to support creative initiatives to develop Aboriginal
      leadership. [79]

    To date 15 out of the 25 new child protection
    workers, 8 of whom are Indigenous, have been employed as part of the government's
    commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Gordon inquiry. [80] Additionally, the government contributed
    $26,000 towards the development of a brochure which uses Aboriginal artwork
    to highlight the issue of family violence [81] and an educational video aimed at sending the message 'babies break if
    you shake them' to Indigenous parents which was launched in September
    2003. [82]

    Australian Capital Territory

    In response to MCATSIA's request for States
    and Territories to assess their respective models for addressing family
    violence, the ACT government commissioned the Report on the Extent
    of Family Violence in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities
    in the ACT
    , which was completed in August 2001.

    This report made 23 recommendations regarding
    the issues of funding, legal issues, men's programs, government agencies,
    training, housing and accommodation, community development and data collection
    with respect to family violence. The overall thrust of this report emphasised
    the importance of holistic approaches to addressing family violence which
    are determined by the community and supported by the government. Of these
    recommendations, the government supported 15, seven were given in principle
    support and one recommendation was not supported. Specifically, the government
    acknowledges the importance of working in partnership with the Indigenous
    community to address family violence in the ACT. [83]

    During 2001-2003, in response to the supported
    recommendations, a number of activities to address family violence have
    been undertaken by a range of ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    service providers. These activities include a Boys to Men program, run
    by Gugan Gulwan Aboriginal Corporation, which deals with the impact of
    family violence on young Indigenous boys as well as a series of young
    women's, parenting and gambling programs, discussion groups and the development
    of young women's hostel and policy statement against family violence by
    the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.


    Recent developments in Tasmania were discussed
    above in relation to the COAG whole-of-government community trial.

    Improving the programmatic responses to family violence
    in Indigenous communities - Future challenges

    The range of recent initiatives identified
    in the previous section of this chapter reflects an increasing level of
    attention to addressing family violence in Indigenous communities at all
    levels of government. Despite this, there remain a number of challenges
    to be addressed to ensure that adequate and appropriate attention is paid
    to addressing family violence. The remainder of this chapter identifies
    concerns with the existing programmatic response of governments to family
    violence issues, and also identifies approaches which could be furthered
    to respond to family violence in an holistic, coordinated way.

    Promoting greater coordination and an holistic approach
    to family violence programs

    There are a patchwork of programs and approaches
    to addressing family violence in Indigenous communities among federal,
    state and territory governments. There remains a lack of coordination
    and consistency in approaches to addressing these issues between governments
    and among different government agencies. Significant gaps also exist.

    Existing family violence programs that are
    available to Indigenous peoples are limited in number, ad hoc and
    often of limited duration. Due to the inter-connections between family
    violence and other issues faced by Indigenous peoples, work being done
    at a grass roots level may also be overlooked and programs may not necessarily
    be identified or identify themselves as violence prevention programs.
    Proposed programs may also have difficulty obtaining funding, on either
    a pilot or ongoing basis, due to the overlap in jurisdictional and departmental

    In Violence in Indigenous Communities,
    Memmott, Stacy, Chambers and Keys identified 130 Indigenous family violence
    programs that had been implemented or were planned for implementation
    in Indigenous communities, in the 1990s. [84] They
    categorised these programs into the following broad areas of intervention:

    • Support programs - including one-on-one
      counselling and advice services, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
      Legal Aid Services and strategic advice for actual or potential victims
      to prevent or avoid violence, including referrals to other programs
      and centres. [85] Issues relating to
      the provision of legal advice and access to justice for Indigenous
      women relating to family violence are discussed in more detail shortly.

    Accessible and appropriate counselling
    is essential, not only for the victims and perpetrators of violence,
    but also for family and community members who not only deal with the
    issue of violence itself but to also provide post-violence counselling
    to family members who have lost someone as a result of violence, suicide,
    and more particularly for issues of female and male rape and child sexual

    • Identity programs - Identity programs are
      those that are aimed to develop within the individual, family or community,
      a secure sense of self-value or self-esteem. [86] This can be achieved through diversionary programs such as,
      sporting, social and cultural activities, education and skills training
      aimed at youth and young adults and also through therapy based programs
      that focus on culturally specific psychological or spiritual healing.
      Examples of this approach include the Muramali project as well as
      the Social and Emotional Well Being Centres being established in the
      Northern Territory. All these programs may be accessed prior to, and
      after involvement with violence, and offer a longer-term response
      through attempting to change the situational factors underlying violence.
    • Behavioural change (men and women's groups) - as the majority of family violence is perpetrated by men, strong
      support for men's behavioural reform programs is required. These programs
      are described as Men's Healing Programs.[87] The Ending Domestic Violence Programs for Perpetrators study, undertaken
      by Keys Young, found that collaborative projects must be adopted that
      link Indigenous people and agencies with domestic violence services,
      to develop services appropriate to the community.[88] It is also important that complementary groups and support services
      for Indigenous women be run parallel to men's programs and complementary
      preventative/intervention programs for youth be an integral part of
      the whole strategy. An example of this is the Rekindling the Spirit Program in Northern New South Wales which works with men, their
      partners, youth and children.[89]
    • Night patrols - which have the potential
      to build cooperation and mutual respect and support with local police.[90] As reported by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the
      Tangentyere Night Patrol (TNP) in the Northern Territory is a best
      practice example of a properly managed program that builds on the
      cooperation and mutual respect of local police. [91] TNP patrolled the Aboriginal town camps on a regular basis to help
      minimise violence using non-violent methods. TNP uses and strengthens
      Aboriginal mechanisms for social control, thereby ensuring that traditional
      methods are afforded a key role in the control of anti-social behaviour,
      minor criminal infractions and potentially serious criminal incidents
      in the Aboriginal community;
    • Refuges and Shelters - while an important
      part of any family violence intervention strategy, are not a sufficient
      response to the difficulties produced by high levels of violence in
      Indigenous communities.[92] They represent
      a reactive strategy in addressing the underlying causes, thereby creating
      no possibility of a change in the pattern of violent behaviour. Refuges
      and women's shelters need to be coupled with other proactive strategies
      targeted at the perpetrators of violence and other situational factors.
      Indigenous specific shelters are essential. At the very least, Indigenous
      workers at shelters are vital.
    • Justice programs - the roles of justice
      programs, which are characteristically aimed at the perpetrators of
      violence, are to mediate between people in conflict, designate appropriately
      cultural punishments for victims, for example through circle sentencing
      and the prevention of recidivism.[93]

