Responding to the Referendum in Australia: A Call for Action
In the wake of the recent referendum in Australia, Kara Family Violence Service, represented by board member Geraldine Bilston, is compelled to address critical issues that transcend the political discourse. She provides these reflections:
We cannot talk about violence, or the abuse of power and control, without first acknowledging and reconciling the fact that this very country was colonised using those same tactics. Australia’s history is marred by the exploitation and oppression of its First Nations people, a legacy that continues to influence the power dynamics within our society.
Despite family violence not being part of Aboriginal culture, the truth is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are disproportionately represented as family violence victims. As an ally, I speak out but it is First Nations Women’s voices that need to be highlighted and heard on the issues that affect them. We must recognise that we are only comfortable with some forms of truth-telling. This must change.
As a survivor advocate, I’ve been fortunate to share my story and advocate for change, to have a voice. People have taken note because they recognise the enduring benefits of mechanisms that amplify voices and promote self-determination. They understand that shaping family violence responses, systems, and services to cater to the needs of those who utilise them necessitates the active involvement of the voices of those who are affected. Regrettably, as a nation, we have chosen for this not to be extended adequately to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
We must be aware of the way misinformation and ignorance have influenced the positioning and perspectives of Australians. Kara Family Violence Service reaffirms its commitment to working with truth, clarity, and integrity. Underneath the surface of our society, we find racism. It seeps into every facet of our lives, from healthcare to the justice system, perpetuating the disparities faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. As an organisation we will continue to respond to all forms of oppression; including racism and colonisation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women make up less than 1 per cent of Victoria’s population, yet in 2020, they represented 10 per cent of all women in the state prison system. Many of these women are victim-survivors of family violence. In Australia, First Nations females are 35 times as likely to be hospitalised due to family violence-related assaults, and they are five times more likely to be victims of homicide than non-Indigenous females. More often than not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience this abuse and violence at the hands of non-Indigenous partners. These statistics are glaring indicators of the urgent need for change.
Our vision to support the rights of women and children to live safely and without fear of violence includes the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.
We reaffirm our commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We stand with you today and always. The struggle against family violence and systemic oppression is a shared one, and it is only through unity, empathy, and understanding that we can move forward. The recent referendum should serve as a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done.
In the spirit of solidarity and shared responsibility, we underscore the pressing need to confront the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their struggle against family violence. As we reflect on the recent referendum and its implications, we renew our commitment to ending family violence and empowering all women, with a particular focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who have been disproportionately affected. Together, we must face our history, confront the realities of our society, and work collaboratively to create a more inclusive and safe future for all. It is only through genuine acknowledgment, dialogue, and action that we can truly achieve the change we so desperately need.