Lessons Learnt: Preventing violence against Aboriginal women and children in Central Australia
Jan 24, 2022
Key messages and learnings from the panel discussion hosted by DKA and CAAFLU.
Service providers gather at the Desert Knowledge Precinct to share insights on preventing violence against Aboriginal women and children.
Over 70 people gathered at the Desert Knowledge Precinct, just before the Christmas break, to discuss and gain insights on an important issue affecting our region: violence against Aboriginal women and children.
The event was part of the global ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign, and produced by Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) and the Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit (CAAFLU), with support from the Northern Territory Government.
It hosted three panel discussions featuring facilitators and speakers that included prominent sector specialists in the domestic, family and sexual violence (DFSV) space, as well as youth and social services. The discussions celebrated Arrernte women taking a stand against domestic violence; shared evidence-based learnings; and provided insights into the importance of male leadership in the space. [View information on facilitators and speakers here.]
As we move into a new year continuing our work in the space, here are some key messages and learnings from the day…
Panel 1 | Sharing Stories: ‘Resistance and resilience’
This panel was facilitated by Julianna Marshall, and featured Phynea Clarke, Sabella Turner, Shirleen Campbell, and Patricia Dodds. It celebrated Arrernte women who are taking a stand against domestic and family violence in our communities.
(L‑R) Julianna Marshall, Phynea Clarke, Patricia Dodds, Shirleen Campbell, and Sabella Turner.
- We need to listen to Aboriginal voices and improve media reporting
Stories of Aboriginal victim-survivors are often missing from public reporting. We need to allow these women to tell their stories, and give them a voice in a responsible, respectful, and culturally-appropriate manner.
Media reporting can also be further improved by listening to sector experts and victim-survivors; seeking to unpack the issue in depth over reporting on specific incidents; providing more information on preparators and not just the victims; and providing help-seeking information.
[Read the media guidelines for reporting DFSV in the NT.]
- Take a step back and let Aboriginal women lead
Aboriginal women in Central Australia have been working to counter drivers of violence against women for many years. They have also been advocating for systemic change at a national level, but experience many challenges and interruptions with funding uncertainty and changes to governments.
Services need to allow Aboriginal women to lead efforts to prevent DFSV, and listen to them when it comes to issues involving Aboriginal communities.
- Young Aboriginal men need to be stronger
In the old days, Aboriginal men were hunters and fighters, and took on a strong role in the community. We need young Aboriginal men to resume their role as community leaders, and be at the forefront of the sector’s response.
Panel 2 | Practical information: ‘Preventing violence – what works?’
This panel was facilitated by Nikila Cranage, and featured Dr Chay Brown, Allison Gray, and Colleen Hayes. It shared lessons and evidence-based learnings in preventing violence against Aboriginal women and their children.
- The more gender equitable a society is, the less violence against women
DFSV is the most common form of violence against women, with the primary driver of violence against women being gender inequality. This is because gender inequality creates conditions in which women and men are not considered equal.
People with gender equitable views are far less likely to ever use violence or to even feel violent. If we want to reduce violence in our society, we must fix the power imbalances between non-Indigenous people, systems, and structures, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- We need to address the impact of colonisation
For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, the ongoing violence and status disparities created by colonisation intersects with gender inequality to drive violence. We need to have difficult conversations to address the impact of colonisation on today’s society.
- We need a dedicated prevention workforce
It is important to prevent violence before it happens. This means we need better support and funding for workers in the prevention space, to be able to better respond to the drivers of violence and stop it before it happens.
- Vicarious trauma is real, and it is important to take care of frontline workers
Vicarious trauma is a normal response to ongoing exposure to other people’s trauma. Vicarious trauma challenges our understanding of the world in five key areas: safety, trust/dependency, esteem, control, and intimacy.
Sector workers need to be mindful of and be able to recognise the signs of vicarious trauma. Self and collective care, as well as debriefs and supervision, are important for all frontline workers that deal with DFSV.
[Read about common symptoms and self-care to manage vicarious trauma.]
- Focus on ‘dadirri’ / deep listening
Despite many efforts to understand Aboriginal perspectives and experiences, there is a focus on structured reports which fail capture the essence of authentic stories. It is important to really listen to the stories of the Aboriginal community through deep listening and yarning, rather than predetermined questionnaires.
Panel 3 | Male Leadership and Roles: ‘Men are part of the solution’
This panel was facilitated by Nikolas Rosalski, and featured Charlie King, Michael Liddle, and David Woodroffe. It looked at the importance of male leadership in ending domestic and family violence in our communities.
- More Aboriginal men need to be involved
There are not enough Aboriginal men at the table when these conversations happen, and we need to invite them and make sure they are involved in these important discussions. Because despite men being the problem, they are also part of the solution.
- Sport and other far-reaching platforms need to be utilised as mediums to spread the message
The sector needs to utilise platforms with large audiences, such as sport, to spread anti-violence messages. This could help reduce the frequency of violence, and normalise ‘calling it out’.
- Counselling and support services need to be utilised
Many men who are plagued with mental health issues are not dealing with their emotions and vulnerabilities. This then leads to anger, which causes them to lash out.
Counselling services and preventive programs need to be more available to men, for them to be able to deal with and express their emotions in a healthy manner.
- Everyone has good in their heart
Despite some men committing violent acts, everyone has good in their hearts. It is important for us to find a way to tap into that side of them.
DKA and CAAFLU thank all our facilitators, speakers, and attendees who joined us on the day; and hope these lessons guide the work being done by the many dedicated service providers in Central Australia over 2022.
This event was produced by Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) and the Central Australian Aboriginal Family Legal Unit (CAAFLU), with support from the Northern Territory Government. Part of ‘16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence’.