    The NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council
    and the NSW Judicial Commission have recently released a joint report Circle Sentencing in New South Wales a Review and Evaluation.
    The report reviewed the first twelve months of the operation of circle
    sentencing in Nowra in South East New South Wales. The report found
    among other things that circle sentencing helps to break the cycle of
    recidivism, introduces more relevant and meaningful sentencing options
    for Aboriginal offenders with the help of respected community members,
    reduces the barriers that currently exist between the courts and Aboriginal
    people, leads to improvements in the level of support for Aboriginal
    offenders, incorporates support for victims, and promotes healing and
    reconciliation and increases the confidence and generally promotes the
    empowerment of Aboriginal people in the community.[94]

    • Dispute resolution - Anecdotal evidence
      suggests that flexibility within NSW Community Justice Centres, although
      not aimed at Aboriginal people specifically, has proven to be successful
      in certain Indigenous communities in NSW.[95] Specifically, success has been achieved where impartial members
      of the Indigenous community are used as facilitators and traditional
      dispute-resolution techniques are incorporated into the overall mediation
    • Education and awareness raising - Education
      and training programs are vital to raise awareness about family violence
      prevention; as well as develop the skills within communities to resolve
      conflicts and identify the need for interventions with perpetrators.[96] The National Indigenous Legal Advocacy Courses, which are aimed at
      Indigenous peoples working in justice related fields including legal
      services and on community justice mechanisms, include competencies
      addressing awareness of family violence and conflict resolution.[97]

    Gnibi, the College of Indigenous Australian
    Peoples at the Southern Cross University, has also developed undergraduate
    and postgraduate degrees that are specifically designed to address the
    educational needs of Indigenous Australians from an Indigenous theory
    and educational practice dealing with issues of violence, trauma and

    Violence in Indigenous Communities reported that there were no educational programs targeted at young children
    for use in Indigenous pre-schools and schools. With the knowledge we
    now have about the detrimental effects of violence on children, or witnessed
    by children and the generational cycles by which violence is transmitted,
    it is essential to provide violence prevention education programs within
    pre-schools and schools. The Masters in Indigenous Studies (Wellbeing)
    program [99] at Southern Cross University
    has developed formal units of study for adults providing such services
    to children, however these have not yet been evaluated.

    • Holistic composite programs - Programs which
      are comprised of elements of the above categories. These operate to
      target different forms of violence in the community, target different
      categories of offenders or victims, or employ different methods of
      combating or preventing violence.[100]

    There is also increasing recognition of
    the links between family violence and substance abuse, particularly alcohol.
    A number of recent initiatives, particularly in Queensland, have focused
    on restricting the availability of alcohol and introducing changes to
    canteen management to promote reduced alcohol consumption.

    These programs function at different stages.
    Some are implemented during or immediately after the occurrence of a violent
    incident (early reactive programs); some are implemented some time after
    the incident and are aimed at resolving the negative impact of the violence
    (late reactive programs); some aim to counter any likelihood of violence
    at an early stage (early proactive strategies); and others are implemented
    prior to violence occurring but triggered by signs that violence may be
    imminent (late proactive strategies).[101] This additional form of classification of programs highlights the need
    for a holistic composite set of programs to be made available for communities
    to address the various dimensions of family violence.

    Overall, Memmott observes in relation to
    existing programs and approaches that:

    The classification and review of violence
    programs indicated that there is a scarcity or under-representation
    of programs in certain key areas of violence, and that there is clearly
    a need to focus support resources into developing such programs for
    wider application.

    A number of omissions in the available
    literature on Indigenous violence and violence programs were detected,
    including (i) a failure of program designers to clearly define the forms
    of violence they were targeting, (ii) a lack of program evaluation studies,
    and (iii) a lack of objective studies on the nature of program failures.
    The review of violence programs was also accompanied by a general finding
    that there was a general lack of programs in many Indigenous communities. [102]

    Memmott also states that a review of existing
    programs and approaches reveals three recurring strategic aspects that
    need to be present to address family violence in Indigenous communities,
    namely that programs be community-driven; that community agencies establish
    partnerships with each other and with relevant government agencies; and
    that composite violence programs are able to provide a more holistic approach
    to community violence. [103]

    The report notes the importance of programs
    that adopt an holistic or broad approach to violence. These:

    often do not focus directly on any particular
    kind of violent behaviour, rather their efforts are aimed at either
    preventing at-risk people from falling prey to their vulnerability,
    or they attempt to heal the emotional and spiritual injury that is causing
    them to behave violently. Therefore, while the possibility of self-harming
    behaviour is reduced, rates of other forms of violence such as physical
    assault leading to homicide, spousal assault, rape and sexual assault
    and child violence might also be influenced ... [104]

