Djirra welcomes the Victorian Government’s statement that more MUST be done to support victim-survivors

“Djirra welcomes the Victorian Government’s statement today that more MUST be done to support women and children experiencing family and sexual violence across Victoria,” says Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook AM.

Since this morning’s Women’s Safety Package announcement, we were pleased to be advised that Djirra, as Victoria’s only statewide specialist Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (FVPLS) working at the frontline of Aboriginal women’s safety, will receive critical additional funding for our legal services.

“We call on the Victorian Government to provide urgent clarification on how they will allocate funding for essential, frontline, specialist services for Aboriginal women and children experiencing family and sexual violence,” says Antoinette.

In Victoria today, Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience violence than other women.

Now more than ever, it is ESSENTIAL Djirra gets vital funding for frontline legal and non legal services as quickly as possible – services such as counselling, 1:1 supports and specialist legal services urgently needed by Aboriginal women and children experiencing family and sexual violence.

Expansion of police powers – without appropriate oversight – is not the solution.

Djirra does not support expanding Victoria Police powers to issue longer Family Violence Safety Notices without carefully considering the potential consequences for Aboriginal women.

In our work, about 20% of Aboriginal women have been misidentified as the perpetrator of violence. They are blamed and punished for the violence they are experiencing, mostly from non-Aboriginal perpetrators. In Djirra’s legal service, about 2 in 3 Aboriginal women experience violence from non-Aboriginal men.

The consequences of misidentification are incredibly traumatising and have long-lasting effects. This includes criminalisation, incarceration and the removal of their children into out of home care.

“Right now Aboriginal children are being taken from their mums at rates nearly double the national average,” says Antoinette. “The misidentification of Aboriginal women as the perpetrator of violence has devastating, long-term impacts on our women and their children. It’s unacceptable and has to stop,” says Antoinette.

As the only specialist Aboriginal-led FVPLS in Victoria, Djirra must have the opportunity to contribute to Government consultation about proposed law reform. This is especially important for proposed changes to Family Violence Intervention Orders and stalking law reforms.

Investing in frontline, specialist Aboriginal-led family violence services is the ONLY solution.

The demand for Djirra’s services from Aboriginal women in every corner of the state continues to rise, and especially so outside metropolitan Melbourne where more than half of all Aboriginal people live. Djirra had a 22% increase in demand for our services in just the first three months of 2024.

Across regional Victoria, rates of family and sexual violence and intimate partner homicide are significantly higher than in metropolitan Melbourne. Aboriginal women are disproportionately affected by that violence and the lack of culturally safe, independent legal and non-legal supports that keep them and their children safe and together.  

One of Djirra’s key calls is that no Aboriginal woman experiencing family or sexual violence should have to travel more than 1 hour or 100 kilometres to access critical legal and non-legal services for their safety.

“We urgently need funding for Aboriginal led, self-determined early intervention, prevention and support services,” says Antoinette. “It is CRUCIAL that Aboriginal women across Victoria have equitable access to holistic, culturally safe legal and non-legal services from Djirra.”

The Women’s Safety Package is so far silent on these major gaps in frontline services for Aboriginal women and their children that experience family and sexual violence.

We call on the Victorian Government to provide more detail and urgently clarify how they will fund these gaps in essential services for Aboriginal women. We have the solutions.