25 November 2019 is the first of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence, a global campaign commencing on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and ending on Human Rights Day.

For 16 days, the Noongar Family Safety and Wellbeing Council is sharing key messages and images supporting the prevention of violence against Indigenous women. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in Australia are still 35 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-Aboriginal women, and Aboriginal mothers in Western Australia are 17.5 times more likely to be killed than non-Aboriginal mothers.

Violence against women isn’t a women’s rights issue, it’s a human rights issue. More women are killed each year by domestic violence than by malaria, war and accidents combined, with indigenous women still the most highly represented.

We believe in building awareness of the magnitude of this human rights crisis. Violence against women costs the global community $7 trillion a year, but it’s not the economic cost that should drive action, it’s the human cost.


The 2019 campaign theme is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands against Rape!”

Rape is rooted in a complex set of patriarchal beliefs, power, and control that continue to create a social environment in which sexual violence is pervasive and normalized. Exact numbers of rape and sexual assaults are notoriously difficult to confirm due to frequent latitude and impunity for perpetrators, stigma towards survivors, and their subsequent silence.

In recent years, the voices of survivors and activists, through campaigns such as #MeToo, #TimesUp, #Niunamenos, #NotOneMore, #BalanceTonPorc, and others, have put the spotlight on the issue of sexual violence and have reached a crescendo that cannot be silenced or ignored anymore. Why do we, as a society, allow violence to ruin the lives of millions of women and their children?

Internationally, the colour orange continues to be a key tool unifying all activities, with buildings and landmarks lit and decorated in orange to bring global attention to the initiative.

You can find a global advocacy toolkit at: https://16dayscampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/2019-Global-16-Days-Campaign- Guide-Final.pdf.



Hannah McGlade pictured with her niece is a Noongar woman, strong advocate and human rights campaigner.

“Aboriginal women have been raising their voices for decades and its time that we were heard.” Hannah McGlade


Jac is an amazing Noongar woman from Armadale and is pictured here strongly showcasing our culture. Collectively we must work to raise the voices of those that are voiceless and those that chose to remain silent for their safety – but looking to the horizon to make the change for our future generations of women and girls with our goal to eliminate violence from their lives.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people successfully managed interpersonal, family and community relationships for over 60,000 years prior to invasion, without resorting to the kinds of violence that we see in Australia today. Recognition must be given to the strength, resilience and sustainability of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditional cultures as being central to their core principles.

Silence and denial within the Indigenous community today would appear to impact on why many children get abused by the one perpetrator and why the abuse is allowed to continue. ‘(A)s long as the veil of silence and denial remains over this area, the opportunities for children to suffer without help remain as well as services available to the rest of Australian society will not be adapted and made accessible for Aboriginal communities’.

It has been identified that community silence as a barrier to overcoming the problem itself. Some believe that ‘discussing family matters with an outsider, even one wishing to help, might be almost impossible because of shame.

Approaching someone of the opposite sex on matters that are thought to be the business of one’s own sex can be too shameful to contemplate . . . . Shame is compounded in Aboriginal-white relations by expectations of rejection, by unfamiliarity with procedures and personnel, and by loyalty to one’s own vis-a-vis the dominant society. Put in a nutshell, given Aboriginal experience of white institutions and authority agents, it is scarcely surprising that, ultimately, some women appear to find a violent spouse less threatening than the agencies from which they might seek relief’ and even more so if there is a risk of losing their children.


“The circle of life should never end in violence for our women and families. It’s not our way, it’s not our culture. We must stand together to put a stop to this as we cannot do this alone, we need the support of families,  communities and governments working together to prevent this.”  Averil Scott

‘Domestic violence has its roots in institutionalisation, incarceration, loss of role, loss of parental and role models, low self-esteem and alienation’.

Contributing factors to family violence in Indigenous communities include: poverty; unemployment; substandard or inadequate housing; limited access to societal resources and services; loss of identity and self-esteem; abusive styles of conflict resolution; sexual jealousy; imbalance and inequity within male and female roles, responsibilities, status and contribution to family life; neglect of family responsibilities; lack of respect within families; emotionally damaged family members; neglect or abuse of children; suicide; and alcohol abuse.

Some of the more social/political perspectives have identified the causes of violence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as oppression and dispossession, the enforcement of protection and assimilationist policies up until the 1970s that fragmented many Indigenous families, as well as poverty and alcohol.

In 2004, Access Economics reported that the cost of violence against women to the economy was $8.1 billion. Because of the lack of investment in primary prevention to reduce the incidence and the impact of violence against women by 2021-22, the cost to the economy of violence against women and their children will have almost doubled to $15.6 billion.


“The bureaucratic interventions of the state – the processes of law, social welfare, and health care – have not addressed the core issue of human traumatisation. These issues, in many cases, compounded the trauma by creating and increasing dependency on the state, which, while intensifying the feelings of victimisation, also enforces the beliefs of being powerless to change destructive circumstances.”