    The implementation of composite programs,
    particularly in communities displaying multiple forms of increasing
    violence, is shown to be an emerging and preferred approach that reflects
    a more systematic way of combating violence, combining both proactive
    and reactive methods which target different age and gender groups. [105]

    The report notes that a sensitive aspect
    of governments introducing services is how to best trigger such programs
    in communities where they are obviously needed while at the same time
    creating a climate whereby the programs are community-originating, motivated
    and controlled. Memmott recommends 'that government agencies take a regional
    approach to supporting and coordinating local community initiatives, and
    assisting communities to prepare community action plans with respect to
    violence' . [106]

    This approach is consistent with the approach
    adopted in ATSIC's Family Violence Action Plan. The Plan, as previously
    outlined in this chapter, recognises the critical need to adopt an holistic
    approach to the problem of family violence and identifies the crucial
    importance of engagement with Commonwealth and State government agencies
    and communities to work in partnership on family violence strategies,
    as well as supporting and strengthening the capacity of ATSIC Regional
    Councils to develop, implement and monitor family violence action plans.

    Ensuring access to justice for Indigenous women

    A matter of great concern in relation to
    current debates about addressing family violence in Indigenous communities
    is the lack of attention paid to issues of access to justice for Indigenous

    In their recent submission to the Senate
    Legal and Constitutional References Committee inquiry into legal aid and
    access to justice, ATSIC note that 'Indigenous women have been identified
    as the most legally disadvantaged group in Australia' .[107] A matter of particular concern is the limited ability of ATSIC/ATSIS,
    through its funding role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal
    Services (ATSILS) to provide access to justice for Indigenous women through
    legal representation and family violence services.

    ATSIS note that:

    ATSILS are required to prioritise provision
    of services in accordance with ATSIS' National Program Policy Framework
    for ATSILS ("The ATSILS Policy Framework") affording priority assistance
    to those clients who potentially face custodial sentences. Accordingly,
    in face of sheer demand for assistance, ATSILS predominantly provide
    legal aid services for criminal matters (89% of case and duty matters
    in 2001-02; compared with only 2% family matters and 2% violence protection
    matters). [108]

    This trend has, ATSIS state, 'discouraged
    Indigenous women from approaching ATSILS for assistance initially, particularly
    given the likelihood of ATSILS defending the perpetrator'. They note:

    The problem has often been attributed
    to the "first-in, first-serve" nature of ATSILS work. The lack of alternative
    service providers in many of the jurisdictions in which ATSILS operate
    means that even if the victim sought ATSILS assistance first, if refused,
    they at least have the option of seeking police assistance. However
    were the ATSILS to turn away the perpetrator, he would have nowhere
    else to seek representation. ATSIS acknowledges that wherever possible
    LACs have attempted to represent indigenous women in cases of conflict
    where the partner is represented by the ATSILS. However it remains that
    in many instances the victim lacks any legal advice beyond that provided
    by the police. [109]

    Indigenous women are further disadvantaged
    in the justice process by the Courts' (particularly the Bush Court)
    inadequate approach to dealing with domestic violence and violence against
    women. The need for expeditious process in domestic violence assault
    charges and restraining order applications, particularly concerning
    the victim's safety, is compromised due to the handling of such matters
    by inexperienced community police officers. Frequently a case may reach
    its fifth adjournment (five months after the original hearing date at
    most Bush Courts) without a plea still having been entered. It is a
    very challenging demand that inexperienced police officers are required
    to provide what is in effect, legal aid assistance. [110]

    The effect of delayed access to justice
    for Indigenous women is even more severe given the cultural inhibitions
    in their own communities such as beliefs in the sanctity of kinship
    and fear of community retribution. If they overcome this threat and
    seek representation, only to be met with refusal by the under-resourced
    ATSILS the lesson can be devastating. These considerations have often
    led to reluctance in seeking legal advice by many women. [111]

    As noted above, ATSIC have introduced the
    Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Program (FVPLS) as a response
    to Indigenous women's lack of access to Legal Aid services. However with
    only 13 services across Australia, they do not provide coverage to all
    regions. ATSIS notes that 'This relatively small and under-resourced program
    is unable to address the barriers Indigenous women face in accessing Indigenous
    Legal Aid services, nor to provide the range of legal services available
    through ATSILS'. [112] They express concern

    There is an urgently growing demand for
    ATSILS to provide child protection, civil and family related, (including
    family violence) services. However, providing these services as well
    as continuing assistance in criminal matters will require additional
    resources or, alternatively a change in the priorities set for provision
    of legal aid services. If priorities are reset then this will simply
    postpone unmet demand that will be unlikely to be satisfied through
    referrals and alternative services. [113]

    ATSIC/ATSIS note further that while they and the ATSILS
    that it funds are committed to stamping out family violence, the prioritising
    of scarce resources to criminal matters means that
    'in practice, victims are not assisted while those responsible, are'.
    Accordingly, constraints of existing resources for legal support limits
    the capacity of ATSIC/ATSIS 'to give its own policies concrete substance.
    This contradiction will be overcome only through additional resourcing
    of ATSILS and Indigenous women specific legal service providers'. [114]

    ATSIC's submission to the Department of
    Finance and Administration Pricing Review in 2001 found a $12 million
    annual funding shortfall of ATSILS compared to Legal Aid Commission benchmarks.
    An Office of Evaluation and Audit (OEA) evaluation in 2003, reported the
    following findings in relation to the performance of ATSILS:

    • ATSILS are providing legal services at a cost that is
      significantly lower than that paid by mainstream LACs for legal work
      undertaken on a referral basis by private practitioners, and that it
      is achieved at a level of client satisfaction no different from that
      reported by LAC clients;
    • The national shortfall in ATSIC funding to ATSILS, if
      their outputs are costed at the same level as LAC-paid legal work, is
    • There is low morale and high staff turnover among ATSILS
      practitioners; and
    • Evidence suggests that ATSILS clients are more likely
      to plead guilty than mainstream offenders. [115]

    In the context of the increased focus on
    family violence in recent years coupled with the lack of progress in reducing
    the over-representation of Indigenous people in custody in general, it
    is a matter of great concern that there is not a greater emphasis on the
    legal needs of Indigenous women.

