No woman in our country is ever truly safe from men’s violence, not in her workplace, not in her neighbourhood, and not in her home.
It’s been a hard year to be a woman. Our stories have filled the news, with our safety, our bodies and lives becoming public debate. In March, cities across the nation felt the feet of women flood streets, with one message — enough is enough.
While Australia grapples with uprooting a deeply embedded culture of misogyny, sexism, and violence against our women — it seems we aren’t ready to talk about the misogyny, sexism and violence perpetrated against First Nations women.
And the price of that silence is paid by First Nations women.
In the face of ignorance and active silencing, First Nations women have called loud and clear for a path to progress — a standalone, First Nations-led National Safety Plan to reduce violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.
It is now is what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar calls a “window of opportunity”.
It’s a time when government can create real change, with First Nations women “front and centre, not as afterthought or add-on”.
In the words of Dr Hannah McGlade, a standalone plan would address “systemic and structural violence” and “will identify the issues, adopting an intersectional approach, that properly acknowledges Aboriginal women’s identity”.
“We cannot effectively address violence against Indigenous women with one-sized all approaches that deny Indigenous women’s actual experiences.”
With the legacy of colonisation, violence against First Nations women is very different to the violence experienced by non-First Nations women.
“We come with a very unique experience of a society of people that have been colonised, and the impacts and trauma of that. We can’t sit alongside non-Indigenous women and say we have had the same experience, historically there is a huge difference,” Ms Oscar said.
“We need a government and a process to be able to be open to Indigenous women. And we need the equal investment in ensuring First Nations women have a voice.”
Now is the time, but the question remains — will the Morrison Government act?
Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston said the Government was working to “develop a plan that is specific and targeted” to the needs of First Nations women and children.
But when it comes to the Morrison Government doing anything for women, one would be a fool to believe words are anything more than words.
“There’s a lack of care and concern, even though it is well known that Aboriginal women do suffer extremely high rates of violence including murder,” Dr McGlade said.
“The lack of response and concern we can only put down to racism.”
When it comes to addressing violence against First Nations women, settler colonialism is alive and well.
“We’re seeing Australia act as a settler society, not willing to respect Indigenous leadership and decision-making properly in relation to the issue of violence against women and child safety,” Dr McGlade.
Ms Oscar said the world had been “constructed based on ideologies of ethnocentrism. That someone from the dominant culture will always revert to what they know, rather than being open to being informed by cultural groups or Indigenous peoples”.
“We have the tools to navigate these issues, but our situation is compounded with the fact that socially we haven’t truly recognised and embraced the fact that Indigenous Peoples have solutions to these matters.”
We’re at crisis point, we are losing women at an unfathomable rate and interventions are not working.
In Dr McGlade’s words, “this is about women’s lives, children’s lives, our future as Indigenous people”.
“As Aboriginal people we are fighting oppression and human rights abuse on so many levels, Indigenous femicide poses a threat to our survival as a people.”
Our human rights, our lives, our children, and our future as women sit in the hands of the Morrison Government. Without action, without investment, the legacy of the Morrison Government will only be a commitment to violence — and a message that we do not matter.
The time is now. Enough is enough.
By Rachael Knowles
If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, please contact:
- National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence counselling service – 1800 RESPECT
- Domestic Violence Line NSW – 1800 656 463
- Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800
Visit respect.gov.au for more information and to download free resources.