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Yoorrook Justice Commission hears more evidence on the devastating impact of family violence on Victoria’s Aboriginal women and kids

Acting CEO Antoinette Gentile gives evidence to Yoorrok Justice Commission’s Social Justice Hearing.

Aboriginal women are still being excluded from the national agenda

One month after the emergency roundtable, Aboriginal women have been excluded from the government’s Rapid Review Panel.

Support Aboriginal women escaping family violence

Every year, Djirra supports thousands of Aboriginal women across Victoria. Support us to support a sister by donating to our EOFY drive.

Family Law Act changes that help women and children escaping family violence 

Several changes have been made to the Family Law Act to help women and children escaping family violence. Find out what this could mean for you.

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.

The NLAP Review is in, now it’s time for governments to act

The Independent Review of the National Legal Assistance Partnership has just been released and governments must urgently commit to the recommendations.

More investment urgently needed for frontline, Aboriginal-led, Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services

Djirra welcomes the Federal Budget investment into pay parity for our staff, but we urgently require long-term funding into our workforce and new funding for our frontline services.

Victorian government fails on Aboriginal women’s and children’s safety 

Djirra is more than disappointed by the Allan Government’s failure to invest in Aboriginal women’s and children’s safety, and Djirra’s self-determined solutions to end family violence. 

CEO Antoinette Braybrook discusses violence against women crisis on ABC Radio National

Antoinette Braybrook calls for immediate action to address the national shame of men’s violence against women on ABC Radio National.

Djirra welcomes the Allan government’s commitment to ending violence against women

Djirra welcomes the Allan government’s commitment to ending violence against women, but we MUST see meaningful action. 

Djirra welcomes the Victorian Government’s response to the Yoorrook for Justice report

Djirra welcomes the Government’s response to the Yoorrook for Justice Report and its in principle support for a mandatory child protection notification and referral system and the removal of time limits that compel the permanent removal of our children from their mums.

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Djirra welcomes the release of the Yoorrook Justice Commission report into Victoria’s Child Protection and Criminal Justice Systems and joins …

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Djirra welcomes the significant investment in Aboriginal Affairs by the Victorian Government but is disappointed by the lack of visibility of, and investment into, Aboriginal women safety in the 2023 State Budget.

“Right now, we are experiencing a 33 per cent increase in demand for our services from women and 38 per cent increase in services for children,” Djirra CEO, Antoinette Braybrook said. “We are trying to do more with less, and meanwhile, Aboriginal women are dying and our kids are being taken.”

Djirra is also concerned about the lack of indexation applied to funding, which in effect reduces funding into our vital services every year. The vast majority of funding received by Djirra for our work does not increase along with annual CPI increases, despite current inflation running at seven per cent.

“Investments by the government into punitive child protection and criminal justice systems is a waste of public money. Our women need to be safe and supported to keep their children not misidentified and criminalised,” Ms Braybrook said.

Aboriginal women in Victoria are 45 times more likely to experience family violence, and 11 times more likely to die from violent assault than other women. The number of Aboriginal children removed from their families has doubled, with over 2500 First Nations children in the child protection system, as revealed by the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

“We have kept these issues and the unique experiences of Aboriginal women’s lives in front of Government for more than 20 years. We continue to face funding shortfalls at a time when we’re trying to navigate steep increases in demand for our services and respond to the Government‘s reform agenda,” Ms Braybrook said.

“Women’s lives will be lost and more children will be taken if we are forced to freeze our services. We can’t ignore the truth being told at Yoorrook – women and children’s lives must matter and specialist culturally safe services such as Djirra must be invested in. As we move towards Treaty in Victoria now is the time to listen to our women and invest in our solutions.”

Djirra welcomes the commitment to a dedicated plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women but cautions that such a plan must be self-determined, community-led and stand alone from the mainstream National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022–2032.

Quotes by Antoinette Braybrook CEO Djirra

“This could be the game-changer that we need. The previous national plan failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, with our women 32 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to die from family violence than other women. We can no longer just be tacked on under mainstream strategies.”

“For this new Plan to be successful, a dedicated taskforce of First Nations women and specialist frontline service providers must be established to lead the design and delivery. This taskforce must be selected through a transparent process, not handpicked by government. This will ensure the Plan is truly self-determined.”

“To see change, we need long-term investment and Aboriginal led, self-determined solutions. We must be visible and heard. We have the solutions.”

Antoinette Braybrook has limited availability for interviews

This Ochre Ribbon week, Djirra is calling on all governments to invest in self-determined, community-led solutions for and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Quotes attributable to Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra:

“We are approaching Djirra’s 20-year anniversary and our 7th Ochre Ribbon Week, yet violence against First Nations women is still a national crisis. Year after year, Djirra continues to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to live free from violence and empowered by self-determination in their lives, communities and cultures.”

