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Recognising acts of protection

Recognising how mothers manage family violence

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children cope, manage and act protectively in a range of overt and covert ways—mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially and physically.

Often acts of protection can be easy to miss or misinterpret. It is important for you to hold this in mind when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities, most particularly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children.

Acts of protection

While many of these acts may be similar to non-Indigenous mothers and children, some additional ways Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children may act protectively include:

  • distancing themselves from family and kin
  • not reporting the violence to police or services
  • engaging with cultural practices
  • seeking support from a trusted family member, friend or Elder
  • avoiding going home

Practice prompt

What other ways might Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and children cope with and manage family violence? How can you stay mindful of and help identify acts of protection in your conversations with them?

Social responses are important

It is also important to recognise what social responses the mother, child and the father receive in response to the violence. Positive social responses play a critical role in how a woman and child makes sense of the violence and their safety, recovery and cooperation with you.

For instance, if the community or the QPS minimise the violence or respond in a way that assumes that violence is part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, a mother may be reluctant to seek help. Similarly, if a father is not challenged about his violent or coercive behaviour his beliefs that the violence is acceptable will be reinforced.

We play a vital part in creating a social response to all family members. We need to consider how our responses to the violence will be interpreted by family members and how racism may impact on the ways in which the family are responded to.

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