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WA government and police are failing Indigenous women and children, Senate inquiry hears

Rhiannon Clarke -

A leading Indigenous human rights and anti-violence expert has called for more effort from the Western Australian government and police to protect Aboriginal women and children.

At the Senate Inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children hearings held in Perth this week Dr Hannah McGalde told senator Paul Scarr and Dorinda Cox: "We know that many children, Aboriginal children, are being removed because of violence to women, their mothers."

"The punitive approach that's been adopted particularly in Western Australia, has resulted in large numbers of Aboriginal children being removed and experiencing often lack of cultural safety in their placements," she said.

Dr McGlade said many Indigenous women are reluctant to reach out to police out of fear they will be discriminated against or not taken seriously when reporting charges made against them.

Senator Cox asked Dr McGlade Australia do better in relation to the inquiry, to which Dr McGlade responded that Indigenous people should be free of racial discrimination.

"The declaration of the rights of Indigenous people which guarantees Indigenous people to be free from racial discrimination," she said.

"And for the right to be provided to Indigenous women, this is very important and additional women's rights to self determination has not been properly respected in Australia today."

"Obviously the issue of violence is what we've been prioritising about and it's important that it's happening both in north and Western Australia, which has very high rates of Violence."

Dr Hannah McGlade is a Associate Professor at the Curtin University

(Image: sourced indigenousx website)

"Very little attention to that violence, and we know that there are systemic and structural underlying causes and drivers that are being addressed... In particular a lack of investment in early intervention and prevention violence in the Aboriginal community…so the declaration is very important."

Dr McGlade noted the apology made by WA police several years ago, and said there was a ceremony during NAIDOC Week but alleged no actions were followed through.

"Actions can be window dressing if not followed through with appropriate commitment or if the committee is established," she said.

"Then they should really be having a firm commitment to human rights training, addressing racism in all aspects.

"Including how it impacts Indigenous women and girls, who are often treated as offenders rather than victims, that's a form of racial profiling."

Dr McGlade cited a case to demonstrate the lack of resources for Indigenous women and girls involving a young girl from Boddington who took her own life after her violent attacker was freed on bail.

"I would advocate for proper training not just in regard to Aboriginal cultural relations but of course in relation to violence against Indigenous women," she said.

When asked if she has any suggestions to for the committee in relation to the justice system, Dr McGlade said establishing some Aboriginal women committees to guide responses, but she emphasised that the government needs to have a willingness to do more.

"I do appreciate the works of local Aboriginal women Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar with the Wiyi Yani U Thangani Report," she said.

Dr McGlade hopes the federal national action plan and its next stage engages and influences the state government to be do better.

"I don't see a whole lot of improvement from the Gould inquiry, which was over 20 years ago, showing neglect and failure from various departments in terms of their responses to violence and division of women and children," she said.

WA police failed to appear before the Senate inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women.

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