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Indigenous women leading plan to end family violence

Rudi Maxwell -

A fresh approach to address high rates of violence against Indigenous women and children does something simple, yet revolutionary.

It centres the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including those who are experts in the field and those who have lived experience of family and domestic violence.

To this end, a steering committee to develop a standalone national plan has come together in Canberra for the first time.

First Nations people are disproportionately impacted by family violence and abuse.

Indigenous women are an appalling 33 times more likely to be hospitalised and will die six times more often from domestic violence than non-Indigenous women in Australia.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth says culturally appropriate and independent advice is needed to create systemic change.

"The First Nations national plan will guide a whole-of-society approach to addressing the unacceptable rates of family violence and abuse against First Nations women and children," she told Wednesday's gathering in the capital.

The National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all states and territories, the Commonwealth and Indigenous peak organisations, targets a 50 per cent reduction in all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children by 2031, progressing towards none.

Amanda Rishworth says culturally appropriate and independent advice is needed to create change. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

Steering committee member Hannah McGlade, an academic, lawyer, advocate and Noongar woman from Western Australia, says developing a stand-alone approach that centres Indigenous women's voices is critical.

"We won't be able to close the gap in Indigenous family violence and address the shocking murder rates of Indigenous women and girls without this kind of high level plan and commitment from all governments," she says.

Dr McGlade says there are myriad complex intersecting issues driving and underlining the violence, noting colonisation and systemic and structural discrimination.

"We know Aboriginal women's leadership, knowledge, expertise and understanding is essential, it reflects the fundamental principle of Aboriginal self-determination."

The relationship between mainstream women's organisations and Indigenous women has not always been easy, with complaints First Nations women's voices and policy ideas are overlooked and ignored.

For example, recent calls to criminalise coercive control have been opposed by Indigenous women, who point to cases when over-policing has led to Aboriginal women seeking help for family violence being arrested, at times leading to tragic outcomes.

"For too long Aboriginal women have not been heard," Dr McGlade says.

"We've been advocating for these systemic reforms, knowing that without them our women's and children's lives continue placed at risk.

"Too often Aboriginal women have been unsupported in their traumatic experiences, there's been a lack of culturally appropriate and early responses."

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney says the members of the First Nations Steering Committee bring an enormous depth of experience and expertise and will play an important role in providing guidance and advice.

Dr Hannah McGlade: "For too long Aboriginal women have not been heard." (Aaron Bunch/AAP PHOTOS)

"This is a demonstration of the Albanese government's commitment to working in genuine partnership with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to address significant challenges, including family violence and abuse," she noted of Wednesday's meeting.

Led by two co-chairs, the committee is made up of 12 non-government First Nations representatives, reps from each state and territory and the Commonwealth, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and the Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Commissioner.

The First Nations National Plan will follow the foundations set in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan 2023-2025, under the goals of the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032.

Rudi Maxwell - AAP

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