Family violence among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children continues to occur at a disproportionately higher rate than their non-Indigenous counterparts. It has been recognised as a national priority area in the Third Action Plan 2016-2019 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and Their Children 2010-20221.
The Impact of Family Violence among Indigenous Australians
In 2014-15 Indigenous women were hospitalised for non-fatal assaults from family violence at 32 times the rate of non-Indigenous women of the same age2. Self-reported data has shown that nearly one-quarter (23%) of Indigenous people over the age of 15 had experienced physical violence or had received threats of physical violence in the previous 12 months3. Shockingly intimate partner violence among Indigenous Australians contributes to five times the rate of disease burden compared to the rates experienced by non-Indigenous Australians4.
What Works in the Prevention of Family Violence in Indigenous Communities?
A report outlining what we currently know about the incidence of family violence and the effectiveness of family violence prevention programs has recently been released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Family Violence Prevention Programs in Indigenous Communities5 highlights the importance of evaluating family violence prevention programs and improving the knowledge base in this area.
The report identifies a number of risk factors linked to the incidence of family violence in Indigenous communities, including:
- Social stressors – unemployment, inadequate housing, or low income,
- The use of alcohol and other drugs,
- Restricted access to services
- Previous experience of violence as a child
The report includes a review of selected Indigenous violence prevention programs that have been implemented across the nation. These programs use a range of interventions aimed at reducing the incidence of family violence, such as relationship education with youth, offender rehabilitation groups, public awareness campaigns, and empowering Indigenous women to become mentors and advocates for violence prevention in their community.
Principles for successful family violence prevention programs were described, these include:
- Community ownership of programs,
- Ensuring that programs are culturally appropriate, and
- Maintaining flexibility to adapt to local circumstances.
- Making sure that all stakeholders, such as Elders, government organisations, Indigenous organisations and other non-government organisations are involved in developing and implementing programs,
- Addressing family violence in a holistic manner by targeting the multiple contributing factors, and
- Focusing on long-term sustainability.
The report can be accessed here: http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=60129557831
- Department of Social Services 2016. Third Action Plan 2016–2019 of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/10_2016/third_action_plan.pdf
- SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2016. Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage key indicators 2016 report. Tabulated online appendices.
- ABS 2016c. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4714.0. Canberra: ABS. Viewed 3 November 2016, <www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4714.0>.
- AIHW 2016a. Australian Burden of Disease Study: impact and causes of illness and death in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 2011. Australian Burden of Disease Study series no. 6. Cat. no. BOD 7. Canberra: AIHW.
- Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (AIHW & AIFS) 2016. Family violence prevention programs in Indigenous communities. Resource sheet no. 37. Produced by the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse. Canberra: AIHW & Melbourne: AIFS.