System continues to fail and traumatise Aboriginal women who survive violence


The system and structures of government continue to fail to protect Aboriginal women.

By Marlene Longbottom at IndigenousX

I was extremely alarmed to read the recent ABC news report by Sofie Wainwright and Declan Grooch about an Aboriginal woman from a western NSW community who had been charged, and further held in a local police cell overnight, for not attending court to provide evidence as a result of domestic violence.

Regardless of previous cases where victims were charged, as reported in the ABC article, the action taken by the magistrate of the local court was an inappropriate response to an extremely complex issue.

The complexity of violence against Aboriginal women is too large to write in such a small word limit. However, for the purpose of this article, I will provide some context in how the system and structures of government continue to fail to protect Aboriginal women.

Marlene Longbottom is from Roseby Park mission (Jerrinja), she is from the Yuin Nation of the Dharawal and Dhurga language groups of the South Coast of New South Wales. Her areas of interest includes violence and trauma in Indigenous communities, gendered studies, public health, race, political studies and Indigenous research methodologies.

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Vickie Roach and Women Transforming Justice

By Jenny Valentish.

Fourteen years since her last conviction, the Yuin woman is not a prison reformer
– she’s an abolitionist.

The irony of Vickie Roach being an advocate for Aboriginal women in the criminal justice system is that until she first went to adult prison at 17, she’d thought she was Italian.

She had been fostered into a white Christian family in Carramar, a western suburb of Sydney.

She gives one of her uproarious laughs. “They let me believe I was a wog.”

'When the truth came out, she knew nothing about her culture. “The Aboriginal girls I’d met in the kids’ home had been really scary. I had to confront all these beliefs that I’d taken on from the people who raised me. That was difficult.”

'Roach is a Yuin woman, born to a Stolen Generations mother.

Her life followed the script of one who has experienced intergenerational trauma: a runaway at nine; heroin user by 14, with her habit supported by sex work in Kings Cross.
Between 1976 and 2003, she had 125 convictions or findings of guilt made against her.
In 2004 she went to jail for the final time.

'While imprisoned at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in Victoria, she attained a master’s degree and got politicised: with the help of the Human Rights Law Research Centre, she successfully overturned the Howard government’s ban on prisoners voting in elections.

'These days, Roach is a respected historian and writer, and has joined the steering committee of the Women Transforming Justice project for Darebin Community Legal Centre.

'Alongside the likes of deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic and psychologist Helen Barnacle, who in 1980 received the longest drug-related prison sentence for a woman in Victoria but won the right to raise her daughter inside, Roach will be responding to the
crisis of women’s mass incarceration in Victoria, in particular that of Aboriginal women. ... '

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 9, 2018 as "Call to heal".

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Time to listen to and value Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices

By Antoinette Braybrook:

'To us, #PressforProgress means governments across Australia must implement justice targets with a specific focus on family violence as part of a renewed focus on Closing the Gap in life expectancy and health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

'This is essential to ensure the true extent of family violence is measured and understood,
and that Government leaders are held accountable for working with us to address this national crisis.

'#PressforProgress means resourcing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations that specialise in supporting survivors of family violence and
building the resilience and wellbeing of our women, because we have the solutions. ... '

'Antoinette Braybrook is the CEO of Djirra (formerly the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria) and the National Convenor of the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum.'

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