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by Antoinette Gentile, Acting CEO, Djirra All of us are facing many challenges at the moment following the Premier’s …
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 email@example.com
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.
Today, Corrections Minister Ben Carroll announced additional funding for Djirra to expand its work with Aboriginal women who are at risk of imprisonment, in prison and released.
On Thursday morning, Djirra welcomed Victorian Minister for Corrections the Hon. Ben Carroll’s announcement of $1.46 million in additional funding over four years which will support Djirra’s culturally safe and specialist wrap-around legal and support services for Aboriginal women.
‘We take today’s announcement as testament of the vital and unique work we do at Djirra to break the cycle of family violence and women imprisonment,’ Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook said. ‘This additional funding shows a commitment and a step forward to change the story for Aboriginal women in Victoria.’
Djirra is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation which provides culturally safe and holistic support and specialist family violence legal assistance and representation for Aboriginal women who currently experience, or have in the past lived with, family violence or sexual assault.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the fastest growing prison population in our country. 80% of Aboriginal women in prisons are mothers. In Victoria, Corrections data shows that the number of our women entering prison on remand increased by 155% in the 5 years between 2012 to 2017.
Antoinette Braybrook said that, just last week, Djirra’s team visited Dame Phyllis Frost Centre to deliver their Sisters Day In workshop to 53 of the 90 Aboriginal women inside. ‘These numbers, while increasing and while devastating, are still manageable. With the right investment, we can turn this around,’ furthered Antoinette. ‘Investing in Djirra’s programs and services is a step in the right direction.’
Referring to the overrepresentation of Aboriginal women in prison and the alarming increase of their incarceration rates in the country, Braybrook regretted that the Minister’s portfolios align with the lives of too many Aboriginal women and intersect with too much of Djirra’s work. Braybrook also said that, fortunately, the Minister’s commitment to support Djirra’s work shows that we are heading in the right direction.
Data shows that, overwhelmingly, Aboriginal women are imprisoned for non-violent offences related to homelessness and poverty. Family violence is both a cause and consequence of Aboriginal women imprisonment.
‘Djirra means business. When it comes to Aboriginal women’s safety and resilience, Djirra will continue its advocacy to secure further investment into community controlled organisations, into our self- determination, to ensure that our solutions are invested in,’ concluded Braybrook.
Djirra and Dardi Munwurro are pleased to announce this gathering to be held in December 2020 in Melbourne: ‘Women’s Business, Men’s Business, Everyone’s Business, Our Cultural Way’. This national gathering is for our people to come and discuss solutions which work to address the most significant issues impacting us since colonisation. Too often we are invisible to policy and decision makers and face many barriers to deliver as specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations.
Women’s Business, Men’s Business, Everyone’s Business, Our Cultural Way is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, communities and individuals, and others who work to address issues impacting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, men and children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations will lead the discussion as we take an in-depth look at community owned, designed, led and controlled solutions.
“As Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, we know what we do, we have the trust of our communities and people, we are the experts, and we have the solutions,” said Djirra CEO Antoinette Braybrook.
“Djirra works with and for Aboriginal women and their children at the frontline and in communities building on their resilience to thrive in culture and identity”
Women’s Business, Men’s Business, Everyone’s Business, Our Cultural Way is a partnership between Djirra and Dardi Munwurro, two leading organisations recognised in Victoria and nationally for their work. The event will draw on the strengths from lived experience and what works on the ground in our diverse communities.
“For Aboriginal people, issues like racism, colonisation, the stolen generation, and intergenerational trauma continue to be a part of our lives,” said Alan Thorpe, Director and Facilitator at Dardi Munwurro.
“At Dardi, we draw on cultural strength to find solutions and model effective programs of our own. It’s that strength that we want to share at the national gathering.”
Self-determination in practice will be front and centre at the national gathering. The event will provide an opportunity for our people to discuss what works, local solutions and present the diverse and unique ways in which we as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities manage and determine our business, our way.
