In the lead up to the Victorian election, Djirra calls on the new Victorian government to commit to and support Aboriginal women’s self-determination and …
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Djirra welcomes the commitment to a dedicated plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women but cautions …
This Ochre Ribbon week, Djirra is calling on all governments to invest in self-determined, community-led solutions for and by Aboriginal …
We call on the Victorian Government to immediately establish an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner. The Commissioner …
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.
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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 (https://www.hrlc.org.au/news/2020/8/26/police-officers-involved-in-tanya-days-death-avoid-prosecution).
‘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 ”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Djirra is a member of the National FVPLS Forum
The Federal Government’s decision to cut funding to the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum (National FVPLS) from June 30, 2020 will remove Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices from the national stage.
The National FVPLS Forum is the only national peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence and sexual assault.
The National FVPLS Forum supports and advocates on behalf of the thirteen member organisations who work on the frontline of family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.
Chair of the National FVPLS Forum Antoinette Braybrook says: “Yet again we are forced to fight to get our funding back. This not only drains our already limited resources. It rips Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices out of critical national conversations.”
Rosie Batty, AO, a prominent campaigner on domestic and family violence says: “The Voices of women and children have never needed to be heard more than now”. Ms Batty says the government’s decision to cut funding to the National FVPLS Forum says “we don’t want to hear you”.
The government claims this decision stems from the CDU evaluation of the forum. This is incorrect. The recommendations contained in that evaluation point to the urgent need for increased resources for National FVPLS.
“The Government’s decision is not only baseless and unjustified. It is an attack on our self-determination,” says Phynea Clarke, Deputy Chair of the National FVPLS Forum. “It was cruel irony to receive the news we would be defunded on 25 November International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.”
Labor MP Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the Australian House of Representatives, says: “I am completely astounded when you look at the shocking statistics relating to Aboriginal women and family violence”. “It beggars belief that this would happen.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women nationally are 34 times more likely to be hopsitalised for family violence and 10 times more likely to die from a violent assault than other women in this country.
The National FVPLS Forum calls on the newly established National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) to reinstate its annual funding of $244,000 and provide additional much-needed resources.
Follow #SaveFVPLS on Twitter and Facebook.
Media Contact: Alice Dowling, 0408 812 830 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Antoinette Braybrook, Djirra CEO, shared the stage last night with Me Too Movement leaders Tarana Burke and Tracey Spicer AM at the annual Sydney Peace Prize Award Ceremony.
“Me Too is a powerful thunderclap from women around the world against a particular form of injustice. But for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, Me Too is not enough,” Ms Braybrook said.
“As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, we fight every day against systemic racism, institutionalised violence and the stigma associated with being Black in this country.”
Today, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence and 10 times more likely to die from a violent assault than other women.
Tracey Spicer has generously donated her share of the prize to Djirra to support real change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children. Djirra will also facilitate a conversation with Tarana Burke and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women on 18 November in Melbourne.
“Our governments claim violence against women is a national priority, but here are the facts. We welcome the recent funding commitment from the Federal Government for our frontline work until 2023 but our organisations are in crisis. We have not received a real increase in the past 6 years to properly meet increased costs of vital frontline services for women and children’s safety”.
“Our national body that represents the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children experiencing family violence still has no funding certainty from our Federal Government beyond 30 June next year. We are the only body that represents the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children on family violence and we are at risk of losing our voice and visibility. Our voices must be at the centre of the national conversations not side lined and not shut out”, Ms Braybrook said.
“Self-determination for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and all of our people is the only true way forward. It is essential to centre our voices and our visibility. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women Me Too is powerful, but it is not enough. It’s me too, but it must be Us Too.”
To support Aboriginal self-determination and Aboriginal-led solutions, donate to http://bit.ly/givetoDjirra
Today Djirra held its 150th Sisters Day Out. Since 2007, almost 12,000 Aboriginal women have had the opportunity to attend Sisters Day Out workshops delivered by Djirra across Victoria.
“Sisters Day Out celebrates the strength and resilience of Aboriginal women and our culture,” said Djirra’s Chief Executive Officer, Antoinette Braybrook. “For over a decade, the event has brought Aboriginal women together to support each other, enjoy a day out and address family violence in a culturally safe space.”
“Aboriginal women are the glue in our communities. We know that women who are experiencing family violence will not just come to us – so Sisters Day Out takes us to the women in communities. Sisters Day out builds trust and breaks down barriers to accessing safety and support,” said Ms Braybrook.
