Leaders come out swinging against domestic violence

Three of the most senior Indigenous women in the country have come out swinging against domestic violence.

In a powerful statement to the National Press Club in Canberra today, University of Melbourne Professor Marcia Langton, Alice Springs-based Jacinta Price and Josephine Cashman from the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council said the issue had reached crisis point.

Professor Langton also had a go at opponents of Bill Leak’s contentious cartoon in The Australian, which sparked a social media storm and allegations of racism lodged with the embattled Australian Human Rights Commission—claims that have since been withdrawn.

“Thousands of people claimed that this was a racist stereotype and that they were offended by it. Well, it’s not satire and it’s quite ugly, and it’s not helpful, but let’s look beyond that,” she said.

“Aboriginal social media activists took to Twitter under the hashtag #IndigenousDads posting family snapshots of indigenous fathers and their children.

“By my count there were about 70 living fathers, many other happy snaps showed adult children with their deceased fathers. But where are the other indigenous dads? As much as their love for their fathers is honorable and admirable, it must be said that these lucky children of decent Aboriginal men missed the point.

“According to ABS figures, there are an estimated 744,956 indigenous Australians, representing three per cent of the total Australian population. So where are the other 200,000 or so indigenous fathers and what are they like?

“Almost 17,000 were under care and protection orders. A further 15,500 were in out of home care.

“In 2014-15, indigenous children were seven times as likely to be receiving child protection services than non-indigenous children.

“That’s the highest level of reporting of the need for child protection … these figures are on the low side because of the fear gripping the indigenous community that prevents them from reporting assault, rape, neglect and other crimes.”

Ms Price said she supported calls for a national taskforce and went further, saying a royal commission was needed.

“This isn’t a new issue, this crisis isn’t new, I’ve experienced acts of violence, witnessed it since my childhood,” she said.

“It is now that it’s become part of the national agenda that people are opening their eyes to it, and I think it’s time we need to — well, it’s long overdue time — for an in-depth discussion about it across this country and the ability for Aboriginal women to be able to speak up without fear of retaliation about the issue.”

Ms Cashman said it was “very clear that there is a high level of tolerance of violence against Aboriginal women in this society”.

“That has to change and women and children in particular deserve to be protected by the state and unfortunately that is not happening,” she said.

She has also criticised the National Action Plan, saying it focuses too much on perpetrators rather than the victims of violence.

“It says we’ve got to acknowledge colonisation, intergenerational trauma and certainly you do when you’re looking through a health lens, but when you’re looking through a criminal justice lens and protecting a victim, that sort of language becomes excuser behaviour for offenders,” she said.

With ABC

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