— end —
For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:
Carole Sarasa, Marketing & Communications Advisor Djirra, 0428 112 356, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amanda Bresnan, Manager Strategy Djirra, 0448 060 765, email@example.com
Alan Thorpe, Director Dardi Munwurro, 0450 607 078, firstname.lastname@example.org
Antoinette Braybrook, CEO Djirra today commended the Victorian Government’s decision to decriminalise public drunkenness and to commit to a health alternative.
“While we commend the historic decision by the Victorian Government to decriminalise public drunkenness, sadly it took Tanya Day’s Coronial Inquest and her family’s determination for this to happen. Aboriginal people have been fighting for this law to be abolished for a long time and I commend the Day family for carrying on that fight”, Ms Braybrook said.
“When Tanya Day was arrested, Aboriginal women were 11 times more likely to be arrested for public drunkenness than non-Aboriginal women. This is systemic racism and a contributing factor to Aboriginal women being the fastest growing prison population in Australia”.
“Abolishing the offence of public drunkenness was a recommendation 30 years ago from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. Governments must now look to Aboriginal community controlled organisations for the implementation of a heath alternative and invest in support for Aboriginal women to keep us safe and out of the prison system”, Ms Braybrook said.
Media contacts: Amanda Bresnan, Manager Strategy, 0448 060 765, email@example.com
This week the United Nations heard a scathing statement about a discriminatory Federal Government parenting scheme that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents and single mothers.
In a joint statement with the Human Rights Law Centre, Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that the program, called ‘Parentsnext’, is setting First Nations women up to fail and must be abandoned.
“We have been told of an Aboriginal woman – who took on the care of her sister’s children when her sister was murdered. She now has 8 children in her care. She is doing her best, yet has had income support payments cut-off for prioritising the care of her children over travelling long distances, only to sit for hours waiting for meaningless appointments.”
“Our First Nations people continue to experience extreme levels of poverty and disadvantage resulting from punitive, racist and discriminatory government policies, and this program is just one example. We go between being ignored by governments and then targeted for treatment. Surely it’s not too much to ask the government to respect the incredible work our women do for their families and communities and to partner with us.”
The ParentsNext program forces fulltime parents to deprioritise caring for toddlers so as to complete mandatory tasks, many of which are burdensome or pointless, or risk having their parenting payments cut.
The Morrison Government admits that the program is racially discriminatory – breastfeeding mothers are dragged into an intensive version of the program that targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents with babies as young as 6 months.
Edwina MacDonald, Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the program was driving struggling families deeper into poverty.
“It is clear the Australian Government is failing to value women’s caring work and ensure that all women, no matter what work they do, have the means to a decent standard of living. Rather than pointing the finger and threatening single parents, the Government should be thanking them for the endless hours of unpaid care work they do.”
“Australia is a wealthy nation yet successive Governments have chosen to push parents with young children deeper into poverty with woefully low social security payments and harsh conditions. Australia will continue to breach its human rights obligations until it treats people on social security with decency, compassion and respect,” said MacDonald.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty tabled a report with the Human Rights Council on the United Kingdom, which highlights the devastating impact of punitive policies that target single parents with pre-school aged kids. There are salient lessons for the Australian Government in the report. In particular, that it needs to abandon its punitive ParentsNext program before it drives struggling single parent families and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents deeper into poverty.
Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519
Djirra in the news
Djirra’s most recent media coverage includes:
- 05/06/20 – Canberra Times: Stop stealing Aboriginal kids from their families by Jenna Price
- 02/06/20 – Marie-Claire: The Indigenous Organisations And Campaigns To Lend Your Support To
- 07/05/20 – 3KnD: Who are DJIRRA and how are they working through the COVID 19
- 23/04/20 – National Indigenous Times: Funding boost for Victorian domestic violence services, national forum negotiations on hold
- 22/04/20 – ABC: Aboriginal mothers fear there will be a new generation of stolen children
- 20/04/20 – SBS / NITV Radio: Djirra welcomes Victorian Government’s funding of FV during coronavirus
- 6/04/20 – ABC: Helping women at risk of domestic violence during the coronavirus pandemic
Media Contact: Annie Nash for Antoinette Braybrook on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0429 729 726.