Prof Judy Atkinson: Trauma Trails – Recreating Song Lines

There is significant evidence to support that present dysfunctional behaviour that occurs within Indigenous communities, including violence in general and the sexual assault of Indigenous children, is grounded in unresolved grief associated with multiple layers of trauma which has spanned many generations.

It is well documented that many Indigenous people are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. To survive over the years, many Aboriginal people have had to suppress and/or deny their feelings of distress and despair. This pain has become internalised within the family, expressing itself in destructive behaviours such as family violence, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide. This enacting of trauma is a form of ‘coping mechanism’.

We must acknowledge that this trauma is not just seen as an issue for individuals and families – it is seen in the context of communities, as ‘the community is traumatised’. While variously described, these traumas almost exclusively relate to the impact on Indigenous communities of their interface with the dominant white communities throughout the history of white settlement of Australia, including contemporary Australian society.


“It is our job to protect our women,  but also our precious children.  We must do more and we must retain the right to do it!”

For children, the impacts of repeated abuse and exposure to domestic and family violence are profound and traumatic. Children do not become used to violence, they adapt. When there’s violence in the home, children are always affected, even if they are asleep or not in the room when the violence occurs. The longer the children live in a violent situation, the more difficult it will be for them. When violence occurs, children may feel scared and ashamed, or they may even think that they caused the problem or may grow up perpetrating violence upon others.

A child’s response to repeated domestic violence depends on a number of factors including their age, gender, personality and family role. Some of the immediate effects can include:

– Blaming themselves for the violence
– Experiencing sleeping difficulties, such as nightmares
– Regression to an earlier stage of development, such as thumb sucking and bedwetting
– Becoming increasingly anxious or fearful
– Displaying aggressive or destructive behaviour
– Starting to withdraw from people and events
– Becoming a victim or perpetrator of bullying
– Starting to show cruelty to animals
– Experiencing stress-related illnesses, such as headache or stomach pain
– Displaying speech difficulties, such as stuttering
– Misusing drugs and alcohol (in young adults).

What do children learn growing up in a home with domestic violence and what do they need?

They learn that threats and violence get you what you want (and you won’t get in trouble), unequal relationships are normal, you must either be the victim or the perpetrator, the world is a dangerous place and no one can protect you.

Children in homes with domestic violence need certain messages to help them recover from trauma. They need to know that the abuse is not their fault and that no one deserves to be abused, no matter what. They need help with getting and saying safe.


Teresa is a deadly Noongar Yorga who is a strong community member and advocate for Mental Health First Aid.

Culture means connection to Country and community, respect for Elders, kinship and family connections, gender and age roles, identity, language, art, ceremony, spirituality and storytelling.

The combination of problems suffered within Indigenous communities is the prime example of negative social determinants of health in Australia. Violence and addiction in communities undermines the resilience of members and erodes the capacity of communities to support the mental health of members. The impact of addiction on communities has been most closely observed in relation to alcoholism, although petrol sniffing, and other substance abuse must be considered in relation to some communities.

Social support and social cohesion is associated with good mental health. Studies show that people in long-term, familial relationships and close-knit communities are better able to deal with stress and will live longer than those who do not. Strengthening communities and culture clearly has potentially positive implications for the mental health of community members. Likewise, policies and programs that erode the strength and culture of communities can be considered as having negative impacts on community members.

Due to the holistic nature of wellbeing, culture, empowerment and community are essential for education, work and health. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, culture is recognised as the overarching social determinant of health. Colonisation, including the ongoing effects of racism, forcible removal of children and intergenerational trauma has had negative effects on health and social and emotional wellbeing for people, families and communities.


Jane and Nicole Jones with bubba – thank you to these beautiful strong Noongar yorgas for allowing us to use this image from the Nation dance event.

Aboriginal kinship and family structures are still cohesive forces which bind Aboriginal people together in all parts of Australia. Traditionally the Aboriginal family was a collaboration of clans composed of mothers, fathers, uncles, aunties, sisters, brothers, cousins and so on. In today’s terms it is known as an extended family. For Aboriginal people, their family provides psychological and emotional support which is important to their wellbeing. Aboriginal family obligations are often seen as nepotism by other Australians. The structure of Aboriginal families reflects cultural values and involving kinship responsibilities.

Families are important in defining identity and a sense of connectedness to kinship and culture, and a feeling of spiritual and cultural belonging will strengthen the family. There have been suggestions that all families, irrespective of their culture, share key goals and aspirations for their children related to their health and survival, teaching skills in economic survival and imparting cultural beliefs. The key differences reside in their approaches to parenting. There are a number of important differences in the ways that Aboriginal families interact compared with non-Aboriginal families. Some of these differences need to be understood within a historical and cultural context. 

It is important not to view these differences as deficits in family functioning and family relationships or parenting styles, but rather as culturally specific issues that are influenced by history, geography and experiences. Aboriginal families view their structures and relationships differently; for example, each child can have several “nannas”, and each female in an extended family can be “nanna” to many children. In mainstream families, the family structure, relationships and expectations play out quite differently.

