World Indigenous domestic violence conference in Cairns

Dec 09, 2014, 10:17 AM

MARK COLVIN: For the first time in Australia, Indigenous women from around the world are meeting this week, to talk about domestic violence in their communities.

The shocking rates of domestic violence in Aboriginal families, is mirrored in communities in New Zealand and North America.

A Global Indigenous Domestic Violence conference in Cairns has heard that Indigenous victims won't speak up, unless support services are run by their own people.

Bridget Brennan reports.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Aboriginal women are 35 times more likely to be hospitalised with a domestic violence injury than other Australian women.

Domestic violence workers say nothing is changing.

ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: I have been working in this area for 12 years, and I just cannot see that things are getting better for Aboriginal women. You know, we're constantly fighting to make sure that our organisations are properly resourced so that issues can be addressed.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Antoinette Braybrook is chief executive of the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service in Victoria.

In Cairns, she's meeting with women from New Zealand, Canada and the United States.

They're all struggling to deal with the high levels of violence in their own Indigenous communities.

ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: We see the devastation that violence in causing in our communities, and we're all on the same page with what needs to be done - we just need some backing from our governments, and we also need to all stand together on these issues.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Family violence is also affecting Maori women in New Zealand.

Susan Ngawati Osborne works at the Maori women’s service the Tu Wahine Trust in Auckland.

SUSAN NGAWATI OSBORNE: What we can say is that our women in particular suffer at the hands of violent men and I think more so from men who are not from the same culture.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: She says Maori women are reluctant to report domestic violence, but they're having success with programs run by Maori people.

SUSAN NGAWATI OSBORNE: It is the proven pathway to creating healthy communities.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: From Auckland to Arizona, American social services worker Laura Horsley points out that violence against Indigenous women is systemic.

LAURA HORSLEY: It's really interesting to see how similar, even though we come from very different places and very different populations, it's interesting to see how many people are struggling with the same barriers and the same successes and the same types of issues that we're trying to address.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: She's been speaking in Cairns about her domestic violence service in Phoenix, which takes support workers into rural communities.

LAURA HORSLEY: The Native American population is also scattered in and amongst most of those communities that we provide services in, and so our goal is to put an advocate that is well versed and well trained in that particular culture as the person that goes out to deliver those services.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: It's a view shared by Antoinette Braybrook from Victoria's Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention service.

She believes the challenge is to build trust.

ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: Aboriginal people need to be able to do this our way, we don't need strategies imposed on us, and it's about time that we were given that opportunity to make sure that this violence against our women in our communities is stopped.

MARK COLVIN: Victorian Aboriginal women Antoinette Braybrook ending Bridget Brennan's report.