February 12 marked the beginning of Ochre Ribbon Week, a week dedicated to ending domestic and family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.

Now in its sixth year, Ochre Ribbon Week was established in Melbourne as an initiative of the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service, which comprised of 14 Aboriginal family violence services across Australia.

One of the leading voices in the Ochre Ribbon Week campaign is Djirra CEO Antionette Braybrook. Djirra works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children in Victoria to prevent and eliminate domestic and family violence.

 “It’s always important to keep in the front and centre of people’s minds, that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence and we are 10 times more likely to die [from family violence],” said Braybrook.

“Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a national emergency.”

Braybrook noted the importance of investing into anti-violence services.

“It is absolutely essential that we see a greater investment from all governments, especially our Federal Government, into Aboriginal community-controlled specialist family violence services,” she said.

In the wake of the killing of Hannah Clarke and her children in 2020 and the heightened conversation around coercive control as a form of domestic violence, Djirra is ensuring the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is educated and proactive against this violence.

“A big part of Djirra’s work in Victoria is around raising awareness around violence women are experiencing. We are about to develop an education campaign for our women in community around what coercive control looks like and feels like,” Braybrook said.

“We want that to be in everyday language.”

With respect to the law reform in that area … any changes need to make sure that the voices of those who are mostly impacted, in this case Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children, are properly consulted and engaged with.

“We don’t want to see changes in law compromising safety either.”

 

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In the face of mainstream media conversations on coercive control and domestic and family violence, Braybrook reinforced that violence experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children is not the sole responsibility of Indigenous communities.

“I don’t see violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community problem,” she said.

“Our people are not violent. Labelling it as a community issue says that we are a violent people, and we are not that.”

“Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not just perpetrated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Our women experience violence from men from many different cultures and backgrounds.” 

In the face of COVID-19, Djirra has made proactive changes to ensure their services remain accessible for women.

“Victoria has been in lockdown for quite some time, and we’re in it again now. When we first went into working from home, I wanted to make sure that we didn’t become invisible to the women,” said Braybrook.

 

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Throughout the pandemic Djirra has seen an uptake in program participation and an excess of requests for phone counselling. The organisation was able to service women in regional and remote areas of the state that were previously out of reach.

“What we are seeing is that the online delivery has been a game changer, there has been so much interest. We’ll continue to do this even after we come out of COVID.”

If you are experiencing family or domestic violence, please contact:

  • Domestic Violence Line NSW – ‍1800 656 463
  • National Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence counselling service – 1800 RESPECT
  • Kids Helpline – 1800 551 800

Visit respect.gov.au for more information and to download free resources.

 

By Rachael Knowles