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"Misidentified, criminalised and incarcerated": Calls for action to support Aboriginal women facing domestic violence

Jarred Cross -

Antoinette Braybrook says there is an urgent need for increased support to the services best placed to end domestic violence, amid national protests rallying against the scourge.

Ms Braybrook, chief executive of family violence prevention, women’s and legal support service Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisation Djirra, told ABC Radio National on Monday that organisations like hers “are the lowest funded of the four legal assistance providers in the country” despite family violence and Aboriginal women's safety being their core business.

Following the weekend’s rallies, she said: “I do hope that this is a turning point”. 

“I've spent 22 years working at the frontline of Aboriginal women's safety. And in that time, I've only seen things get worse, not better.

“We've been calling year after year for increased funding to meet the demand for our services, our frontline work, legal, non legal work. And that has not been forthcoming.”

Ms Braybrook said there has been clear messaging for stronger investment for Indigenous women’s self-determination and specialist family violence community organisations, and called for a fast-tracked dedicated national framework and funding stream for non-legal work. 

“Djirra, together with the other Aboriginal family violence prevention and legal services around the country are the lowest funded of the four legal assistance providers in the country, and our core business is family violence and Aboriginal women's safety,” she said.

“We cannot wait until the 26th budget for funding to hit the ground for Aboriginal women's safety.”

In light of recent deaths, acts of violence and alleged incidents in the courts across the nation involving women, Ms Braybrook said the existence of “serial perpetrators” is a reality seen in her work. 

She also said a change of perception is required. 

“With respect to Aboriginal women, we've got to stop labelling this issue as violence in Aboriginal communities,” Ms Braybrook said.

“It creates an invisibility and compromises Aboriginal women's safety further. 

"This is a gendered issue for Aboriginal women, and we need to start naming it that.

“Our women are partnered with men from many different cultures and backgrounds. So it's not an Aboriginal problem as such.”

Ms Braybrook also added “we just need to be mindful of these statistics” and have Aboriginal voices at the table in decision making. 

“In our work, what we say is Aboriginal women seeking safety, but they're treated as criminals,” she said.

“They're misidentified, criminalised and incarcerated.

“It's really complex, but a simple solution for us is to invest in Aboriginal self-determination and our specialist family violence organisations that prioritise Aboriginal women's safety.”

Professor Anne Summers, who joined Ms Braybrook in the interview, seconded her calls for funding into specialist services, including those in regional and remote areas, and agreed with the risks of being “victimised and even incarcerated” for Aboriginal women coming forward.

“This is a shocking lack of justice and that needs to be redressed immediately, and can be,” Professor Summers said.

“We need to make sure that these services that are in the business of saving lives are properly paid.”

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