New research reveals priorities for reducing family violence

New research led by the Indigenous Studies Unit and published by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) reveals the systemic barriers that disempower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from reporting family violence.

The report, Improving family violence legal and support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, led by Professor Marcia Langton and Dr Kristen Smith, shows that these barriers include a fear of child removal, the threat of homelessness, and the fear of isolation from family and community.

"We interviewed a number of women who were at risk of being homeless because there was simply no accommodation," Professor Langton told NITV.

"Several women told us about their experience of being homeless and many women told us of their experience of losing their children and the fear of losing their children."

Focusing on communities in Mildura and Albury–Wodonga, the report suggests a need for services that are available, acceptable and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing violence, but also highlights that the cross-border contexts of Mildura and Albury–Wodonga can allow perpetrators of violence to weaponise the system through unique forms of systems abuse.

The same research team have also published a second report, Family violence policies, legislation and services: Improving access and suitability for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. This report reveals that mainstream men’s behavioural change programs may not be appropriate for—or even available to—Aboriginal perpetrators of violence.

Both reports suggest ways to improve relevant support services, such as the extension of Koori Court hearings for family violence matters across Victoria, alongside changes to policy and practice.

The artwork for this article features Resilience (2014), an ANROWS-commissioned art series by Christine Blakeney, a Wiradjuri/Yaegl woman from NSW.