Djirra’s call for systemic change
Djirra’s policy and advocacy work drives systemic change to improve Aboriginal women’s access to justice, safety and equality. Our extensive on-the-ground experience working with Aboriginal communities across Victoria informs Djirra’s call for systemic change.
Djirra stands firm for change by running highly successful campaigns, maintaining a regular presence in decision making forums and committees, and contributing our expertise to important government initiatives and inquiries such as the Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria.
Our CEO, Antoinette Braybrook is also the convener of the National Family Violence Prevention & Legal Services Forum and through this role she ensures that voices of Aboriginal women all across the country are heard at the national level.
We welcome community feedback and contributions to our policy and advocacy work. For more information or input contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Djirra, we run campaigns to create awareness about the impacts of family violence for Aboriginal communities, help prevent family violence and advocate for Aboriginal women’s voices and rights. We know that Aboriginal women have the solutions to issues affecting their lives, so all of our campaigns are driven by Aboriginal women. To follow and support our campaigns, sign up for our newsletter or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.
Our CEO is advocating for our key calls at the National Summit on Women’s Safety. Join us in calling for a separate, dedicated National Plan to eliminate family violence against Aboriginal women and children.
Aboriginal women must be visible and heard #wehavethesolutions. Download a full list of our calls here.
Each year we support the #16Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence ( 25 November – 10 December) calling on the community to stand with us and take action on violence against Aboriginal women and children. In the last couple of years, we ran our ‘I AM NOT THE PROBLEM’ campaign.
Whenever Aboriginal women are spoken about in the dominant culture or mainstream media, we are always framed as deserving of the family violence we experience. We are not the problem, we have the solutions. Hear what we say, watch our video.
Our Policy Positions
In 2010, we developed three policy papers with the aim of strengthening legal equity, accessibility and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence and sexual assault. Download FVPLS Victoria’s Policy Papers June 2010.
Drawing from our extensive frontline experience and insights from Aboriginal people with lived experience of the system both as victims/survivors and as workers, these papers form the foundation of our policy and advocacy work.
They continue to provide a valuable platform for Aboriginal women in Victoria to demand real and lasting change, as well as an important reference point for policy and law makers.
As Djirra has grown, we have continued to develop and strengthen our policy positions.
In 2016, the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence recognised the need to work in partnership with Aboriginal community controlled organisations like Djirra to reduce the unacceptable levels of family violence in Aboriginal communities.
Djirra’s policy and advocacy work is founded on the following principles:
- amplifying the voices and leadership of Aboriginal women
- Aboriginal women and their communities have the solutions to family violence against Aboriginal people
- we cannot end family violence against Aboriginal people unless we stop racism and gender inequality
- improving Aboriginal women’s access to justice, culturally safe services, equality and self-determination are essential to preventing and responding to family violence
- Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations with expertise in family violence are best placed to support Aboriginal victims/survivors
- Early intervention and prevention programs that strengthen connection to culture and identity, including targeted programs for Aboriginal women, are key
- we need wide-spread reform and attitudinal change across systems to improve responses to Aboriginal victims/survivors and overcome beliefs, practices and processes which exclude, blame or silence Aboriginal victims/survivors and their children.
Djirra supported to the need to improve the quality of family reports being prepared for the Family Court. Djirra noted the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and ACCOs such as Djirra must be extensively consulted and funded to lead work on improvements that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Djirra also noted the concern that an excessive focus on credentials for report writers may not sufficiently address the substantial problems in the court process itself, including:
- Difficulty in practice with challenging report findings;
- Excessive reliance on the report, in comparison to other evidence and submissions; and
- Poor understanding of, or insufficient weight given to abuse and family violence by some members of the judiciary.
Djirra calls on the government to fully implement the Declaration into Australian law and grant us our internationally-recognised human rights. The need is stronger than ever given the substantial failure of state, territory and federal governments to end the significant disadvantage inflicted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by a country that has not meaningfully addressed its legacy of colonialism, racism, and substantial human rights abuses, which continue to this day.
The Commonwealth Government released a draft plan intended to underpin work across organisations and governments to end the drivers of violence against women and children. Djirra’s response makes clear the draft plan fails to show a commitment to self-determination, and lacks clear targets and accountability for governments especially in areas they control like housing, social security and punitive child removal policies. We call for a separate, dedicated national action plan to end violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children that is developed in line with the principles of self-determination.
On 3 June 2020 the Victorian Legislative Council agreed that the Legal and Social Issues Committee would conduct a Parliamentary Inquiry into Victoria’s Justice System. This Inquiry has broad scope to inquire into and report on a range of matters relating to Victoria’s criminal justice system. This includes an analysis of the factors influencing Victoria’s increasing prison populations, and strategies to reduce re-offending. The final report from this Inquiry is due on 28 February 2022.
Djirra’s submission draws on our unique insight as a specialist family violence Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are the fastest growing prison population in Victoria. Djirra’s submission highlights the connection between family violence and the other intersecting factors that contribute to the incarceration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. Djirra makes a number of recommendations that focus on bail and sentencing reform; the failure of the criminal justice system to identify family violence; lack of access to culturally appropriate legal representation and support services; lack of services in community to keep women out of the justice system; women in prison with disability; mothers in prison; impacts on children, including child removal; best practice early intervention and prevention programs; and the establishment of a Victorian Aboriginal Social Justice Commissioner.