“We call for the same change year after year, but see little progress whilst the rates of violence against our women keep rising. We continue to call on the Victorian government to stop implementing punitive laws and policies that see our women locked up and our children removed at some of the highest rates in the country. This government must take its commitment to Closing the Gap seriously.”

“We stand firm with other members of the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum, in calling for a dedicated National Safety Plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children. An action plan that is a subset of the mainstream National Plan will mean that First Nations women and their children continue to be unsafe and remain invisible.”

‘Our children belong with their mums and in their community, thriving in culture and identity. To see change, we need long-term investment and Aboriginal led, self-determined solutions. We must be visible and heard. We have the solutions.”

Feb 12 – 19th is Ochre Ribbon week. Since its launch in May 2015, Ochre Ribbon is an annual event where the National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services join together to raise awareness of the devastating impacts of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and call for action to end the violence.

We call on the Victorian Government to immediately establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.  The Commissioner must be sufficiently resourced and empowered to undertake an independent review into the implementation of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommendations.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the final report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. The recommendations of the Commission have never been fully implemented, there is still no accurate evaluation nor accountability for the implementation of those 339 recommendations. Instead, the Aboriginal community has grieved at least 470 deaths in custody.

For generations, our people have been thrown into prison, have died in custody.

Djirra and VALS condemn the Victorian Government’s announcement of an $188.9 million expansion of the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre women’s prison, including 106 new prison beds. The construction joins a lengthy and shameful list of prison construction projects under this Government, including Cherry Creek, Chisolm Road, Middleton, Barwon, Hopkins, Ravenhall, and Marngoneet facilities.

Expanding prisons, in the context of punitive bail laws, at a time when the Government should be meeting their commitment to Close the Gap, demonstrates a reprehensible level of apathy towards the health, welfare and lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Victorian Government’s bail laws are a clear contradiction of the Royal Commission’s recommendations and have resulted in an increase in the number of Aboriginal people being trapped in the criminal legal system.

The urgent need for bail reform was made clear by the tragic death of Veronica Nelson on 2 January 2020. Ms Nelson, a proud Yorta Yorta woman, was refused bail after being arrested for shop lifting and remanded at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre.

In Victoria, Aboriginal women make up 13% of the prison population, but only account for 1% of the general population. 80% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison are mothers. The upgrade to the women’s prison includes facilities to accommodate young children who have been approved to live with their mothers. Mothers and their children do not belong in prison.

High incarceration rates of Aboriginal women directly impact on child removal rates, rights of Aboriginal children and has ongoing devastating impacts on Aboriginal families and communities.

Specialist services for Aboriginal communities are consistently underfunded and operate beyond capacity. How does this Government justify funding prison expansion over adequately funding prevention and other specialist legal support services?

From the moment of colonisation, Aboriginal people have been subjected to the destruction of our families and communities by governments and justice systems that marginalise us and criminalise us.

The Victorian Government is required to implement a new detention oversight body by January 2022 as part of our Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) obligations. VALS has consistently asked the Victorian Government to establish a consultative process to ensure the oversight body operates in a culturally appropriate way.

“Prison is proven as not a safe place for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Djirra knows that it is especially not a safe place for women. Expanding women’s prisons at a time when incarceration rates for Aboriginal women have fallen sharply, and deaths in custody continually fails to be addressed, does not keep Aboriginal women safe.
90% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison have experienced physical or emotional abuse, including family violence and sexual violence.”
-Antoinette Braybrook, CEO Djirra

“We need an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner to ensure the unfinished work of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody is finally completed. The lack of transparency and accountability by State and Federal Governments over the last 30 years is why there has been at least 470 Aboriginal deaths in custody since the Royal Commission. We also expect the Government to be more open with regards to the implementation of a new detention oversight body this year, as required by the UN under our OPCAT obligations.” -Nerita Waight, CEO VALS


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Media contacts:

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact the following Communications and media officers

For Djirra  Hineani Roberts

For VALS  Patrick Cook 

 Victorian Budget fails to deliver for Aboriginal women

Antoinette Braybrook, CEO Djirra today commented that the lack of investment in Djirra was extremely disappointing given the devastating impact that family has on Aboriginal women and children.

“For too long Aboriginal community controlled legal services such as Djirra and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service have had to rely on the goodwill of government.  Demand for our services has not stopped just because of COVID – there is no pause button for family violence.  We know that 1 in 5 of our clients who have opened a new legal matter are experiencing family violence that has been triggered by or made worse by COVID”.

“We have also seen a spike in the numbers of women reaching out for support and safety and we have increased the number of days we offer counselling to meet the growing demand”.

“The number of Aboriginal women held on remand has risen dramatically for the period 2008-2018 (from 13.3 percent to 47.7 percent).  We know that 80 percent of Aboriginal women in prison are mothers.  We know that between 70–90 percent of those Aboriginal women who are in prison are survivors of sexual assault and family violence and that most of them are in prison for low-level offences”.