    There is an urgent need to ensure appropriate
    funding levels for ATSILS in order to provide a greater focus on the legal
    needs of Indigenous women as well as a greater focus on preventative action
    and community education. At the very least, there is also an urgent need
    for the federal government to allocate additional, quarantined, funding
    to expand the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Program. Such funding
    needs to be new money as there is clearly no capacity for ATSIS/ATSIC,
    through its support for ATSILS, to re-allocate existing resources.

    Community justice responses to family violence

    The criminal justice system is extremely
    poor at dealing with the underlying causes of criminal behaviour and makes
    a negligible contribution to addressing the consequences of crime in the
    community. One of the consequences of this, and a vital factor that is
    often overlooked, is that Indigenous victims of crime and communities
    are poorly served by the current system.

    Accordingly, the current system disadvantages
    Indigenous people from both ends - it has a deleterious effect on Indigenous
    communities through over-representation of Indigenous people in custody
    combined with the lack of attention it gives to the high rate of Indigenous
    victimisation, particularly through violence and abuse in communities.
    Reform to criminal justice processes, including through community justice
    initiatives, must be responsive to these factors.

    The past decade has seen an increased emphasis
    on restorative justice mechanisms for addressing criminal behaviour in
    Indigenous communities to address the needs of victims (including of family
    violence) as well as to make the system more meaningful to offenders.

    The most accepted definition of restorative
    justice is that of Tony Marshall which states that it is 'a process whereby
    all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to
    resolve collectively how to deal with the aftermath of the offence and
    its implications for the future'.[116] The
    Law Commission of Canada provides a useful commentary on restorative justice

    fundamentally concerned with restoring
    social relationships, with establishing or re-establishing social equality
    in relationships. That is, relationships in which each person's rights
    to equal dignity, concern and respect are satisfied ... As it is concerned
    with social equality, restorative justice inherently demands that one
    attend to the nature of relationships between individuals, groups and
    communities. Thus, in order to achieve restoration of relationships,
    restorative justice must be concerned with both the discrete wrong and
    its relevant context and causes. [117]

    This does not necessarily seek to return
    a relationship to the position prior to the commission of some wrongdoing,
    but instead to address the underlying issues. Restorative justice can
    thus incorporate concepts of restitution and healing, while focusing on
    the transformation of relationships.

    There are numerous new initiatives in Australia
    developing community based justice mechanisms for Indigenous people which
    are based on restorative justice principles. Some of these processes,
    such as Law and Justice Committees in the Northern Territory and Community
    Justice Groups in Queensland incorporate an holistic response to family
    violence into strategies for addressing offending in communities.

    • Community Justice Groups in Queensland

    The Community Justice Group project was
    started in Kowanyama, Hopevale and Palm Island in 1993 as a pilot project
    of the Queensland Corrective Services Commission. The Community Justice
    Group model aims to provide Aboriginal people with a mechanism for dealing
    with problems of justice and social control which is consistent with
    Aboriginal Law and cultural practices as well as utilising aspects of
    the Anglo-Australian legal system. The justice groups have no statutory
    authority. The source of authority for the group is based on the collective
    and personal authority of group members deriving from the place of individuals
    within kinship systems and the personal respect they are accorded by
    others. Ultimately the group's authority lies in Aboriginal Law and
    cultural practices.

    The Community Justice Groups use traditional
    structures and cultural principles to develop and apply their own system
    of justice and social control. They seek to restore social order by
    curbing anti-social behaviour and by creating a more positive and supportive
    environment. Group actions that they handle within the existing legal
    framework include family-related dispute settlement, crime prevention
    and community development projects, co-ordination with government and
    community agencies and providing information and advice to the judiciary,
    Community Corrections Boards and other government decision making bodies.

    Perceived positive outcomes for the model
    to date include: decline in crime rate and in the level of violence;
    an effective community corrections program at Palm Island that has kept
    people from appearing before court and from possible incarceration;
    dramatic decrease in juvenile crime at Kowanyama; changes in social
    patterns; more effective government service delivery, leading to savings
    in time and money for government and community agencies, courts, law
    enforcement agencies and correctional centres.

    Perceived negative outcomes for the model
    include: harsh punishments; potential drain on the community's resources;
    acting without statutory authority; and a lack of indemnity for justice
    group members.

    The Community Justice Panel (CJP) now
    works with clan groups on Cape York. The CJP model is an evolutionary
    process, with options at each stage to be trialled before the justice
    groups go on to the next stage.

    The CJP model is supplemented by monthly
    programs run by the Department of Corrections and the Department of
    Family and Community Services in substance abuse and anger management.
    There are also women's shelters in all communities. Greater support
    is needed however for people on the alcohol management program in terms
    of counseling and support. Without better infrastructure, such programs
    will fail over the long-term.

    • The Kurduju Committee Law and Justice Strategy

    The Aboriginal Law and Justice Strategy
    of the Northern Territory seeks to provide a whole-of-community and
    whole-of-government approach to addressing community justice issues
    within a law and justice planning process. It was originally implemented
    at Ali-Curung in 1996 and in Lajamanu in 1999. Both these communities
    now have their own law and justice plans and are engaged in peer modeling
    with Yuendumu community.