The evidence around Aboriginal family functioning also needs to be understood in the context of extreme diversity, both in terms of family structure and geographic location. An estimated 50 per cent of Aboriginal families in areas of extreme isolation live with two original parents, compared with 33 per cent in the Perth metropolitan area. Aboriginal families are generally more mobile than other families, with complex mobility patterns particularly in rural and remote areas. Aboriginal children in Western Australia are estimated to have lived in an average of 3.2 homes by six years of age. 

These inter- and intra-cultural differences in families have implications for policy-makers and program and service providers, which require the development of programs and services that: support decision-making at a family level; provide healing for families previously separated from families and land; and provide strategies to overcoming trans generational transmission of abuse. It is equally important to incorporate an Aboriginal world view in: formulating policy, conducting research, interpreting data, and developing measuring instruments and indicators of family functioning.


Thank you to Aunty Kay Walley for providing permission for the use of her photo in the campaign – she is a Moorditj Yok and fierce community advocate.

Successful programs are those where the community defines its own needs and then designs and controls the response – this is the true essence of co-design.

Community ownership is considered important because it ensures authority and autonomy over all aspects of the project; builds the commitment and enthusiasm of all people involved in the program, including collaborators; and contributes to building community capacity so that communities can address their own needs.


Thanks to Rachel and Ned for allowing the use of this image.

“There is … a need to establish forums that elevate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men and women and allow the sharing of knowledge about good practice relating to Indigenous men and boys violence prevention work; and to build the evidence base of how we can promote safety and harmony for all Aboriginal women, children and families.”

Practice and programs must be aimed at community-focused activity for men to reduce family violence before it occurs, and community focused activity aimed at providing effective responses to men involved in family violence. These must all be contextualised to provide place-based approaches to working with local Aboriginal men. 

There are positive outcomes being delivered by Aboriginal men’s programs. To develop a comprehensive understanding of Aboriginal men’s programs (and Aboriginal family violence programs more broadly) appreciating the concepts of social and emotional wellbeing is essential and through these we can provide soft entry into men’s behaviour change programs.


Thanks to Alison – strong Noongar yorga for her permission to use this image, her work in the area of Family Safety spans many years and she continues to speak publicly for those that are voiceless and to work on the changes required for future generations. 

“If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression”. In an Australian context this carries a slightly different resonance due to the experiences of colonisation, but to decolonise from both a race and gender perspective is imperative (quote from a Canadian community communique on Family Violence).

Currently the terminology of intersectionality has been co-opted, and when applied in the family safety context doesn’t identify how these factors interact, to understand how people exercise power over others, or experience discrimination based on different forms of oppression. These factors include gender as well as race and ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation, religion, age, and socio-economic status. It means that these various factors cannot be isolated or considered alone and are integral to ensuring primary prevention initiatives are effectively and appropriately tailored to the target population.

Even in the face of adversity, Aboriginal women’s re-framing of the approach in Family Safety has grown and continues to develop. We have a number of incredibly strong Aboriginal women who are moving to the forefront of public discourse. A lot of them are unapologetic about their race and their gender, are highly educated, and ensure that they use these knowledges to continue educating and inspiring others – but there is still so much more to do!


Thank you to these amazing young fellas from Wesley College, credit to Derek Nannup who provided permission for the use of this image – so proud to showcase young deadly boys embracing culture.

‘We need school education programs about healthy relationships but also about respect for people and culture and women. Family violence is everybody’s business — a community issue. We need to raise awareness of this as a priority.’ (Community Member)

In many Indigenous communities, there is a generational gap in knowledge and use of social media between Indigenous young people and their parents and Elders who are often less familiar with these digital technologies, observes that communication, increasingly mediated by technology, has disturbed traditional forms of interaction several more traditional communities.

Previously typically incorporating gesture, sign, and gaze, communication via written messages reduces the capacity for traditionally socially sanctioned forms of conflict resolution and social control by the older generation. This means that cyber bullying can go on unaddressed and even result in severe outcomes such as suicide if family members are not aware of young people’s activities on social media.

Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to have experienced image-based abuse in comparison with non- Indigenous Australians. A quarter of those who identify as Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander (25%) have experienced image-based abuse, compared with 11% of those who don’t identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.


Thanks to Angela for permission to use this image, she is a great community leader and advocate for VAW.

‘From the voices of the women who we work with, they tell us they’ve been burnt too many times by the system, that they will never trust the system again with their lives, or their children’s lives. So many tell us it’s best just to stay silent about the violence.’ Antoinette Braybrook

Negative experiences of, and lack of trust in, government agencies has created a number of significant barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women reporting violence. Many women have direct experience of this kind of treatment, particularly of child removal by government agencies and their broader failure to keep women and children safe.