“Under investment in Djirra and VALS alongside the increased investment in mainstream providers is not consistent with the Victorian Government’s policy on self-determination or the Closing the Gap Agreement”.

“Djirra will not stop its advocacy to ensuring that Aboriginal women are not consistently overlooked in this way by policy makers in government.  This disappointment comes during 16 Days of Activism,” Ms Braybrook said.

Media contacts:

Twitter @ DjirraVic

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“We were devastated to hear that the two police officers involved in the death in custody of proud Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day will avoid prosecution.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has announced it will not prosecute the two police officers, despite the Coroner referring the police officers for criminal investigation, as she found that the totality of the evidence supported a belief that an indictable offence may have been committed.

We are gutted by this disgraceful outcome and we are angry. Above all, our deepest thoughts are with Tanya’s family that has been fighting so hard to bring those responsible for Tanya’s death to justice. We support Tanya’s family’s calls for justice (

The decision of the DPP adds insult to injury. This is yet again evidence that police can’t keep investigating police,’ commented Djirra Acting CEO Antoinette Gentile. ‘There is no justice without accountability.

The strength and resilience of Aboriginal people, families and communities is compromised by multiple complex issues, including historical and ongoing dispossession, marginalisation, racism, as well as the legacy of past polices of forced removal and cultural assimilation. State intervention is historically fatal for Aboriginal people, with Aboriginal people being disproportionately targeted by police. It has been determined that the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in custodial deaths is directly related to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal people in all forms of custody. This view is supported by numerous comprehensive and extensive research papers, most significantly the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC).

Djirra demands accountability for ALL black deaths in custody.


#BlackLivesMatter #AboriginalLivesMatter #StopBlackDeathsInCustody #JusticeForTanyaDay ”


Click here to download a pdf version of the statement.



We were devastated to hear about the passing of Stanley, a 19-year-old Aboriginal man who took his own life in custody in WA and our thoughts go to his family and loved ones. Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its findings almost 30 years ago, 438 of our people have died in police or prison cells and no one was held accountable for their death.

The same week Stanley passed away, Victoria started the inquest into the death in custody of proud Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman Veronica Nelson who died at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in January 2020.

In April this year, the Coroner’s inquest found that systemic racism was a factor in the death of Yorta Yorta woman Tanya Day.

We want accountability now. We want all Aboriginal women in prison on remand or for non violent offenses to be released. Prisons are not safe.

We support NATSILS policy statement Black Lives Matter: always have, always will.


#BlackLivesMatter #JusticeForTanyaDay


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by Antoinette Gentile, Acting CEO, Djirra


All of us are facing many challenges at the moment following the Premier’s announcement that the Melbourne Metropolitan area (and some surrounding areas) are again going into Stage 3 restrictions.

Right now, our thoughts are with the many residents of the nine public housing towers (or flats as us Aboriginal people call them) in Flemington and Kensington who are still in lock down. We cannot even begin to understand the level of fear, pressure, and uncertainty this situation is causing them. Not being able to leave – go to work, not to care for other family members, not to get groceries or external medical care.

Representatives from the ACCO sector, including Djirra, came together on Sunday to discuss ways in which our respective organisations can provide assistance to our mob affected by the lockdown.

Together with other ACCOs, Djirra will work in solidarity and do whatever is needed to support Aboriginal residents and get people through this challenging time. Djirra’s legal and non-legal support services have identified all current and former clients and contacts who are living in the public housing towers in Flemington, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Richmond and Fitzroy – or living nearby. Throughout this week we have been reaching out for a yarn and offering support and assistance.

As Acting CEO, I am enormously proud of the work of all the staff at Djirra. I appreciate all the efforts you have made to make sure that our women know we are here to support them in any way we can.

Djirra is concerned about over policing and racism. We are worried for families cooped up in tiny flats for five days or more who may be struggling with loss of income, physical and mental health issues and family violence.

The heavy police presence in the public housing towers places a particular burden on Aboriginal women, many of whom, because of our history, have a profound mistrust of police and authorities. For generations, instead of being heard, supported and receiving the treatment we deserve as survivors of violence, Aboriginal women have been criminalised and our children removed. For Aboriginal families, police at our door means our kids being ripped from our arms. We always worry about losing our children, because we’ve seen it happen over and over again. This is one of the reasons why it’s especially important right now that Djirra can be there for our women and make sure they feel safe.

As this crisis deepens, it’s more important than ever that we stay connected and accessible to our most vulnerable community members who have been locked in and cut off from their usual supports, with police stationed at their door.

Below is the combined ACCO’s pamphlet and the CLCs Lockdown advice regarding legal services. Please share it with anyone who might need it. Click here to download a pdf version.










Click here to download a pdf version of this statement.



