Preventing violence against indigenous women needs to be on the national agenda

For too long, family violence has claimed the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women at alarmingly high rates.

The physical, verbal, sexual and emotional abuse that Indigenous women suffer is often more severe than non-Indigenous women and it receives far less public attention.

In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women report experiencing violence at three times the rate of non-Indigenous women.

In 2014–15, hospitalisation rates due to family violence were also 32 times higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women.

It is a national tragedy that continues to cast a dark shadow over our communities.

We must bring to light the undeniable mistreatment of our First Nations people, so we can work to change the policies, practices and norms that continue to disadvantage them.

Violence against women in Indigenous communities is not an ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander problem’.

It is a national problem that requires a national solution; with effective healing and trauma-informed care – for our men, women and children – at its heart.

To suggest that this violence, and the responsibility to stop it, lies only with Indigenous people takes the focus away from the deeper issues that need our collective attention.

That is why Australia’s leading organisation for the prevention of violence against women, Our Watch, recently launched a resource aimed at tackling the horrific prevalence of this violence.

Titled Changing the picture, the resource outlines a set of clear actions that are needed – by Indigenous and non-Indigenous individuals and organisations at all levels – to address the many drivers of violence against Indigenous women.

These drivers include the ongoing impact of colonisation on both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities, a gender-unequal society, and the combination of these multiple factors to produce violence against Indigenous women that is more prevalent and severe.

The resource also seeks to build on, respond to and amplify the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have been campaigning against gendered and sexual violence and calling for action for decades.

We need to take collaborative concrete actions to address this national issue.

It is up to each and every one of us to directly address the deep underlying drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, so that we can all form part of the solution.

Changing the picture takes a step in that direction, urging us to take up the mantle of changing the picture to change lives.

Vicky Welgraven is an Our Watch Board member and a proud Adnyamathanha woman from the Northern Flinders Ranges.

"It is up to each and every one of us to directly address the deep underlying drivers of violence against Aborinal and Torres Strait Islander women, so that we can all form part of the solution."

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