The Victoria Law Reform Commission (‘the Commission’) was asked by Victoria’s Attorney-General to review Victoria’s responses to stalking, harassment and other similar behaviours. This includes how the Victorian Personal Safety Intervention Order (PSIO) system works. As part of this, the Commission ran a consultation process, which Djirra was invited to participate in. While Djirra is a specialist family violence service, we are able to provide insight into stalking as it relates to violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
On 4 June 2020, the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs adopted an inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence. The inquiry was referred by the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston.Through this inquiry the Committee will seek to inform the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.
An earlier Senate inquiry, which followed the murders of Hannah Clarke and her three children, attracted criticism after wrapping up without any recommendations or input from victims and survivors or those working in the sector. This new Commonweath inquiry has been described as an opportunity to explore at systemic level the voices of women and children with lived experience. The Terms of Reference include the impact of of COVID-19 on the prevalence of family violence and the provision of support.
The Family Violence Reform Implementation Monitor was established following the Royal Commission into Family Violence and independently monitors and reviews the Victorian Government and its agencies in delivering the state-wide family violence reform. The Monitor reports annually to Parliament and the community on the progress of the implementation of the reforms. Monitoring is now underway for the Monitor’s fourth and final report, which will examine what has changed since the Royal Commission into Family Violence released its report in 2016, and what remains to be done.
In this submission Djirra shared our views on:
- how the family violence service system, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s experience of it, has changed since the Royal Commission
- looking forward: what is still required in the family violence reforms
- the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Royal Commission into Family Violence recognised that family violence is a key driver of poor mental health. Family violence not only has a devastating impact on the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women — it is a leading contributor to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child removal, homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol misuse and incarceration.
It is important for the Royal Commission to understand that colonial violence is not a stagnant piece of history. Intersecting systemic racism and systemic sexism keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women trapped in violent situations and cycles of trauma. The mental health system can present as yet another form of violence.
This submission shares what Djirra has learnt from many years of working on the ground at the frontline with Aboriginal women who experience family violence, including the intersecting systems and structural drivers that contribute to poor mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women; provides a deeper understanding of the complex and unique barriers that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women face when seeking to access the mental health system; and highlights the critical role that Djirra plays in supporting Aboriginal women on their journey to social and emotional wellbeing through culturally safe access to early intervention and prevention and wraparound support.
The child safe standards (standards) apply to all Victorian organisations that provide services or facilities for children or employ children or young people. The standards are a compulsory framework that support organisations to be safer for children. The standards require organisations to implement policies and procedures to make sure that the safety of children is promoted and to prevent, respond to and report allegations of child abuse. The standards aim to embed the protection of children from abuse in the everyday thinking and practice of leaders, staff and volunteers. The Department of Health and Human Services is undertaking a review of the standards.
In response to the ALRC Family Law Review Discussion Paper, the National FVPLS Forum urges the ALRC to maintain its commitment to break down barriers to access justice and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children who have experienced family violence. This submission draws from the on-the-ground experience and perspectives of FVPLSs around the country, including Djirra, and makes many vital recommendations to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim survivors of family violence are not left to fall through the gaps and cracks in the family law system any longer.
Djirra’s contribution to this joint submission on the Child Information Sharing Scheme Ministerial Guidelines focuses on the responsibility of information sharing entities (as prescribed under the scheme) to ensure that their services are culturally safe and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s views are always obtained and considered, where it is safe to do so. This is particularly important given that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people may hold greater levels of mistrust due to past government policies and current high rates of child removal and therefore may be less likely to engage with community services if information is likely to be shared without their consent. Recommendations in this submission include the importance of cultural awareness training for all practitioners and strong engagement and referral relationships with family violence specialist ACCOs such as Djirra to work with Aboriginal children and families where family violence is present or suspected.
This joint submission by family violence specialist organisations across Victoria, including Djirra, responds to the guiding high-level policy framework of the new CRAF (or common risk assessment framework). Djirra advocates for a culturally safe and relevant model that helps practitioners assess and manage family violence risk for Aboriginal people in a safe and effective way – free from racial prejudice and subconscious bias. This will help ensure that Aboriginal victim/survivors of family violence, predominantly women and children, have access to early and effective support and protection while maintaining autonomy and choice over their lives.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children experiencing family violence face a range of unique, complex and compounding barriers to accessing support and justice through the family law system. This submission makes forty recommendations that aim towards creating a more culturally safe, trauma informed and family violence sensitive family law system. Key recommendations include employing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Family Consultants and Liaison Officers within family law courts, establishing a specialist Indigenous court list or hearing process, and ensuring culturally safe and specialised legal representation and support, such as that provided by Djirra, for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence engaged with the family law system, including family dispute resolution.
Reforms to family violence law must be analysed with a cultural lens to understand the unique, disproportionate or adverse impacts upon Aboriginal victims/survivors, predominantly women and children, as one of the groups at greatest risk and disadvantage in the family violence system. This submission addresses the critical importance of Aboriginal victims/survivors of family violence having access to independent, culturally safe legal advice and representation at the earliest opportunity