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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.

 

 

Click here to download a pdf version of the release

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.

 

Information:

Details of the event will be publicised on the Djirra and Dardi Munwurro websites www.djirra.org.au and www.dardimunwurro.com.au and through social media on Twitter and Facebook.

— end —

Media contacts:

For further information or to arrange an interview please contact:

Carole Sarasa, Marketing & Communications Advisor Djirra, 0428 112 356, mcadvisor@djirra.org.au
Amanda Bresnan, Manager Strategy Djirra, 0448 060 765, abresnan@djirra.org.au
Alan Thorpe, Director Dardi Munwurro, 0450 607 078, alan.thorpe@dardimunwurro.com.au

 

Click here to download a pdf version. 

 

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, abresnan@djirra.org.au

 

Download a pdf version of the media release.

 

With Human Rights Law Centre and National FVPLS Forum 

 

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.

Read Antoinette Braybrook’s UN statement here.

Watch Anointette Braybrook’s UN statement here.

Media contact:

Michelle Bennett, Communications Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519

Antoinette Braybrook, CEO Djirra has told the United Nations Human Rights Council that family violence for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a national crisis in Australia.

“Australia holds itself out as a diverse and thriving country committed to human rights and equality, but when it comes to violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women we have a national emergency”, Ms Braybrook said.

“Our women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence and 10 times more likely to die from violent assault than other women. Ninety percent of violence against our women goes unreported. When our women reach out for help, they are too often met with racism and systemic violence”.

Ms Braybrook outlined a number of urgent actions that Australian governments must take.

She called for a dedicated National Action Plan and long term investment in specialist services. In particular, increased funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services, which have had no funding increase or CPI since 2013-14.

“Every woman, every mother and her children must have access to culturally safe services for their safety. I urge our governments to act on our calls for specific targets addressing the high rates of violence against our women. Australian governments must act now before more women’s lives are lost and families destroyed”.

The National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Forum have been advocating for a separate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander National Action Plan for family violence and a stand-alone target for family violence for a number of years, including during the 2019 Federal Election campaign.

Ms Braybrook also made a joint statement with the Human Rights Law Centre regarding the high removal rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, with family violence being a key driver.

Ms Braybrook called on the Australian Government to invest in culturally safe specialist family violence services that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled, and for a mandatory notification scheme where specialist family violence services are notified as soon as a child comes in contact with child protection agencies.

“There must be urgent action now to stop another generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children being taken, lost, and their culture stolen. Our children must be given every chance to thrive with their families strong in culture and identity.”

Watch Antoinette Braybrook’s UN statement on Family Violence
Watch Antoinette Braybrook’s UN statement on Child Removal 

Media contacts: Djirra (Geneva) – Meriki Onus: +61 499 220 591 Djirra (Melbourne) – Amanda Bresnan: +61 448 060 765

With Human Rights Law Centre and National FVPLS Forum

Overnight the United Nations Human Rights Council heard of the alarming rates at which Australian governments are imprisoning Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
In a joint statement with the Human Rights Law Centre, Antoinette Braybrook, CEO of Djirra, addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva in response to a UN experts’ report on women deprived of liberty.

“First Nations women are the fastest growing prison population in our country. We are imprisoned at 21 times the rate of other women in Australia.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are being imprisoned for issues relating to poverty, disability, family violence, homelessness and trauma. This must stop, we demand compassion, support and justice,” said Ms Braybrook.

Ms Braybrook outlined a number of urgent actions that Australian governments must take.
“We must see a move away from tough on crime and law and order approaches. Australian governments must halt building new prisons and expanding them. They must stop locking up our people and taking our mothers away.

“Governments must abolish laws that target our people including the law of public drunkenness. The Australian Government must preserve and invest in the Indigenous Legal Assistance Program and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services, not abolish them.”

In their report, the UN Working Group on Discrimination Against Women noted Indigenous women in Australia are overrepresented in prisons, making up only 2.2 per cent of the population of women, but around 34 per cent of women in prison.

In response to Ms Braybrook’s statement, the Working Group identified the need to include an intersectional approach in any gender equality framework.
Edwina MacDonald, a Legal Director at the Human Rights Law Centre, who is in Geneva for the Human Rights Council session, said the human toll of state and territory governments funnelling thousands of women into prisons is devastating.

“Australian governments must heed the recommendations of the UN Experts. They must put an end to laws and practices that disproportionately affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Australian governments must hear and act on the voices of First Nations women who have the solutions,” said Ms MacDonald.

Read Antoinette Braybrook’s UN statement.
Watch Antoinette Braybrook’s UN statement.

Yesterday in Melbourne, Djirra has held the inaugural gathering of the Djirra Keepers hosted by Antoinette Braybrook, CEO, and supported by the senior Aboriginal women of Djirra.

“Djirra Keepers celebrates the role of the special Aboriginal women who have been an important part of Djirra’s journey and recognises their ongoing involvement into the future”, Ms Braybrook said.

“This gathering of twenty Aboriginal women marks a significant point in Djirra’s journey. The women who were here yesterday come from a range of ages, experiences and different parts of Victoria, and have all played a part in what Djirra has become and in promoting and advocating the interests of Aboriginal women”.

Djirra is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation with specialist expertise in family violence. Djirra has been working on the ground to support Aboriginal victims and survivors of family violence for over 16 years.

