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Key issues

Key issues in family violence

The severity of violence and a lack of services are the main issues facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children. There are other complex issues at play, including the history of forced child removals and current institutional responses to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Mothers may fear your presence making things worse

The continued oppression and systemic oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has meant they have no trust in mainstream systems and services. Oppressive practices are often carried out by the people charged with caring and helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people such as police, child protection practitioners and service providers.

Mothers may have many valid fears and tensions about engaging with Child Safety staff from previous experiences such as:

  • the removal of their children from their care
  • experiencing community reprisal or shame about reporting violence
  • unfamiliarity, fear or distrust of the legal system
  • disillusionment with the system, including child protection, police and the law
  • fear perpetrators will be sent to prison where there are high rates of abuse and deaths in custody
  • limited support services available to help them.


'Strategies for addressing family violence in Indigenous communities need to acknowledge that a consequence of this is that an Indigenous woman ‘may be unable or unwilling to fragment their identity by leaving the community, kin, family or partners’ as a solution to the violence.'

Ending family violence and abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities – Key Issues (2006) Australian Human Rights Commission.

Mothers may see it as a choice between her community and kin and a system that she sees as racist

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers may not want to leave the violent relationships as it may mean asking her to sever or leave all or a part of her family, her extended family, her kin, her community and her culture.

Additionally, suggesting she take legal action may mean asking her to engage with a system that is viewed as:

… racist, often ignorant of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and that disproportionately questions their credibility, their alcohol and drug use, and their sexual behaviour. (Source: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task force on Violence 2000, cited in Keel 2004).

Lack of culturally relevant services

A lack of services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children also contributes to more frequent and severe forms of family violence.

A report from the Australian Institute of Family Studies highlights that there are even less specialised and culturally appropriate services in regional, rural and remote areas. There is a lack of affordable services such as legal help, longer wait times for help such as emergency housing, and delayed response times by police and emergency services.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can experience further violence and oppression by programs or services that are built from a ‘white’ perspective. This can include experiences of racism, being approached in culturally insensitive ways, feeling judged, having their confidentiality breached, being subjected to actions that isolate them from their community, and feeling pressured to do things they are reluctant or are unable to do.

They are worried about how fathers will be treated

The community may hold concerns about the consequences for the offender, including the possibility of:

  • death in custody
  • racism and ill-treatment in jail
  • exclusion from the community
  • community violence, ‘payback’ or culturally-related violent retribution against the man.

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