Common experiences include racist attitudes and discriminatory practices from both authorities (police, legal, justice and child protection agencies), and services (health, welfare and housing). The ongoing failures of state agencies creates deep distrust. Many women hold very real fears that reporting violence may lead to child protection intervention, child removal, loss of access to housing or other accommodation, and other unwanted attention or intrusion.

Further, the colonial context means that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (like Indigenous people elsewhere in the world) the state is seen as ‘a primary perpetrator of violence’, which has created distrust of state-run services and agencies.

‘It’s the systemic violence as well. For Aboriginal women specifically, the people that they’re supposed to go to, to report about violence, are often the ones that are perpetrators of violence themselves.’

Other service-related barriers that have been reported as explanations for the under-reporting of violence by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women include:

  • a lack of culturally safe education to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are aware of their legal rights
  • a lack of access to gender-specific, culturally appropriate and safe services
  • experiences of existing services not providing culturally safe care; meaning women do not trust or feel safe to access such services
  • experiences or knowledge of previous cases where police have not investigated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s reports adequately. This in turn creates a perception that there is little value in making a report
  • experiences or knowledge of previous cases where police attending an incident have misidentified the woman as the perpetrator. This creates fear that reporting violence may lead to police charging the woman herself with an offence
  • a lack of women staff at some services, particularly the police
  • a lack of institutional support to accommodate reporting in languages other than English (particularly written English), creating a fear of being misunderstood
  • the sheer complexity of issues and multiple forms of discrimination, oppression and disadvantage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are facing

In some cases, women may be reluctant to report violence perpetrated by Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander men. Some do not want reporting to result in a custodial sentence, because existing rates of incarceration and deaths in custody already have devastating effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities.

For others, a reluctance to report is based on the perception that a lack of effective healing or other programs for men in prison means ‘nothing changes’ when they are imprisoned.


Thank you to Patrysha who gave permission for the use of this image, she is a wonderful young leader who is championing some great work in community to build capacity for our young families and children.

People live in communities. But the real importance of “living in community” is that people – and groups of people – develop ways and means to care for each other, to nurture the talents and leadership that enhance the quality of community life – and to tackle the problems that threaten the community and undermine its potential and opportunities which can help it. When people do these things, communities become healthy; when they do not, communities deteriorate. Communities that have the ways and means to undertake challenges demonstrate “capacity.”

The relationship between capacity building and achieving service outcomes needs to be recognised and acted upon building capacity can assist Aboriginal organisations to be more effective in identifying needs and appropriate funding, and in participating in collaborative decision-making arrangements.

Aboriginal communities must be able to plan, manage and implement localised community-based solutions that focus on the capacity for a reciprocal response between the health and wellbeing of a family and the health and wellbeing of community. Strong community capacity will be based on:

Building on community strengths and resilience
Recognising, acknowledging and or identifying community leaders
Community devised and owned solutions
Promoting and sharing success
Community development activities

The Commonwealth Grants Commission argues that developing effective community capacity is of equal importance to meeting infrastructure needs and that communities lacking this kind of capacity will need a higher initial investment of resources to provide a framework for the effective delivery of services and sustainable outcomes. An investment over time to build this capacity is crucial. Building mechanisms to actively engage local communities in all aspects of policy, planning, governance and delivery is necessary to ensure that programs are community owned and responsive to local need. Extensive community consultation and negotiation is essential to the success of any program. This may include holding community forums and workshops and engaging local elders and community leaders. The most successful programs are those developed by and for the community.

Strategic leadership must support the concept that Aboriginal Family violence is a multifaceted and multilayered issue, therefore it requires an equivalent response integrated into policy, program development, management and service delivery to improve outcomes for Aboriginal communities. A coordinated and integrated response as mandated by an Aboriginal specific Family Safety Strategy requires leadership, collaboration and partnerships at Local, State and Commonwealth levels and is across portfolios.


Thank you to Geri Hayden who gave permission for this image to be used, she is a mooditj Yorga with amazing drive and willingness to always help our Noongar people, thank you for your tireless work and inspiring Noongar women’s leadership.

For Aboriginal women the foundation for all levels of their leadership is ‘community’. Jackie Huggins AM writes that only Aboriginal women who ‘truly have the interests of our community at heart’ can call themselves leaders. 

Reconciliation Australia identifies ‘family identities and relationships to “country” as ”the heart” of Aboriginal communities: they are a ‘constellation of individuals, families, clans, ceremonial groups and language groups’. Linked by shifting ‘complex, layered, sometimes fluid and unbounded sets of affiliation’, they include ‘geographically discrete settlements’ and ‘dispersed communities of shared identity’.
Aboriginal women’s distinctive leadership can be inherited, conferred by age, status, cultural authority, social standing and local knowledge. It follows a complex system of rules regarding ‘who can speak about what’. Concerning the specifics of community leadership, Aboriginal women hold a wide spectrum of views. This diversity is due to a ‘complex interweaving of place, traditional roles and local religion … [and] changes in gender relations … consequent upon the time, degree and nature of [a community’s] contact with non-Aboriginal society’. Still, there are recurring observations, some listed below, garnered from formal and informal discussions amongst Aboriginal women: 

Leaders are shaped by their family and community, culture and history, the example of other leaders and the responsibilities that come with maturity, as well as their personal experiences of discrimination, other ways of life, education, employment and difficult life circumstances.
Qualities for leadership are honesty, courage, compassion, perseverance, passion for their cause, resilience, confidence, assertiveness, a sense of humour, altruism in wanting to bring others up in life, and inspiration for others.

