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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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Barriers preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from reporting family violence
Posted in Media releases

Barriers preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from reporting family violence

Tuesday, 15th December 2020


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face barriers to reporting their experiences of family violence, including fearing the threat of child removal, homelessness and potential isolation from their family and community.

A new ANROWS report led by Professor Marcia Langton AO and Dr Kristen Smith, with a team of researchers from the University of Melbourne and the participant communities, identifies some of the factors preventing the disclosure of a large proportion of incidents of violence perpetrated against Aboriginal women.

These factors disempower women who want to leave violent situations and prevent them from seeking help.

The research was conducted in the regional towns of Mildura and Albury-Wodonga, where the research team documented how people are both using and providing various support services. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in regional and remote areas are known to be at greater risk of experiencing family violence compared to women in metropolitan areas and face additional challenges when dealing with their experiences of violence.

In observations, focus groups and interviews, housing stresses were repeatedly raised as a key issue. Women who had experienced family violence and service providers emphasised a lack of available housing as a barrier to women leaving violent relationships, and a factor that undermined service providers’ other attempts to assist women.

Barbara, a court officer, said, “Housing, housing is the pivotal, critical thing that we need to get right as quickly as possible. … Once you’ve got the housing in place you can start to get in the other services.”

The report, Improving family violence legal and support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, also identifies the varying availability, accessibility or acceptability of family violence legal and support services for these communities.

It shows that the co-location of services must be planned carefully as it can create barriers to help-seeking. For example, when domestic and family violence services are co-located with child protection services, women’s concerns about the removal of children may be exacerbated.
Participants also raised concerns about confidentiality, especially in smaller communities, where services may be familiar with the victim’s and/or perpetrator’s family and friends.

A twin project with the same research team has also been published today: Family violence policies, legislation and services: Improving access and suitability for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men considers the practical and legal supports available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men who are perpetrators of family violence. The researchers found that in order to improve the safety of women, children and communities, it is necessary to address the underlying issues that contribute to the perpetration of violence and can create barriers to accessing services, such as mental health challenges, substance use, and neurological conditions.

The report finds that criminal legal responses may have limited impact on reducing violence due to high levels of distrust of the police and the legal system, resentment and anger resulting from a history of injustices against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and disproportionate criminalisation.

The study also found that mainstream men’s behavioural change programs may not be appropriate for—or even available to—Aboriginal perpetrators of violence, and there is a lack of culturally-specific programs.

Both reports suggest ways to improve relevant support services.

Lead author Professor Marcia Langton AO, foundation chair of Australian Indigenous studies at the University of Melbourne, said “The findings underscored the urgency of increasing funding for agencies working directly with the women and men who need support. These are the agencies and service providers who know what is needed in their communities and can get it done—if they have adequate financial support”.

ANROWS CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow said, “It’s clear from the evidence presented by Professor Langton and her team that a range of culturally safe support services are needed for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and men to effectively address family violence. This includes housing and mental health services as well as specialist family violence services, which must work together to support families navigating the impacts of complex trauma and marginalisation”.

For further information, contact Michele Robinson at ANROWS
on +61 0417 780 556 or email michele.robinson@anrows.org.au.


About ANROWS

Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation.

ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

ANROWS is the only such research organisation in Australia.



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