    In each community a law and justice committee
    has been established. These committees have a wide range of responsibilities
    and comprise key community representatives from the Tribal Council,
    Community Elders, Safe House Committee, women's group, traditional owners,
    outstation representatives and other community organisations. Representatives
    from the Ali-Curung, Lajamanu and Yuendumu communities also sit on the
    Kurduju Committee, which provides an opportunity for information-sharing
    and peer modeling, and also to address a perceived deficit in policy
    and program knowledge, and expertise in regard to remote communities.

    The aim of the law and justice plans was
    'to facilitate the empowerment of the local community to assume a greater
    role in law and justice, and to address law and justice concerns through
    local dispute resolution where practical.' There was a perceived need
    for low-level intervention by Aboriginal communities in early crime
    prevention and more productive participation in the justice system.

    At Ali-Curung, Lajamanu and Yuendumu,
    individuals and community organisations had largely lost their capacity
    to resolve their own law and justice issues through the introduction
    and consequential reliance on external dispute resolution. Subsequently,
    the Law and Justice Strategy sought to incorporate Aboriginal dispute
    resolution principles into community law and justice processes. This
    was not a straightforward revival of customary law but an innovative
    adaptation of traditional decision making in a contemporary situation
    through the merging of mainstream community based dispute resolution
    with mainstream law and justice. The process is negotiated and agreed
    to between community organisations and government agencies.

    The Ali-Curung and Lajamanu law and justice
    committees are involved in diversionary programs, pre-court conferencing,
    victim offender conferencing, community service orders, and the operation
    of night patrols and safe houses. Ali-Curung, Lajamanu and Yuendumu
    have adopted an approach to family violence that involves local dispute
    resolution and healing methodology.

    As in the case of the community justice
    panels in Queensland, the experience of the Law and Justice Strategy
    to date indicates that any initiatives seeking to formalise an interface
    between aspects of customary law and the western legal system should
    be organic, evolutionary and holistic. In order to be effective, any
    community justice initiatives will also involve a considerable investment
    in community consultation, participation and education: the emphasis
    should be on devolving power to the communities. A one-size-fits-all
    approach or the top-down application of a preconceived model is unlikely
    to yield long-term results and could even be counterproductive in resolving
    law and justice issues.

    The last two years has also seen the development
    of community justice mechanisms for involvement of Indigenous peoples
    in sentencing. Examples include the Ngunga Court and Ngunga Youth Court
    in South Australia; the Murri Court in Queensland; the Koori Court in
    Victoria and circle sentencing in New South Wales.[118] Generally, these processes seek to incorporate an Aboriginal traditional
    customary law approach to the sentencing of Aboriginal offenders within
    the framework of existing legislation. While there are variations between
    the various models, they all involve Aboriginal Elders sitting alongside
    the magistrate to advise on sentencing options, with members of the offender's
    family, the victim, the victim's family and other interested community
    members participating in the sentencing process.

    These processes have been extremely successful
    in their initial years. Currently, however, they are limited to dealing
    with particular non-violent offences. Accordingly, offences relating to
    violence and sexual offences cannot be addressed within these sentencing

    In a discussion paper titled Holistic
    community justice,
    the NSW Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council proposes
    that restorative justice approaches such as these sentencing options should be available for dealing with family violence.

    Specifically, they have proposed the establishment
    of localised community controlled justice and healing centres combined
    with alternative sentencing processes for offenders which seek to establish
    formal links with local Aboriginal communities.[119] In this approach, community justice and healing centres would be
    established as a single point of contact for victims of family violence.
    They would assess their needs (such as emergency accommodation, financial
    assistance, health care, counselling or healing) and negotiate with appropriate
    service delivery agencies on their behalf. Should the victim wish to pursue
    their matter through the criminal justice system, the centre would also
    provide assistance with this. The centre would also be community controlled,
    and actively engage the local Aboriginal community with the consequence
    that it could assist the victim and provide 'a direct community sanction
    on the offender's behaviour and demonstrate the community's intolerance
    of family violence'.[120] Alternative
    sentencing processes, such as circle sentencing, would also be available
    'to ensure that the causes and consequences of the offence are dealt with

    AJAC argues that this approach:

    Provides an alternative model to address
    the serious matter of family violence in Aboriginal communities. The
    urgency of actually making an on the ground impact where communities
    can actually be involved directly in programs ensures a level of community
    re-empowerment. This approach also exposes family violence as an unacceptable
    crime in Aboriginal communities, but to actively ensure a service for
    victims whilst offenders take responsibility and deal with the underlying
    causes of their offending behaviours.

    It is argued that long term effects will
    be an overall reduction of family violence, and that communities can
    be positioned to actively heal the wounds of family violence according
    to their unique and local needs. [122]

    There are similarities in this proposal
    with the Northern Territory Law and Justice Committee and Queensland Community
    Justice Group approaches, as well as similarities with the roles of services
    established under ATSIC's Family Violence Prevention Legal Service Program.
    It also provides what the Memmott report, as discussed earlier, identified
    as an holistic composite set of programs for addressing family violence.

    It also has similarities to Canadian models
    for addressing sex offending by Indigenous people. The Canadian approach
    emphasises the need for restorative justice, community-based initiatives
    beyond the justice system such as victim-offender mediation, family group
    conferencing, sentencing circles and formal cautioning. It also highlights
    the gaps that exist in addressing Aboriginal sex offender needs and the
    need for Aboriginal control of appropriately cultural services. The report Aboriginal Sexual Offending in Canada identifies four areas where
    action is necessary to address Aboriginal sexual offending: community
    development; program development; research and human resources.[123] The effectiveness of this model and whether aspects could be transferred
    to the Australian context, particularly in regard to community capacity-building
    and service coordination, is an avenue for further investigation.

