A framework developed by a family violence prevention organisation may hold the key to reducing domestic and family violence against Indigenous women in the future.
Changing the Picture, a framework developed by Our Watch, aims to protect Indigenous women against the high rates of violence perpetrated against them – a rate 3.1 times higher than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts, according to Our Watch.
Recent decisions by the government to cut funding for Indigenous domestic violence services has resulted in Australia having to find a better solution for at-risk Indigenous women.
Our Watch Chief Executive, Patty Kinnersly, said Changing the Picture aims to address these high rates of violence by creating a framework that acknowledges the trauma behind the violence.
“In order to address the disproportionate rates of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, we must acknowledge the intergenerational trauma experienced by all [Indigenous] people as a result of colonisation, which includes grief and loss, significant family, community and cultural dislocation and ongoing deterioration to health and wellbeing,” Kinnersly said.
“This intergenerational trauma plays a role in creating the conditions for interpersonal violence today.”
Guided by an advisory group of 11 Indigenous women and stakeholders from the community, government and various organisations, Changing the Picture is intended to provide support for Indigenous organisations to build culturally appropriate responses.
“Changing the Picture seeks to build on, respond to and amplify the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have been campaigning against gendered and sexual violence and calling for action for decades,” Kinnersly said.
“The resource is intended for individuals – both men and women – communities, organisations, governments and a range of other stakeholders interested in achieving a violence-free Australia for [Indigenous] women and their children.
“It does not prescribe specific actions, but rather offers guidance intended to support evidence-informed, intersectional and culturally appropriate approaches to prevention policy and practice, across jurisdictions and sectors.”
Kinnersly is passionate about the need to protect Indigenous women, explaining that the violence they suffer is often far more severe than non-Indigenous women.
“Unfortunately, there is an urgent need to address violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” she said.
“Not only do they report experiencing violence at three times the rate of non-Indigenous women, in 2014–15, hospitalisation rates due to family violence were 32 times higher for Indigenous women than for non-Indigenous women.”
This stark difference in rates of violence pushed Our Watch to develop a framework that has a greater focus on prevention rather than dealing with the effect of the violence on these women.
“Responding to violence is important [however] Changing the Picture shows how we can prevent this violence before it occurs.”
“Primary prevention is a long-term social change approach. Rather than treating the ‘symptoms’, it aims to treat the underlying drivers of violence, to ultimately prevent it from happening in the first place and create a violence-free future.”
The framework is in its infancy but has already been making great strides with government and non-government organisations using it as a resource to better develop policies and prevention strategies.
The Victorian Government’s Action Plan has referenced Changing the Picture as part of the Government’s Committed to Safety framework dealing with domestic and sexual violence.
Changing the Picture has also been used in the curriculum of the Graduate Certificate in Domestic and Family Violence at RMIT University.
Most notably, Kinnersly explained proudly, is the success of the framework in Aboriginal-controlled organisation, Tangentyere Council, who created the Tangentyere Family Violence Prevention Program (TFVPP).
“The TFVPP told us that the resource validated the work they do and helped them to develop their Mums Can, Dads Can campaign,” Kinnersly said.
“This campaign, worked with Alice Springs Town Camp community members to identify and challenge rigid gender stereotypes about men’s and women’s roles, particularly in the context of parenting in their local communities.
“It is a strong example of what using Changing the Picture can look like in practice, ensuring that messaging is culturally-safe and appropriate for the audience.”
On the future of the program, Kinnersly is hopeful the preventative nature of the framework will bring positive change but acknowledges it will take time.
“Because prevention seeks to change the deep underlying social conditions that create, drive and sustain violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Changing the Picture acknowledges this change will take time.
“As the national prevention organisation, we know that violence against women cannot be prevented until its deeper drivers are properly understood and addressed with appropriate solutions.”
“[It] is about developing a greater understanding not only of the attitudes, behaviours and social norms that drive violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, but about the systemic and structural drivers too.
“Changing the Picture shows us that a long-term approach to preventing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women means challenging the combination of sexism, racism and the ongoing and traumatic impacts of colonisation that create the underlying conditions for this violence.
“In Indigenous communities we know that these need to be based on the principles of self-determination, community ownership, control and leadership.
“The framework also calls on non-Indigenous people and organisations to be effective allies on this issue – particularly by challenging racism and the condoning of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Kinnersly also said while they’re hopeful the long-term approach will work effectively, support services that currently exist should be increased and supported.
“Crisis and support services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children experiencing violence must be increased and appropriately resourced and implementing effective programs for men (of all backgrounds) who use violence remains critical.”
By Caris Duncan