Their ways of working are based on Aboriginal terms of reference and include respect for elders, bringing community people together, speaking out and confronting issues, having a shared vision with an analysis and solution for problems, and the capacity to achieve a multitude of tasks. Their motivations and goals are to be catalysts of change, working to alleviate community disadvantage in line with principles and practices of self-determination; to promote maintenance and recovery of culture and country; and to empower communities by reclaiming traditions of women’s leadership and power in cooperation with Aboriginal men.

Women leaders are respected holders of knowledge who work to keep culture strong and encourage respect for cultural knowledge, and they take responsibility for transmitting this knowledge down the generations. Women leaders face many challenges that can lead to burnout, such as the personal sacrifices in meeting the heavy demands of work and family, feelings of obligation to give back to others and be accountable to community expectations, and the tensions of divided loyalties and community divisions that may arise. Interacting with the non-Aboriginal sector, they can face conflicts of interest, different values and styles of leadership, demands of bureaucracy and the media, and dealing with sexism and discrimination.
In all their work, leaders find precious support in family, community and relationships of trust with other Aboriginal women.

Culture is central to the lives of Aboriginal women and strong culture supports healing and connection. Women’s empowerment is important to their future.

NATSIWA aims to work to advocate and empower the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women in Australia.
*Family Violence were features on their Activity Plan for 2017/2018

The Western Australian Aboriginal Leadership Institute is an independent, not-for-profit organisation based in Perth, with the purpose of inspiring and supporting Aboriginal people to take up leadership opportunities to strengthen their families and communities. The Western Australian Aboriginal Leadership Institute aims to be a place of leadership learning for Aboriginal people through cultural ways of working.


Thank you to Charne Hayden for providing us with great image to promote the importance of strong women in community – which she represents, she’s a deadly Noongar Yok Birrdiya who provides guidance and mentorship to many around language and culture.

‘If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. If you have come because your Liberation is bound together with mine, let us walk together’ – Lilla Watson, visual artist, activist and academic. 

The current system is not equipped to meet many people’s needs. Our responses are often crisis-driven, focussed on the justice system and oriented towards family separation. This creates fear among many communities. We need to work with communities to co-design new pathways to safety and solutions to systemic problems.

We need pathways that enable families to stay together, while working with men to reduce their use of violence. We need to better meet the needs of children, women with disabilities and diverse communities who are currently lost in the service response. We need options that allow us to intervene, early, and post- crisis responses that enable sustained safety and recovery, by addressing financial, housing, psychological and other long- term needs. 

Responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families that are culturally safe and recognise the intergenerational impacts of trauma

– Responses for children in families experiencing violence
– Responses for regional based Aboriginal women 
– Responses to women with disabilities
– Responses for the LGBTIQ+ community

These should be enable through co-design solutions to systemic problems, including:

– Government/community/business partnerships for financial and housing support
– Early intervention responses for families at risk
– Recovery responses for people rebuilding their lives

Over seven years into the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009- 2020 there continues to be decreasing proportional investment into early intervention. A clear target and strategy are critical to drive a shift towards a public health model with strong prevention and early intervention measures. This would drive investment in evidenced and culturally safe early childhood education and care, trauma, healing and family support services, as well as family violence prevention and response. It would assist in redressing the adult related issues impacting the care of children.

Despite the recognised critical importance of community-controlled services, very limited data is available on the extent to which they are enabled and resourced. The 2014 Indigenous Expenditure Report compares expenditure on Aboriginal specific services as compared to mainstream services across a broad range of government services for Aboriginal and  Torres Strait Islander people. The funding allocation to Aboriginal specific services provides some useful indication of the extent to which the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being considered, but it does not include information about what extent of Indigenous specific services are delivered by community-controlled organisations.

Mainstream service funding is dominant in service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all areas except public and community health. Across early childhood development, school education, and community support and welfare, expenditure on Aboriginal specific services ranged from 18.9 per cent to 33.1 per cent. Notably, Aboriginal expenditure reporting does not address child protection and family support services. 

A recent review in Victoria found that 86% of the cases of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC were managed by non-Indigenous agencies (Victorian Commission for Children and Young People, 2016), with WA currently undertaking an independent review of their OOHC service provision and re-design, including procurement. 