    These models and proposals suggest that
    the full potential of community justice mechanisms for addressing family
    violence has not been explored sufficiently, and may provide an appropriate
    way forward for addressing some aspects of need.


    This chapter has identified a range of commitments
    and recent initiatives by all governments to address its impact. These
    commitments are welcome and long overdue. As yet, they are not sufficiently
    wide-ranging in their scope or effectively funded. There are also significant
    gaps in service provision, including through a general paucity of programs
    and lack of legal assistance to Indigenous women in many areas. As a consequence,
    there remains a need for ongoing, continuous support for innovative, community
    led solutions to address family violence and the adoption of an holistic,
    coordinated approach by governments. ATSIC's Family Violence Plan provides
    a platform for improving this situation, with the development of regionally
    targeted programs and action plans. The escalating and debilitating affects
    of family violence on Indigenous people and communities requires urgent

    1. Atkinson, C, Atkinson, J, and
    Students of Gnibi - the College of Indigenous Australian Peoples, Southern
    Cross University, Review of Programs and Policies Addressing Family
    Violence in Indigenous Communities - Final Report
    , Unpublished paper
    prepared for the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 2003.
    (Herein referred to as Atkinson, C, and Atkinson, J, Review of Programs
    and Policies Addressing Family Violence in Indigenous Communities).

    2. I also, of course, accept full responsibility
    for the contents of this chapter and its accuracy.

    3. Atkinson, J, Foreword in
    Atkinson, C, and Atkinson, J, Review of Programs and Policies Addressing
    Family Violence in Indigenous Communities
    , p5.

    4. Dodson, M, Violence Dysfunction
    , Speech, National Press Club, 11 June 2003, p2.

    5. Bennett, B, 'Domestic Violence',
    (1997) 21(4) Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal 11,

    6. Mow, K E, Tjunparni: Family Violence
    In Indigenous Australia
    , Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission,
    1992, p10.

    7. Atkinson, J, Beyond Violence:
    Finding the Dream
    , National Domestic Violence Education Program, Office
    for the Status of Women, Canberra, 1990, p7.

    8. Simpson, M A, 'Bitter Waters: Effects
    on Children of the Stresses of Unrest and Oppression', International
    Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndromes
    , Eds Wilson J P, & Raphael,
    B, Plenum Press, New York, 1993, p603.

    9. Atkinson, C, and Atkinson, J, Review
    of Programs and Policies Addressing Family Violence in Indigenous Communities

    10. Blagg, H, Crisis Intervention
    in Aboriginal Family Violence: Summary Report,
    Partnerships Against
    Domestic Violence, Canberra, 2000, pp2-3.

    11. Judy Atkinson quoted in Atkinson,
    C, and Atkinson, J, Review of Programs and Policies Addressing Family
    Violence in Indigenous Communities
    , p11.

    12. ibid, p12.

    13. Bennett, B, 'Domestic Violence', Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal, 1997, p14.

    14. Blagg, H, Crisis intervention
    in Aboriginal family violence - Summary report
    , Office for the Status
    of Women, Canberra 2000, quoted in Northern Territory Law Reform Committee, Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal law in the Northern Territory Background Paper 1 - Inquiry into Aboriginal Customary Law, NTLRC Darwin
    2003, p18.

    15. Blagg, H, Intervening with
    adolescents to prevent domestic violence: phase 2 the Indigenous rural
    , National Crime Prevention, Canberra 1998.

    16. Atkinson, C, and Atkinson, J, Review of Programs and Policies Addressing Family Violence in Indigenous
    , p14.

    17. ibid.

    18. ibid, p17.

    19. For further discussion see Royal
    Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, National Report ,
    AGPS, 1991; Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, Report of
    the National Inquiry into Racist Violence in Australia,
    AGPS, 1991;
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner, Indigenous
    Deaths in Custody 1989 to 1996
    , A report prepared for Aboriginal and
    Torres Strait Islander Commission, October 1996.

    20. For further details see NSW Department
    for Women, Heroines of Fortitude - Experiences of women in court as
    victims of sexual assault
    , 1996.

    21. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C & Keys, C, Violence in Indigenous Communitie -, Full Report,
    Commonwealth Attorney General's Department, Canberra, 2001.

    22. For an overview of statistics
    in the late 1980's and early 1990s see: Atkinson, C, and Atkinson, J,
    Review of Programs and Policies Addressing Family Violence in Indigenous
    Communities, pp27-31. See, for example: National Committee on Violence,
    Violence: Directions for Australia, Australian Institute of Criminology
    Canberra 1990, Family Violence Professional Education Taskforce, Family
    violence: Everybody's business somebody's life, Federation Press Sydney
    1991; and Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force, Beyond these walls,
    Department of Family Services and Welfare Housing, Brisbane 1988.

    23. Steering Committee for the Review
    of Government Service Provision, Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage -
    Key indicators 2003, Productivity Commission, Melbourne 2003, pp 3.44-3.57.

    24. Steering Committee for the Review
    of Government Service Provision, Overcoming indigenous disadvantage -
    Key indicators 2003, Productivity Commission, Melbourne 2003, pp3.51-3.53

    25. Mouzos, J, 'Indigenous and non-Indigenous
    homicides in Australia: A comparative analysis', Trends and Issues in
    Crime and Criminal Justice, no2, Australian Institute of Criminology,
    Canberra, 2001, pp1-6

    26. Atkinson, J, 'Making Sense of
    the Senseless Feeling Bad, Being Mad, Getting Charged Up!, Having it Both
    Ways: Dual Diagnosis, Alcohol, Drugs and Mental Illness ,Conference Proceedings,
    Melbourne University, 1998, p5.