In addition to wellbeing and cultural workshops, Djirra’s flagship program provides a culturally safe space in which Aboriginal women can talk about family violence, learn about their rights and legal options and find out what local supports are available to keep women and their children safe. Women can access a lawyer and counsellor privately on the day if the need.
Since Djirra’s inception, Sisters Day Out has been delivered in 54 postcodes around the state. Djirra also delivers Sisters Day In at Dame Phyllis Frost Centre, drawing on the cultural strength of Aboriginal women inside and supporting women to link in with vital supports like the Koori Women’s Place on release.
“Djirra is about sharing stories and finding solutions: we listen to our women’s stories, we believe them and draw on cultural strength to build resilience. Djirra is about women’s business, our cultural way and our self-determination’, Ms Braybrook said.
The special event to celebrate the 150th Sisters Day Out is funded by the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation under a four-year contract Djirra received to deliver its culturally safe, early intervention and prevention programs. This funding formed part of the State Government’s unprecedented investment into addressing family violence made following the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
Today at the Aboriginal Community Elders Services (ACES) in Brunswick East, a group of Elders and respected Aboriginal women revealed the Possum Skin Cloak they collaboratively made under the guidance of artist Maree Clarke. The women shared the physical, spiritual and emotional journey that brought the cloak into being.
The event was the culmination of the Elders Possum Skin Cloak Cultural project led by Djirra and funded by the Dhelk Dja North Metro Action Group. Spanning over eight weeks of weekly workshops, the project saw Djirra’s Koori Women’s Place enabling Elders and respected Aboriginal women to share their personal stories through designs on individual possum skins and work together to sew the skins into a cloak.
‘The Elders Possum Skin Cloak Cultural project is typical of our specialist and holistic approach to tackle the challenges experienced by Aboriginal women,’ said Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook. ‘Our Elders coming together to make this possum skin cloak is about strength in Aboriginal women’s business, our cultural way.’
Possum Skin Cloaks are of great cultural significance. They embody and strengthen identity, which can be passed onto family and community. Maree Clarke, a Mutti Mutti/Yorta Yorta and Boon Wurrung/Wemba Wemba woman, has extensive experience in the cultural regeneration journey of Possum Skin Cloak making. The women were able to connect and share their stories and experiences in a supportive environment.
‘Once the cloak is wrapped around you it’s like being wrapped in the love and strength of everyone that has been part of making it,’ explained artist Maree Clarke. ‘Communities are now using possum skin cloaks in ceremonies, in burials, and in baby naming days. People are now making possum skin cloaks for their children – as they grow, the cloak will grow.’
Wurundjeri Elder Aunty Pat Ockwell explained: ‘The Possum Skin Cloak is very important because when you look at the cloak, you can see all the stories, and through the stories it talks about the past, it talks about the culture. When you put in on, you do feel different, everything comes back to you, your family, your ancestors, your culture. It then becomes your responsibility to pass it on to the next generation.’ Aunty Pat also confessed that she had very sore fingers from stitching the possum skins together. ‘I even dreamt about it,’ she said. ‘And it made me think about the generations of women who did it before and how they used to do it the traditional way.’
The Elders Possum Skin Cloak Cultural project is part of Djirra’s broader early intervention and prevention programs. Djirra has over 17 years of experience working with Aboriginal victim/survivors and communities across Victoria and knows that enhanced connection to culture is a key protective factor and source of strength for Aboriginal women.
‘The experience has brought back a lot of memories for my Mum,’ said Debbie a participant who attended the workshops with her mother. ‘For me, the cloak symbolises our history. It’s not just that it keeps us warm, it really provides protection to us.’ ‘When you wrap yourself in the cloak,’ furthered Leonie, ‘It’s like a hug, something that heals you. I have got one at home and I wrap it around me when I don’t feel good.’ Aunty Fay Carter was the one who suggested to hand print the women’s hands on the skin with mixed ochre: ‘It means that we are all part of this cloak forever’.
The women involved said they would keep being involved in Djirra’s workshops and programs to keep the connection with other Aboriginal women and grow in culture.
‘Drawing on community and women’s cultural strength and resilience for Aboriginal women and children to live free from violence, this is what we do at Djirra,’ concluded Antoinette Braybrook.
Djirra in the news
Djirra’s most recent media coverage includes:
- 06/09/21 – ABC news: National Summit on Women’s Safety goes virtual, with government under pressure to address domestic violence problem by Nour Haydar
- 07/96/21 – NIT News: women’s safety and the national plan To By Racheal Knowles
- 17/09/21 – 3KnD: Rosie Batty joins family violence experts’ calls to prioritise preventing coercive controlBy Hayley Gleeson
Media Contact: Alice Pryor | email@example.com | Ph 0498 330 882