Thank you to Josey Hansen for her permission to use this image, Josey’s work in the sector is highly regarded and recognised as a community leader, advocate and mentor she is a softly spoken but passionate activist.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are emerging as a powerful and compelling voice in the Indigenous rights and the women’s rights movements, promoting conditions for the improved exercise and better enjoyment of their rights on the basis of equality, and in a nuanced manner, so as to ensure respect for these rights while continuing to maintain and transmit Indigenous cultures and values.

Nevertheless, 20 years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, Indigenous women are still facing significant challenges to the full enjoyment of their human rights. The analysis of national reviews highlights Indigenous women’s specific situations and progress made by countries including Australia, as well as insights into the numerous outstanding challenges. The wide array of measures reported by countries show that advances in Indigenous women’s rights vary greatly across regions and countries and are influenced by national priorities and political opportunities, as well as by financial resources.

The most targeted action by Australia appears to be in the areas of violence against women, health, education and capacity-building. These areas are more clearly gender-specific (especially violence against women and health concerns affecting women in particular) or are areas in which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have been shown to experience a particular vulnerability or disadvantage (such as illiteracy rates). Within these areas, it has been recognised that our women face specific challenges that merit differentiated action.

An overarching concern identified is the level of participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in power and in decision-making, both at the local and national levels. Across the board, women still face discrimination in this regard, despite the modest gains made in some countries. The low level of participation by Indigenous women presents both a problem in and of itself as well as a hurdle to the raising of awareness about and developing solutions to the wide range of other concerns for Aboriginal women in areas including education, health, violence, poverty reduction and access to justice. Increasing the participation of Indigenous women in power and in decision-making should be a priority for Australia and within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Furthermore, responding to the particular issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women could be improved by mainstreaming and by considering their rights as a crosscutting issue in general policies and programmes on women and/or Aboriginal peoples. In addition, responses to the concerns faced by our women could be improved by increasing awareness of the issues of concern to Aboriginal women among national decision makers and authorities. This would enable policymakers to have a better understanding of the many issues that our women are currently facing. In this regard, the disaggregation of data by sex and ethnicity is a fundamental tool for identifying and measuring problem areas and developing solutions.

Addressing concerns facing Aboriginal women and girls requires that both their rights as women and their rights as Aboriginal peoples be made a priority. These rights enshrined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples must be advanced concurrently with initiatives designed specifically for Aboriginal women so as to help in tackling the structural problems affecting Aboriginal people that further contribute to the difficulties affecting our women in particular. This includes advancement of the right to self-determination by Aboriginal peoples so that they can themselves participate in the development of effective, culturally appropriate and sustainable solutions to the problems faced by our women.




Indigenous women and girls need to mobilise and to take individual and collective action to:

Raise awareness about gender-based violence against women as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels.

Strengthen local work around gender-based violence against women.

Establish a clear link between local and international work to end gender-based violence against women.

Provide a forum in which organisers can develop and share new and effective strategies.

Demonstrate the solidarity of women around the world organising against gender-based violence against women.

Create tools to pressure governments to implement commitments to eliminate gender-based violence against women. 

Here in Australia we want you to invest and support the Ochre Ribbon Campaign as it raises awareness of the devastating impacts of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and calls for action to end the violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – especially our women and children. 

The WA state government has a resource kit that you can find at:



Ways to raise Indigenous Women’s voices include participating in the Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) Project, which aims to:

Capture the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls with respect to their cultural, socio-economic and personal wellbeing, including their key priorities, and the principles that they believe would contribute to long-lasting change.

Elevate the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls through a human-rights-based process which is accessible and relevant to their lived reality, and contributes to their empowerment.

Provide clear guidance for governments to improve their capacity to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls.


You can also become a member of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance (NATSIWA), which was established in 2009 to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women to have a strong and effective voice in the domestic and international policy advocacy process.



Violence against Aboriginal women cannot be explained without reference to the intersections
of both race- and sex-based discrimination and inequality, which place Aboriginal women at greater risk than non-Aboriginal women for experiencing family violence. Aboriginal women are more likely to experience domestic violence than non-Aboriginal women (perpetrated by both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men). Aboriginal women are also up to 34 times more likely to be hospitalised for injuries related to interpersonal violence. Work to address family violence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must therefore target both racial and gender inequality.

Geographical isolation can create further barriers to support and to prevent violence must be informed by a strong understanding of these factors and adopt a strengths-based and community-driven approach that promotes structural change against multiple forms of discrimination and inequality can perpetuate harmful family environments.

Aboriginal women living in rural and remote areas are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than other women in similar regions. Poor access to services in rural and remote settings can also hinder efforts to prevent family violence, and the provision of culturally appropriate support services for those experiencing or at risk of violence.

There is evidence that there are higher rates of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, compared with non-Aboriginal Australians, however there is a significant lack of evidence around this intersection, particularly in relation to family violence.

Aboriginal women have continued to highlight additional hurdles that they face due to the intersection of race and gender. We experience the issues that non-Aboriginal women experience due to the process of colonisation, but often there are additional complexities.

