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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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Study to look at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing programs that respond to domestic, family and sexual violence
Posted in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander

Study to look at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing programs that respond to domestic, family and sexual violence

Tuesday, 4th August 2020


The effectiveness of “trauma-informed care” and healing programs will be at the forefront of a new research project studying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family and domestic violence and sexual assault (FDVSA) programs.

The new project, a partnership between Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) and researchers from the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, will map and analyse “what works” in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing programs that respond to FDVSA nationally.

In recent years there has been considerable inquiry into the cause and impact of family, domestic and sexual violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. However, many researchers have assumed that the factors involved are the same as those driving violence against women in the non-Indigenous population.

“Research now shows that violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women should also be understood in the context of the continued trauma of colonisation,” said Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Head of Macquarie University’s Department of Indigenous Studies.

The new project, led by Professor Carlson, will examine programs and initiatives that use a trauma-informed approach to healing, often known as healing programs.

“Healing programs consider the ongoing trauma of colonisation experienced Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” continued Professor Carlson.

“Trauma manifests itself in many ways but includes internalising feelings of shame. There is a lot of unresolved pain and dysfunction that impacts families and children, resulting in what is commonly referred to as intergenerational trauma”.

“This is the context in which we have to understand domestic, family, and sexual violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s a context of both historical and ongoing colonial violence.”

This study will build a better understanding of how healing programs reduce FDVSA in this context. While a number of studies have evaluated “what works” in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing programs across the nation, this is the first study with a specific focus on healing programs that respond to FDVSA.

“Importantly, it will also expand the evidence base for the development of trauma-aware, healing-informed policy and practice,” said ANROWS CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow.

The research team will investigate these programs by administering a national survey of healing programs as well as 13 in-depth case studies, to explore how trauma-informed practices are implemented, the strengths and challenges of the programs, and their outcomes and impacts.

Each case study will include yarning circles with service staff and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including LGBTQIA+ women and those with disability. In some locations there will also be a yarning circle for men.

The project will be guided by a Knowledge Circle of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts and leaders in the field, including members from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing and FDVSA peak bodies.

This study is part of a program of research led by ANROWS and funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services under the Fourth Action Plan of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022.

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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