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14 Jun 2024 10:26
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  •   Home > News > International

    First Nations experts say Closing the Gap family violence target will not be met without more funding

    Indigenous experts say Australia will fail to reach a major Closing the Gap target unless First Nations domestic violence services are given more support.

    First Nations women are being killed at up to 12 times the national average — one of the highest homicide rates in the world.

    But Indigenous experts have said there is still a critical lack of research and funding for positive outcomes which will result in a failure to hit a major Closing the Gap target.

    Target 13 calls for the rate of all family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children to be reduced by at least 50 per cent by 2031, on the path towards zero.

    It's also a key tenet of the federal government's national plan to end gendered violence within a generation, and their dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Plan on gendered violence.

    Hannah McGlade, First Nations domestic violence expert and member of the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, said it simply won't happen with the current level of investment.

    "As Indigenous women fighting against violence, we never want to feel defeated so we're very hopeful," she told ABC News Breakfast.

    "But at the same time, we do feel that we're struggling to be heard."

    "We need the states to lift their game. We need increased funding from the Commonwealth. I don't believe frontline organisations are impressed … we know mainstream non-Indigenous women's organisations equally have been disappointed."

    The first dedicated plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women was released last year, and it states Indigenous women are 33 times more likely to be hospitalised from domestic violence than non-Indigenous women.

    "This is a major human rights issue that Australia has failed to grapple with to date," Dr McGlade said.

    "We're a small percentage of the Australian population, so how is it that this can be happening?"

    The 2024 Federal Budget allocated nearly $1 billion towards permanently establishing a program that victim-survivors of violence could access when fleeing a violent partner — while gender-based violence overall is estimated to cost Australia $26 billion a year.

    The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service, which helps First Nations people experiencing domestic violence and is the Aboriginal legal service peak body, asked for $229 million but only received $15.4 million in this year's budget.

    Dr McGlade is a Noongar woman whose work at Perth's Curtin University focuses on justice for Aboriginal women and children in cases of family violence, and she is an expert in the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

    But she said the situation will not improve without sustained research and funding, especially towards Indigenous-led services.

    "Indigenous women's services are turning away many women who need urgent help to escape violence," she said.

    "There has been very little investment into research led by Indigenous women against violence. This is driving and underlying the level of violence we're seeing to Indigenous women."

    Jacqualine Elwell is a victim-survivor and domestic violence prevention advocate who said she was treated like a "battered woman" when she presented to a women's shelter.

    "You lose identity when you walk into these places," she told ABC News Breakfast.

    "The biggest thing that changed for me and tipped that scale for me to feel like I was starting to be safe was services working together."

    "I think the hardest thing is watching my family see these women passing, because there's a realisation in their faces that I should have been one of those statistics… forever that will be why I govern for other women that can't stand here beside me," she said.

    "I carry myself and I talk about what happened in my life, not to hold on to it for an excuse, but to empower other women to let them know that there's more out there."

    Principal legal officer at Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service Thelma Schwartz works with those at the front line of the gendered violence crisis.

    She told ABC News Breakfast the renewed interest in finding solutions is encouraging but has not yet translated into solid plans – let alone results.

    "When I look at what's going on in this country, the fact that one woman is killed every four days, this speaks to a striking indictment on who we are as Australians," she said.

    "Is this what we want in our country? I believe the answer is no. We are right to be angry at our politicians. We want actions, not a lot of talk. We want action on the ground now."

    She also believes the government will fail to reach its Closing the Gap target on family violence on its current path, but mending the strained relationship with police could help to rectify that.

    "We haven't actually got to the heart of looking at the relationship … we know that there is a lack of trust," she said.

    "What are we doing to build better, trusting relationships with police and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

    "This is going to require a different level of addressing what is occurring on the ground, not only for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but women as a whole."

    Watch "Not Just a Number": News Breakfast's special coverage on gendered violence this week from 6am-9am each weekday on ABC News and ABC iview.


    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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