When we experience victim blaming as women, it is compounded by race to the point where Aboriginal women dying from domestic homicide at a rate ten times that of other women in Australia barely rates a mention.


Nationally, ABS data suggest that, on average, 11% of people in the cohort born before 1972 report being removed from their families. When this proportion is applied to population data for 2018 (among those aged 46 and over), the resulting estimate is that in 2018, around 17,150 people in the cohort born before 1972 are the surviving members among those who had been removed from their families (the Stolen Generations proxy population).  Western Australia has the highest reported rate of removal (23.8% in 2014–15), nearly twice the national level (13.5% in 2014–15).

Of the Stolen Generations, a slightly higher proportion were women (56%), the majority (79%) lived in non-remote areas, 29% of those who were removed in this age cohort living alone, 66% were aged 50 and over, and 20% were aged 65 and over.



Community ownership and control can be embedded in community-managed programs in various ways.

These include, but are not limited to:

Local Indigenous management bodies:

Several successful programs have established Indigenous management bodies (e.g., committees, advisory bodies) where the members (often leaders in the community) were either totally or majority Indigenous community members. These bodies were responsible for any major decisions relating to a program or intervention and were successful at acting as conduits for community perspectives, liaising with government agencies, retaining internal community consensus on implementation, and setting strategic directions over projects.

Formal agreement with partner organisations: Written agreements have been used by several Indigenous organisations to provide clarity and to prevent misunderstandings with partner organisations. These documents have been used to clearly establish the Indigenous organisation’s strategic vision and any mutual agreements over particular matters (e.g., intellectual property issues or project governance).

Making Aboriginal culture central to an organisation or program was highlighted as critical to success and is recognised best practice in social policy programs and services. It has been argued that local community-controlled organisations are central to maintaining local culture as they are “rooted in their community, cultures and country”.

An important aspect of embedding culture is prioritising the Indigenous worldview – that is, one that is relationally and holistically based on community and family obligations rather than the individual. In practice, it is apparent that successful Indigenous-managed programs enshrine and support culture and the associated idea of cultural safety – that is, an environment defined as “spiritually, socially and emotionally safe … where there is no assault challenge or denial of … identity” (Williams quoted in Bin-Sallik, 2003, p. 21).

Cultural safety means providing services that recognise “local culture as being the starting point for the design of service provision, rather than being a factor in design that needs to be accommodated to a mainstream culture” (Smith et al., 2010, p. 4).

Aboriginal Family-Led Decision Making (AFLDM) trial


These alternative models recognise the needs and strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities and seek to place families at the centre of the decision-making process. A family group meeting process will bring together extended family, kin and community members to make decisions about how to ensure the best care and safety of children – cultural authority being exercised rather than statutory authority. 


Aboriginal social and emotional wellbeing approaches are fundamental to addressing aspects of family violence, as they aim to reassert and reposition traditional cultural roles within the family and community. Many Aboriginal men’s programs emphasise the importance of strengthening culture and identity as a means to addressing poor self- esteem, drug and alcohol misuse and other mental health issues that often manifests in men who use violence against their partners and other family members. Programs also address intergenerational trauma and the direct impacts from colonisation.

Programs and activities delivered by Aboriginal community organisations can range from:

› Parenting programs(Dad’s groups, fathering programs)
› Tradition and culture activities and programs
› Men’s places (Time Out facilities, Men’s Sheds)
› Alcohol and drug misuse programs
› Improving men’s access to health services, care and treatment (referral processes)
› Suicide prevention programs
› Crime prevention programs (night patrols, youth engagement programs)
› Family violence prevention and early intervention programs
› Family violence perpetrator programs

About one in four Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the twelve months before the survey (24%). The rate was higher among those who:

– were aged 15–24 years
– had been removed from their natural families (38% compared with 23% among those not removed)
– had a disability (29% compared with 22% among those without a disability)
– had experienced a high number of stressors (50% of those with 11 or more stressors compared to 8% among those with none)
– lived in low income households (27% compared with 19% among those in high income households)
– were unemployed (38% compared with 21% among the employed).

The age-standardised rate for being a victim of physical or threatened violence among the Aboriginal population was over twice the rate of the non-Aboriginal population.

Although the rates were similar among those living in major cities (25%) and in remote areas (23%), people in remote areas were much more likely to report that family violence was a neighbourhood problem (41% compared with 14% in non-remote areas).

Between 2000 and 2004, there were 150 deaths due to assault among Aboriginal people in the four jurisdictions. Indigenous females and males were nearly ten and nine times more likely to die due to assault as non-Indigenous females and males, respectively. The death rate was highest among people aged 35–44 years.

The Aboriginal Male’s Healing Centre Strong Spirit Strong Families Strong Culture Inc (AMHC) is a not for profit based in Newman in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. 