    27. Queensland Domestic Violence Task
    Force, ibid, pp198-256 as cited in Robertson, B, Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Women's Task Force on Violence Report, Queensland Department
    of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy, Brisbane 1999, p97.

    28. Barber, J, Punt, J and Albers,
    J, 'Alcohol and Power on Palm Island', (1988) 23(2) Australian Journal
    of Social Issues 87 as cited in Robertson, B. ibid, p97.

    29. Miller, B, 'Crime Prevention
    and Socio-legal Reform on Aboriginal Communities in Queensland', in McKillop,
    S and Vernon, J, (eds.), The Police and the Community: Conference Proceedings,
    Monograph 5, Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra 1989, as cited
    in Robertson, B, ibid, pp97-98.

    30. National Injury Surveillance Unit,
    Study of Inquiry in Five Cape York Communities, Australian Institute of
    Health and Welfare and Queensland Health, Brisbane 1997, pp43-45, as cited
    in Robertson, B, ibid, p98.

    31. Department of Public Prosecutions
    Queensland (DPP), Indigenous Women and the Criminal Justice System Report,
    DPP, Brisbane 1997, as cited in Robertson, B, ibid, p99.

    32. Robertson, B, ibid, Executive
    Summary, pp x -xi.

    33. Justice Fitzgerald, Cape York
    Justice Study, Queensland Government, Brisbane 2001, p93-94.

    34. Gordon, S, Putting the Picture
    Together: Inquiry into Response by Government Agencies to Complaints of
    Family Violence and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities, State Law Publisher,
    Perth, 2002, p424.

    35. Ferrante, A, Morgan, F, Indermaur,
    D, and Harding, R, Measuring the Extent of Domestic Violence, University
    of Western Australia, Perth, 1996. See:

    36. ibid

    37. ibid

    NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Aboriginal Victimisation
    and Offending: The Picture from Police Records, Crime and Justice Statistics,
    December, 2001.

    39. Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council,
    Holistic Community Justice - a proposed response to Aboriginal Family
    Violence, AJAC, NSW Attorney-Generals Department, Sydney 2001, p6.

    40. ibid

    41. ibid, p7.

    42. ibid.

    43. AJAC (NSW), Speak out
    speak strong: Researching the needs of Aboriginal Women in Custody, AJAC,
    NSW Attorney-General's Department, 2003, p6, p54.

    44. Bagshaw, D, et al, Reshaping Responses
    to Domestic Violence - Final Report, University of South Australia, April,
    2000, p123.

    45. Northern Territory Law Reform
    Committee, Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal law in the Northern Territory,
    Background Paper 1 - Inquiry into Aboriginal Customary Law, NTLRC Darwin
    2003, p18

    46. ibid.

    47. Pugh, R, ya pulingina kani - Good
    to See You Talk, Government of Tasmania, Hobart 2002.

    48. ibid, pp87-89.

    49. Newman, J, Minister for Family
    and Community Services, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the
    Status of Women, 'Launch of New Partnerships against Domestic Violence
    Initiatives', Media Release, October 1999.

    50. Commonwealth of Australia, Working
    Together Against Violence: The first three years of partnerships against
    domestic violence, Office of the Status of Women, Canberra, August 2001.

    51. Herron, J (Minister for Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander Affairs) and Newman, J (Minister Assisting
    the Prime Minister for the Status of Women), '$2.2 million for Indigenous
    communities to design solutions to family violence', Joint News Release,
    14 August 2000.

    52. Lawrence, C, House of
    Representatives, Hansard, 17 June 2002.

    53. ATSIC, 'Working for Families -
    1000 extra CDEP places', at

    54. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), 'PM meets Indigenous leaders to discuss violence',
    ATSIC News, Winter 2003, p9.

    55. ibid, p9.

    56. Howard, J (Prime Minister), Media
    Release, 'Government Tackles Violence in Indigenous Communities', 28 August

    57. Howard, J (Prime Minister), Media
    Release, 'Government Tackles Violence in Indigenous Communities', 28 August

    58. Schubert, M, 'Vanstone plans year
    of black reform', The Australian, 23 December 2003.

    59. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), Annual Report 2001 - 2002, Commonwealth of Australia,
    Canberra, 2002, pp. 154 - 155.

    60. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), Annual Report 2002-03, Commonwealth of Australia,
    Canberra, 2003, p189.

    61. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), 'Overcoming family violence: We must all do better',
    ATSIC News, Winter 2003, p7.

    62.Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), 'Indigenous Women's Roundtable meets to tackle family
    violence', Media Release, ATSIC, 11 September 2001; Aboriginal and Torres
    Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), 'Overcoming family violence: We must
    all do better', op.cit, p7.

    63. Clark, G (Chairperson), 'National
    Indigenous Group on Domestic Violence', Media Release, ATSIC, Canberra,
    22 August 2001.

    64. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
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    op.cit, p7.

    65. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
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    66. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Commission (ATSIC), 'ATSIC takes strong stand against family violence
    in CQ', Media Release, Central Queensland Regional Council, 25 November
    2003; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), 'Family
    Violence Plan for Many Rivers', Media Release, Joint statement by ATSIC
    NSW East Zone Commissioner Rick Griffiths and Many Rivers Regional Council
    Chairperson Stephen Blunden, 26 November 2003; Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander Commission (ATSIC), 'Family violence - Kamilaroi Regional Council
    Priority', Media release, Statement by ATSIC Kamilaroi Regional Council
    Chairperson Lyall Munro, 31 October 2003; Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander Commission (ATSIC), 'ATSIC Yilli Rreung Regional Council takes
    a tough stand against Family Violence', Media Release, Statement by Yilli
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    67. Council of Australian Governments,
    Communique, Canberra, 3 November 2000

    68. Reconciliation Australia, Words,
    Symbols, Actions: Reconciliation Report Card 2002, Commonwealth of Australia,
    Canberra, 2002, pp. 19 - 20.

