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The time is now for a First Nations National Safety Plan

Guest Author -

Self-determined, First Nations-led, driven by on-the-ground expertise and lived experience: those are the three fundamental elements of a successful National Safety Plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Government 'solutions' have been failing our people for decades.

The Closing the Gap refresh promised to do things differently. It promised partnership and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership.

Now we need to see the government walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

Tragically, but unsurprisingly, the government's last 12-year National Action Plan has been a failure. It has been a failure for all women, but particularly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

We are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence and 10 times more likely to die from assault than other women.

Yet governments ignore our calls for new strategies, adequate funding and an end to the policies that are harming First Nations women.

That's why at the Women's Safety Summit last month, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women overwhelmingly called for a dedicated, self-determined First Nations National Safety Plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Leaders such as June Oscar AO, Professor Marcia Langton and our own Thelma Schwartz were crystal clear. As June said powerfully:

"First Nations women deserve a standalone National Plan, not a plan that is an afterthought to another policy."

We are calling for:

A truly self-determined plan that brings together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and First Nations frontline service providers to design our own strategies for our safety and the safety of our communities. This cannot be achieved by government deciding who is at the table, and what reforms they want to consider.

Our own dedicated plan to ensure we are not an afterthought or an 'add on' to a 'mainstream' plan. That won't work. We need to design a plan that specifically works for us and our communities.

A new approach that does not replicate the mistakes of the old National Action Plan that failed to reduce the violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Any plan that is a subset of a government driven process, under a government determined framework, will fall into the same traps.

It is not safe for our women to call the police when they are in danger. Too often our cries for help are met with police hostility or dismissal.

Worse, we are often misidentified as the perpetrators of family violence and criminalised. We are terrorised with the threat of having our children removed.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately driven into homelessness. Social security payments drive us below the poverty line, so when we flee violence, we have nowhere to go.

Our frontline Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services have been begging for adequate funding for years.

At the last federal budget, we were allocated only a quarter of what we asked for.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women across the country are being turned away because our services are struggling to meet demand.

These are the issues a dedicated First Nations National Safety Plan would address.

We have had enough of governments telling us what is and isn't politically possible. We have the solutions and the trust of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

It is time for this government to listen and take action.

You can back our calls by emailing the Prime Minister, Senator Ruston and Senator Payne using our easy online tool: https://changetherecord.good.do/NSP/

By Antoinette Braybrook

Antoinette Braybrook is the CEO Djirra, Co-Chair Change the Record and Co-Chair National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum

If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, please contact:

National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence counselling service â€" 1800 RESPECT

Domestic Violence Line NSW â€" ‍1800 656 463

Kids Helpline â€" 1800 551 800

Visit respect.gov.au for more information and to download free resources.

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