Djirra welcomes the Victorian Auditor-General’s recommendation for Support and Safety Hubs (The Orange Door) to ‘work with local Aboriginal services and community representatives to roll out mandatory cultural safety training that is specific to hub functions and operations’ (recommendation 4 included in the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office report released on Wednesday 27 of May).

The purpose of the audit was to examine whether ‘hubs are providing effective and efficient service coordination for women and families’. The report makes nine recommendations to address the lack of clarity of the purpose of the hubs, failings in design, rushed implementation of the first hubs and inconsistent approaches in services coordination.

The report identifies gaps that have been of great concern for Djirra since the inception of the Support and Safety Hubs. The absence of mandatory training on how to deliver culturally safe services and the non-compliance of some of the hubs with the requirement to have at least two Aboriginal workers means that Orange Doors are not safe places for our women. The report also identifies tensions and inconsistencies within the hubs in relation to the level of support they provide for children. The perception of the Orange Doors’ strong focus towards child protection injects fears of child removal for our women meaning that our women are less likely to disclose or report violence. The absence of consistent approach to the integration of perpetrator services is yet another source of distrust from our women. All these are well-known fears and barriers that prevent our women from accessing the Orange Door. Aboriginal women have the right to choose to access support from a culturally safe service that is Aboriginal community controlled.

As a specialist Aboriginal family violence service, Djirra must be prioritised as an essential and early reference point for the Orange Door. Djirra has state-wide reach, we have the expertise and our women trust our holistic, specialist and culturally safe services. Djirra referrals from Orange Doors are very low and this is extremely concerning. This means that Aboriginal women and children are being denied access to a trusted Aboriginal community controlled service and therefore their safety is compromised. The ‘Always Was, Always Will Be Koori Children’ Inquiry (Commission for Children and Young People, 2016) found that family violence was the major driver leading to child protection involvement and entry into out of home care. Of the 980 children reviewed, 868 were known to have been exposed to violence within the family home, most often perpetrated by a male family member. The report recommends access to culturally appropriate and timely counselling and wraparound services for children and families who have been victims of family violence. Early access to legal representation for mothers will prevent child removal.

Djirra continues to advocate strongly for multiple access points for family violence support – not just the Orange Door. Mainstream approaches must not replace Aboriginal self-determined approaches. Priority must be given to resourcing Djirra to be one of the access points. Djirra still remains firm in our view that resources should be provided for workers to be based with us to provide outreach to Orange Doors across the State. Orange is not the new black.


Click here to download a pdf version.

Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook has welcomed the Victorian Government’s investment of $40.2 million in crisis accommodation and specialist services for people suffering or at risk of family violence. Enforced social isolation due to COVID-19 increases exposure to violence. Aboriginal women and children’s lives are at risk now more than ever.

Importantly, the package also includes targeted funding for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to meet additional demand for family violence case management and crisis support. “Djirra specialises in family violence prioritising the safety of Aboriginal women and children and must receive additional funding to support access to services, emergency relief and flexible support packages,” commented Ms Braybrook.

Djirra is adamant that every woman and child must know that there are safety options during this time of isolation. Resourcing frontline services to support women and children at risk at this time is vital so the health crisis we are living does not turn into a much bigger disaster. Ms Braybrook stressed that the pandemic must not hide the fact that violence against Aboriginal women and their children was already at epidemic levels before COVID-19 even appeared and it is getting worse.

 Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Djirra has adapted its service response in a number of ways. Djirra offices in Melbourne and the regions have had to close their doors but Djirra is doing everything possible to stay visible to the women and children who need their services most.

Djirra is ensuring their service continuity and is contactable on free call number 1800 105 303 to provide legal and non-legal support. More, to keep the contact going, Djirra’s Community Engagement team are reaching out to women who have attended Sisters Day Out and Dilly Bag programs. “We are continually reviewing the way we provide services and support to adapt to this volatile environment – one which puts Aboriginal women and their children at greater risk of violence,” explained Ms Braybrook. “Djirra is here for Aboriginal women and children and especially those in our communities in Victoria who experience family violence.”

Antoinette Braybrook also said that Djirra is presented with a different issue every day and looking at innovative ways to ensure that communities can continue to access Djirra’s services and support.

Since this crisis began, Djirra has called on Governments for

  • an urgent allocation of emergency relief funding to support women and children to access accommodation and essential items;
  • an expansion of dedicated care packages for Aboriginal women and children to ensure their safety, health and well-being; and for
  • additional funding for Djirra’s service continuity plan to ensure that Aboriginal women and children’s safety, health and well-being is prioritised.

We want our message to be heard and we want Djirra to be visible; our doors may be closed, but we are still delivering our services. If we don’t have what our women need right now, we will change what we do! We need governments to invest now and commit to keep supporting our services,” concluded Antoinette Braybrook.

Download a pdf version here.


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