    69. Council of Australian Governments,
    Media Release, Canberra, 5 April 2002.

    70. Ruddock, P, Minister for Immigration
    and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 'Agreement on Indigenous Family
    Violence Welcomed', Media Release, 28 July 2001.

    71. Debus, B (NSW Attorney General)
    and Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council, Aboriginal Justice Agreement,
    New South Wales Government, 13 June 2002.

    72. Department of Health (New South
    Wales), NSW Aboriginal Family Health Strategy, Preface, at,au/policy/aboriginal-health/afhs/

    73. Robertson, B (Chair), The Aboriginal
    and Torres Strait Islander Women's Task Force on Violence Report, Department
    of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Development, op.cit.

    74. Meeting Challenges, Making Choices:
    The Queensland Government's response to the Cape York Justice Study, Queensland
    Government, Brisbane, April 2002.

    75. Department of Justice (Victoria),
    Victorian Indigenous Family Violence Strategy, Government of Victoria,
    Melbourne, 1999.

    76. Online at:,
    accessed: 10 November 2003.

    77. Gordon, S, Hallahan, K, Henry,
    D, Putting the picture together, Inquiry into Response by Government Agencies
    to Complaints of Family Violence and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities,
    op.cit, 2002.

    78. Western Australian Government,
    First Progress Update on the Implementation of 'Putting People First'
    - Addressing Family Violence and Child Abuse in Aboriginal Communities,
    Perth, June 2003, pp8-10.

    79. ibid., and Department of Indigenous
    Affairs, Media Release, 'PM failing to solve domestic violence and abuse
    in Indigenous communities', Perth, 24 July 2003.

    80. McHale, S (Minister for Community
    Development, Women's Interests, Seniors and Youth, Disability Services,
    Culture and Arts), Media Release, 'Recruitment of child protection workers
    involves Aboriginal communities', 23 October 2003.

    81. McHale, S (Minister for Community
    Development, Women's Interests, Seniors and Youth, Disability Services,
    Culture and Arts), Media Release, 'Aboriginal artwork raises family violence
    awareness', 25 September 2003.

    82. McHale, S (Minister for Community
    Development, Women's Interests, Seniors and Youth, Disability Services,
    Culture and Arts), Media Release, 'New video alerts Aboriginal parents
    to the dangers of shaking babies', 9 September 2003.

    83. Australian Capital Territory Government,
    The Extent of Family Violence in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
    Communities in the ACT - ACT Governments response, Act Government, Canberra

    84. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C, & Keys, C, Violence In Indigenous Communities, op.cit, p59.

    85. ibid, pp64-65.

    86. ibid, pp65-66.

    87. ibid, pp66-67.

    88. Young, K, Research/Evaluation
    of Family Mediation Practice and the Issue of Violence: Final report,
    Legal Aid and Family Services, Canberra, 1996.

    89. Ozols, E, Rekindling the spirit:
    An appeal from the heart, Paper presented at the Best Practice Interventions
    in Corrections for Indigenous People conference convened by the Australian
    Institute of Criminology held in Sydney, 8-9 October 2001, pp 10-14, Australian
    Institute of Criminology website, (Accessed 14th January 2003).

    90. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C, & Keys, C, Violence In Indigenous Communities, op.cit, pp67-68.

    91. Australian Institute of Criminology,
    'Tangentyere Night Patrol', in the Australian Violence Prevention Awards
    1993, Canberra, 1998, pp.34-42.

    92. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C, & Keys, C, Violence In Indigenous Communities, op.cit, pp69-70.

    93. ibid, pp70-71.

    94. Potas, I, Smart, J, Brignell,
    G, Thomas, B & Lawrie, R, Circle Sentencing in New South Wales a Review
    and Evaluation, New South Wales Aboriginal Justice Advisory Council and
    the New South Wales Judicial Commission, Sydney, 2003.

    95. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C, & Keys, C, Violence In Indigenous Communities, op.cit, pp71-72.

    96. ibid, pp72-73.

    97. See:

    98. See:

    99. See Southern Cross University
    (Accessed 16th January 2003).

    100. Memmott, P, Stacy, R, Chambers,
    C, & Keys, C, Violence In Indigenous Communities, op.cit, pp73-74.

    101. Ibid, pp3-4.

    102. ibid, p4.

    103. ibid.

    104. ibid, p76.

    105. ibid, p4.

    106. ibid.

    107. Aboriginal and Torres Strait
    Islander Commission and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services,
    Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee
    inquiry into legal aid and access to justice, ATSIC/ATSIS, Canberra 2003,

    108. ibid, p7.

    109. ibid, p14.

    110. ibid, p15.

    111. ibid, p16.

    112. ibid, p14.

    113. ibid, p14

    114. ibid., p16.

    115. ibid, p10.

    116. Marshall, T., 'Criminal mediation
    in Great Britain' (1996), 4(4), European Journal on Criminal Policy and
    Research , p37.

    117. Llewellyn, J and Howse, R, Restorative
    justice - a conceptual framework, Law Commission of Canada, Ottawa 1999,
    p2. See:

    118. For an overview of these processes
    see: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner,
    Submission to the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee's inquiry into
    recognition of Aboriginal customary law, HREOC Sydney 2003.

    119. Aboriginal Justice Advisory
    Council, Holistic community justice, op.cit, pp10-11.

    120. ibid, p10.

    121. ibid.

    122. Ibid, p11.

    123. Hylton, J H, Aboriginal
    Sexual Offending in Canada,
    The Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2002,