AMHC will offer an alternative to incarceration for men that use violence against women and children. The centre aims to heal these men and break the cycle of violence; and provide a safe and secure place for women and children. The safety of women and children is our paramount concern.

Dardi Munwurro delivers a range of family violence, healing and behaviour change programs and services, to break the cycle of inter-generational trauma in Aboriginal families and communities, by empowering and inspiring individuals to heal the past, acknowledge the present and create a positive vision for the future. 

Kornar Winmil Yunti
KWY is a not-for-profit Aboriginal organisation delivering a range of specialist services across South Australia. KWY assists Aboriginal families with child protection and domestic violence concerns.

Mibbinbah is Australia’s only national Indigenous male health promotion charity. It seeks to undertake a range of activities to build the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island male groups and their communities across Australia. Mibbinbah is also known as Mibbinbah Men’s Spaces, because of its strong leadership and advocacy for establishing culturally safe spaces for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males to explore and enrich their identity, well-being and skills.


Family Matters: Strong Communities. Strong Culture. Stronger Children is a national campaign led by SNAICC that aims to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in OOHC by 2040. The plan to achieve this is based on four building blocks (SNAICC 2016b):

All families enjoy access to quality, culturally safe, universal and targeted services necessary for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to thrive.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations participate in and have control over decisions that affect their children.
Law, policy and practice in child and family welfare are culturally safe and responsive.
Governments and services are accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (SNAICC, 2016b).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0 to 17 years accompanying clients of Specialist Homelessness Services who were escaping family and domestic violence attended a Specialist Homelessness Services agency at a rate of 443 per 10,000 population, more than 30 times the rate for non-Indigenous children (14 per 10,000 population).

In 2013–14, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were seven times as likely as non-Indigenous children and young people to be receiving child protection services (136.6 per 1,000 children compared with 19.0 per 1,000 for non-Indigenous children).

Here in Western Australia we have the highest rate of child removals nationally,  and 75% of those removals are due to family violence.


Educational programs are needed to raise awareness of issues like cyber bullying and cyber racism in order to ensure that parents, adults, community leaders and Elders in remote locations have opportunities to learn about social media use and the potential negative effects it can have on individuals, families and communities. Social media can be used in ways which exacerbate negative images, put pressure on young people to conform and limit individuals from exploring and expressing their complex, rich and multiple identities.

Service providers identified six types of technology-facilitated abuse. These were (in order of prevalence based on the interview data):

  1. abusive phone calls and text messages
  2. destroying devices or restricting technology access
  3. abuse by third-parties via social media
  4. monitoring and stalking
  5. image-based abuse
  6. making and distributing fight videos

Research Cyberbullying and Indigenous Australians shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people use and experience technology in culturally specific ways. Their experiences might include:

Technology used to promote cultural values such as openness and sharing.
Platform features causing offence or disrespect, such as the memorialisation of profiles on Facebook.
A greater incidence of racism or online hate.

Strategies that can support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people online include:

Using culturally appropriate programming such as the eSafety Be Deadly resource which uses contextually relevant examples and language.
Recognising and emphasising cultural strengths such as the value placed on openness and sharing.
Honouring traditional social structures when resolving online conflicts for example, supporting elders to understand the technology so they can mediate social issues.

Indigenous Australians are twice as likely to have experienced image-based abuse in comparison with non- Indigenous Australians. A quarter of those who identify as Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander (25%) have experienced image-based abuse, compared with 11% of those who don’t identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

The prevalence of image-based abuse is higher amongst women and younger adults.
Women aged 18 and over (15%) are twice as likely as men aged 18 and over to have experienced image- based abuse (7%). The largest difference in prevalence between women and men can be seen amongst young adults aged 18-24, with 24% of women and 16% of men aged 18-24 having experienced image-based abuse. Of young women aged 15 to 17, 15% had experienced image-based abuse.

The proportion who have experienced image-based abuse substantially decreases with age amongst women and men. One-fifth (20%) of women aged 18-45 experienced image-based abuse compared with 4% of women aged 46 and over. For men, 16% of those aged 18-45 experienced image-based abuse compared with 4% of men aged 46 and over.




• Reclaiming history with the support of therapy;
• Transmitting culture and connection through ceremonies, art and singing;
• Welcome to Country ceremonies;
• Creation stories, smoking ceremonies, artefact making and painting;
• Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as artists, performing stories through hip-hop and rap;
• Playing of musical instruments in both Aboriginal and non-Indigenous settings;
• Maintaining and learning about culture to help children with identity and education;
• Connecting with land and learning from Elders including collecting, eating and sharing bush tucker.





Raising Children
An information resource for parents, professionals and others caring for children.

Safe For Our Kids
A guide to family violence response and prevention for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families.

Aboriginal Family-Led Decision Making (AFLDM) trial
These alternative models recognise the needs and strengths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, and seek to place families at the centre of the decision making process.  At each trial site, a family group meeting process will bring together extended family, kin and community members to make decisions about how to ensure the best care and safety of children.