Quick escape

Preventing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

About the project 

Our Watch is developing a resource to improve Australia’s approach to the prevention of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. This will be a companion piece to Change the story: A shared framework for the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia, which was developed and launched by Our Watch, ANROWS and VicHealth in 2015. The new resource will focus specifically on violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women – particularly on understanding its underlying drivers and developing a framework for long-term prevention.

Rationale

While prevalence rates vary for many groups of women, the differential impact of violence on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in particular is striking. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience violence at higher rates than non-Indigenous women1, and are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence-related assaults than non-Indigenous women.2

As a national framework designed for relevance across the diverse Australian population, Change the story acknowledges this specific reality, but its high-level focus means it cannot properly do justice to this issue.

Further consideration of how to most effectively prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children is imperative, and requires a separate, dedicated effort, that is guided by a participatory process where the voices, experiences, ideas and solutions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves are central.

Conceptual approach

This resource will emphasise the high prevalence and complex nature of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. It will consider this violence in the context of broader colonial violence and specifically the intergenerational impacts of dispossession, the forced removal of children, the interruption of cultural practices that mitigate against interpersonal violence, and the ongoing and cumulative economic exclusion and disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. These impacts include intergenerational trauma, lateral violence and internalised colonialism. 

While placing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in this broader context, the project will also take a deliberately gendered approach, to focus specifically on the ways in which these factors interact to drive and exacerbate extremely high levels of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in particular.

The resource will then explore the implications of this understanding for prevention policy and practice. While the structure and content of the resource will emerge during the project, it is likely to include principles for effective prevention work – outlining for example, the ways in which prevention strategies need to be designed, tailored or targeted, both to ensure they are culturally appropriate and relevant, and to address the different issues that arise in urban, regional and remote contexts. These principles will highlight the need for the development of local, community-led, strengths-based, trauma-informed and healing focused solutions.

Where appropriate, the resource may also include case studies of previous or current successful work that could be replicated or expanded, and will aim to identify gaps, needs and opportunities for new approaches by diverse stakeholders that can contribute to the long-term prevention of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.  

Project governance

The project is supported and guided by a project Advisory Group comprising 11 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from across the country, who were appointed following a public Expression of Interest process. The Advisory Group will provide advice, strategic direction, and assist with the identification of key stakeholders to consult with around the country.

Research and consultation

The project will be informed by a review of relevant research and literature, as well as targeted consultation and research interviews, primarily with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, but potentially including other service providers or organisations with relevant experience and expertise. Advisory Group members will provide advice on relevant literature and consultation opportunities, and suggestions for people and organisations to approach for interviews.

Interviews and consultations will seek participants’ thoughts and perspectives on this issue, discuss their experiences working in this or related areas, and explore key questions, such as: 
  • Based on your experience, what do you see as some of the causes or underlying drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women?
  • When it comes to the prevention of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, what are the greatest needs and gaps in terms of programs and approaches?
  • What are some of the key principles that should guide prevention work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? 
  • What are the different programs and approaches that might be needed for women and men, and for children and young people?

Project timing

This project is currently in progress, with the resource anticipated to be completed and launched in early 2018.

Further information

For further information about this project, to offer suggestions for the research or consultation components, or to be added to the email list for general project updates, please contact Karla McGrady, Senior Policy Advisor, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women: karla.mcgrady@ourwatch.org.au

1. There is no single data source that provides a direct comparison for all forms of violence. However various data sources consistently show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experiencing higher (and often much higher) rates of violence than non-Indigenous women, with the size of the difference varying according to the type of violence, data source and jurisdiction.

2. In 2014-15, hospitalisation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family violence-related assaults were 530 females per 100 000 female population. After adjusting for differences in population age structures, this was 32 times the rate for non-Indigenous females. Source: Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2016) Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: Key indicators 2016, Productivity Commission, Canberra, p.4.98, and table (table 4A.12.13).