Funding policies silence Indigenous DV victims

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Recently, Warren Mundine spoke out about the high rates of domestic violence in the Northern Territory, specifically in remote Indigenous communities. This data focuses on domestic violence against Indigenous women and their children.

Bashed Aboriginal woman with man's hands over her mouthLabelling it a 'domestic violence epidemic', Mundine questioned whether Indigenous parliamentary ministers were adequately advocating for Indigenous peoples in order to protect the funding of domestic violence programs. He stated, 'I look at all the Indigenous people in parliament now, what are they doing? I look at the Indigenous leadership out there, what are they doing?'

Mundine, however, is in a role that requires oversight of those domestic violence figures among the Indigenous population. With that information, his role is to protect government funding of programs which aim to counter the 'epidemic' through early intervention strategies.

Linda Burney, for example, critiques Mundine's claims that Indigenous parliamentarians and leaders have failed to protect the funding of domestic violence programs given 'these things have happened on his watch'.

Rather than pointing the blame at who is primarily at fault, it is clear that without government funding to support early intervention programs which aim to prevent domestic violence and support victims, family violence will continue.

From the perspective of political representation, there needs to be amplification of the political voices which represent the Indigenous population, to strengthen their advocacy in protecting Indigenous domestic violence programs. This is likely to be best achieved through increased Indigenous parliamentary representation and better recognition of their advocacy for Indigenous communities.

However, bearing that in mind, how those programs are actually being funded should also be reviewed.

Indigenous representative voices need not only to be taken into account, but must be considered in a meaningful way that understands the issues on a base level. That extends to adequate knowledge of how those programs work, the benefits of those programs and who they reach out to, the strengths of those programs with Indigenous case workers, and how they are currently being funded.

 

"Where several early intervention domestic violence programs are financially reliant on one intermediate program and that program is cut from funding, communities lose multiple programs at once."

 

There is a general lack of trust among Indigenous Australians towards the Australian government. The effects of post colonisation are a primary contributor to this. To help reconcile the relationship between Indigenous communities and government, Indigenous domestic violence victims need to see more government initiatives that aren't short-lived and continuously being defunded. Indigenous domestic violence victims need to feel safe and, more importantly, supported by the Australian government if we are ever going to see a decrease in rates of violence.

Compounding this issue is how initiatives are being funded to begin with. As Linda Burney observed, 'Brighter Futures', for example, was not funded independently, but rather was reliant on another intermediate program. Where several early intervention domestic violence programs are financially reliant on one intermediate program and that program is cut from funding, the negative result is exacerbated, with communities losing multiple programs at once.

As old programs lose funding and new programs are rolled out, victims of domestic violence must keep reliving and retelling their traumatic experience to a variety of different case workers from different programs. Indigenous domestic violence victims would benefit from government support that had longer-lived programs, with a few assigned case workers to their matter, preferably at least one of whom is an Indigenous person with a high level of trust and connection within the community.

Despite Mundine's claims, there are many skilled Indigenous case workers around the country, who have been speaking out about family violence. But seemingly no one is listening, least of all those in charge of policies for funding. Through my experience, and as a Bundjalung woman from Grafton, NSW, I know Indigenous case workers who are skilled, have connections and trust built within their Indigenous community, yet who struggle each day to find work because of the defunding of these programs.

The defunding of these programs is essentially silencing the voices of domestic violence victims who are unable to reach out and gain support from case workers they trust, who would typically be assigned to their matter in these types of programs. Without casting blame, instead we must recognise the important need for ensuring that effective, grassroots, community programs remain properly funded and live long enough to amplify the voices of domestic violence victims and those who advocate for them.

 


Dani LarkinDani Larkin is a Bunjalung woman who grew up on the Aboriginal community Baryulgil. She is an admitted lawyer and has practiced in a variety of areas of law. Dani is studying her PhD in law at Bond University with her thesis topic on 'The Law and Policy of Indigenous Cultural Identity and Political Participation: A Comparative Analysis between Australia, Canada and New Zealand'.

Topic tags: Dani Larkin, domestic violence, Warren Mundine


 

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Thank you so much for this article showing us just how wrongly blame is being apportioned. Will pray for much improvement in policies and their implementation.
Jean Sietzema-Dickson | 16 October 2016


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