“Djirra’s focus is strengths based with a strong cultural focus. Everything we do is by Aboriginal women and for Aboriginal women – Aboriginal women’s business. This is what we acknowledged yesterday. It is a gathering that has come together to say that Djirra will support women and we want the women who have been a part of our journey to be with us”, Ms Braybrook said.

“All the women who were here yesterday are respected and influential women in their own right. Djirra wants to respect, acknowledge and value all their contributions and say the Djirra Keepers will always be a part of what we do”.

The Djirra Keepers will be formally announced and introduced at Djirra’s NAIDOC event on 23 July.

Antoinette Braybrook, CEO Djirra, welcomed the Victorian Government for providing ongoing funding for a vital service which supports Aboriginal women in Victoria who are survivors of family violence and works to prevent family violence.

“I am extremely pleased to see Djirra’s Koori Women’s Place given ongoing funding in today’s budget. The Victorian Government have provided unprecedented investment in Djirra since the Royal Commission,” Ms Braybrook said.

“Djirra’s approach is holistic – we work at the frontline and design and deliver early intervention and prevention programs with a strong focus on building Aboriginal women’s resilience. Koori Women’s Place creates access and opportunities for Aboriginal women and mothers and their children”.

Djirra is an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation that specialises in family violence. Djirra has been working on the ground with Aboriginal women, or mums and especially those escaping of family violence for over 16 years.

“Our focus is strengths based with a strong cultural focus. Everything we do is by Aboriginal women and for Aboriginal women – Aboriginal women’s business, our cultural way. Our Koori Women’s Place is a place where all Aboriginal women feel safe, connect with other Aboriginal women, share similar circumstances and are never judged, only supported”.

“We hope to see future Victorian Budgets provide more funding for specialist organisations like Djirra and its Koori Women’s Place so we can expand our successful and culturally safe programs into others parts of the state. This will build Aboriginal women’s resilience, address the high rates of violence and increasing incarceration and child removal rates against our women, and ensure our women and children are together safe,” Ms Braybrook said.

“Investing in services in the community and not those which lead to a punitive approach must be a priority of government. Aboriginal women, our mums must have access to intensive, holistic case management support to escape violence and keep their children, and Djirra is best placed to do this”.

“Djirra and its holistic approach and the investment for our Koori Women’s Place is one step forward to providing the much needed front-end investment to keep Aboriginal women, or mums, our kids together in their homes and in their communities”.

Djirra, an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation with specialist expertise in family violence, is about to officially launch two new office locations in Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley as part of its state-wide expansion.

The offices will house Djirra’s Aboriginal Family Violence Legal Service program (AFVLS), teams of lawyers and paralegal support workers who will provide wraparound, culturally safe legal and non-legal support for local Aboriginal people experiencing family violence or sexual assault or have in the past – predominantly women and their children.

With its head office based in Abbotsford (Melbourne Metro), Djirra now counts seven regional offices across Victoria from Bairnsdale to Warnambool, Ballarat, Mildura and Echuca.

“Expanding our services to two new areas means we can support more Aboriginal women in more places across Victoria,” said Antoinette Braybrook, CEO at Djirra. “No Aboriginal women should be disadvantaged or denied access to specialist, holistic and culturally safe support just because of her where she lives.”

Djirra has been working on the ground to support Aboriginal victim survivors of family violence for over 16 years. In Victoria, Aboriginal women are 45 times more likely to experience family violence than non-Aboriginal women and 25 times more likely to be killed or injured as a result of that violence.

Aboriginal women are also the fastest growing prison population, and nearly all Aboriginal women behind bars are survivors of violence themselves and primary care givers of children. At the new office in Bendigo, the Djirra team looks forward to providing culturally safe legal and non-legal support for Aboriginal women in the community as well as women inside or recently released from Tarrengower prison.

The recent Gippsland Legal Assistance Forum report found that the Latrobe local government area has some of the highest rates of family violence in the state. The report highlighted that limited access to family violence services is a key factor contributing to high rates of homelessness and child protection intervention, with Aboriginal women and their children disproportionately impacted. Djirra’s new Latrobe Valley office is an important step towards increasing access to culturally safe and specialist support for Aboriginal victim survivors in the region.

“Djirra is much more than a family violence and legal service. Each Aboriginal woman who walks through our doors has her own unique experiences and needs. Djirra walks alongside

our women every step of the way, offering the tools and knowledge to know when support is needed and how she can access it, as well as opportunities to connect with other Aboriginal women in a culturally safe space.”

“Sharing stories, finding solutions are not just words,” continued Ms Braybrook. “Those principles are at the foundation of everything Djirra does – for Aboriginal women, by Aboriginal women.”
Since the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria, Djirra received unprecedented support and investment, which has allowed for much-needed expansion of its service and outreach.
Djirra’s vision is to continue to grow as the specialist service for Aboriginal victim survivors of family violence, working towards a future where Aboriginal women and their children are living in safety – free from violence and strong in culture and identity.

“Strong connections to the community and local organisations are pivotal to Djirra’s work. It is in that spirit that we are organising the official office openings,” concluded Ms Braybrook. “We look forward to meeting with everyone in Bendigo and Latrobe Valley communities and working closely with existing services!”

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