Social workers, leaders lament cycle of violence

Renee Leslie and Victoria Ford. Photo: Jillian Mundy/Oxfam

Renee Leslie has a no-nonsense attitude to domestic violence.

The social worker from the New South Wales town of Nowra says Indigenous communities should have zero tolerance for the epidemic facing their people.

“It’s not Aboriginal culture, it’s not our way of life, it never has been,” she says.

Ms Leslie believes trauma handed down from one generation to the next is something that needs to be investigated and put to rest.

“I believe intergenerational trauma is a significant factor in why this is happening in communities still,” she says.

“If there’s better understanding around intergenerational trauma and that gets addressed, then that’s going to minimise future domestic and family violence in communities.”

Ms Leslie was one of 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women from around Australia who added their voices to Oxfam Australia’s Straight Talk summit in Canberra this week.

The women sat down with female parliamentarians to talk about the issues facing their communities.

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop opened the summit today at Parliament House. Labor Senator Penny Wong and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert also attended.

Ms Leslie believes culture can lead the way to healing.

“I think we need to move back to culture, making time to go back to country, embracing culture through arts and craft,” she says.

Victoria Ford travelled from Derby in Western Australia’s north to the nation’s capital for the talks.

She says there need to be more opportunities for young people.

“A lot of the youth, there are no pathways for them,” she says.

“No programs in place to support them through different schools and opportunities.

“Then they are impacted by other things like alcohol and drugs.

“There’s really nothing for them to look forward to. There’s nothing for them to be engaged in. Then they go down the path of seeking things in the wrong areas.”

Ms Ford says suicide and substance abuse could be headed off by better equipping young people through a national life skills program that could be taught in primary schools from Year 5.

“Just preparing them for every day,” she says.

“General things like budgeting, helping them with coping skills around peer pressure.

“We think it should start younger. Instead of looking at youth it needs to go down younger to junior. It needs to start in primary school.”

Ms Ford has high hopes for future generations.

“I would hope to see resilience in our young people, better choices for the future, more opportunities to achieve in higher education and I’d like to see more of our Aboriginal children coming through universities and getting degrees,” she says.

Wendy Caccetta

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