The leading body supporting Indigenous women who have experienced family, domestic and sexual violence has been excluded from the National Plan Advisory Group (NPAG) which will inform the National Plan to end family, domestic and sexual violence.
Announced on Friday, the NPAG hosts 19 members including representatives from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Social Services, Westpac Bank, Women’s Safety NSW, Women with Disabilities Australia, and Our Watch.
“The diverse backgrounds and expertise of the Advisory Group members will ensure we are drawing on wide-ranging ideas and bringing Australians with us as we build the next National Plan,” said Minister for Women, Senator Marise Payne in a joint statement with Minister for Women’s Safety, Anne Ruston.
Of the 19 members, only two are Indigenous-specific organisations, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation who will be represented by co-chair Donnella Mills and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Alliance represented by chief executive Sandra Creamer.
The National FVPLS Forum is a 14-body forum with over 20 years of experience. It brings together frontline experts from the domestic and family violence sector who hold specific expertise in relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children experiencing domestic and family violence.
National Forum chair and Djirra chief executive Antoinette Braybrook describes it as both “concerning and alarming” that the Government has not prioritised the National FVPLS Forum.
“The National FVPLS Forum supports the appointments made to the National Plan Advisory Group, but we are at a loss to understand why the National FVPLS Forum has been excluded — given that family violence is our core business,” she said.
“Our national body works in partnership and collaboratively with all of the national bodies who have been appointed to the National Plan Advisory Group, however they do not represent the work that we do with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.”
Over 95 per cent of National FVPLS Forum clients are First Nations women and children.
“It is our expertise and our on-the-ground experience that must be at the table to inform the development of the National Plan to end violence against women and children,” Braybrook said.
“Having the National FVPLS Forum on the advisory group will ensure that our women’s experiences and voices are heard, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are visible.”
Shadow Minister for Social Services and Indigenous Australians Linda Burney encourages the Government to reconsider appointing the National Forum.
“We acknowledge the inclusion of Donnella Mills and Sandra Creamer, two First Nations women who will provide an important perspective and bring experience to the group,” she said.
“The Government should include the National FVPLS Forum in this group. It would only strengthen the First Nations perspectives of this group, as well as bring frontline experience, on an issue that disproportionately and uniquely impacts First Nations communities.”
Greens Senate Candidate Dorinda Cox said it is “crucial to prioritise First Nations women’s voices in this framework” and mentions the Coalition Government’s attempt to pull “funding from the National FVPLS Forum secretariat role, so they were no longer recognised as a national body”.
“This is a clear demonstration of the Government locking First Nations voices out of spaces that determine their own outcomes, and a continuation of systematic discrimination by not allowing First Nations voices to challenge the system,” she said.
“This Government has a vested interest in keeping NFVPLS out of this process. [Scott] Morrison has continually demonstrated that he is all talk, and no walk when it comes to making tangible improvements on the lives of First Nations Australians.”
Minister Payne and Minister Ruston also announced the Government’s intention to create an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council.
This council will provide advice to ensure the Closing the Gap target, which aims to see all forms of family violence and abuse against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children reduced by 50 per cent by 2031, is embedded into the next National Plan.
Braybrook hopes to see the National FVPLS Forum appointed to both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council and the NPAG.
“We understand that there is a separate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council being established … we believe that the National FVPLS Forum must also have a seat at that table, but that does not absolve the need for us to be appointed to this over-arching advisory group,” she said.
“We have written to the relevant Ministers requesting appointment to this advisory group, and we know that many of our supporters have done the same.”
NIT contacted Minister Payne and Minister Ruston but did not receive a response by time of publication.
By Rachael Knowles