Family violence in Aboriginal communities

Monday 18th January 2016

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Family violence impacts on Aboriginal people at vastly disproportionate rates and has devastating effects on Victorian Aboriginal communities. This is an extract from the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service (FVPLS Victoria) submission to the Victorian Royal Commission into Family Violence.

Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence [1] and almost 11 times more likely to be killed as a result of violent assault.[2] Aboriginal women have been identified as the most legally disadvantaged group in Australia.[3]

Tragically, family violence against Victorian Aboriginal people appears to be escalating. Across Victoria, police reports of family violence against Aboriginal people (predominantly women and children) have tripled in less than a decade.[4]

This is despite evidence that the majority of family violence incidents go unreported and the reality that Aboriginal women are markedly less likely to disclose family violence due to a multitude of complex barriers.[5]

Family violence is complex and the issues our clients face are complex. Our clients live with intergenerational trauma, removal of children, discrimination, poverty, mental health issues, family violence-driven housing instability and homelessness, disability, lower levels of literacy and numeracy, as well as a range of other cultural, legal and non-legal issues.

There are multiple complex and diverse factors contributing to the high levels and severity of family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. It must be clearly understood that the causes do not derive from Aboriginal culture. Family violence is not part of Aboriginal culture. However, the disadvantage, dispossession and attempted destruction of Aboriginal cultures since colonisation have meant that family violence has proliferated in Aboriginal communities.

This does not, however, mean that family violence affecting Aboriginal victims/survivors, predominantly women and children, is exclusively the domain of Aboriginal communities—or that all perpetrators of violence against Aboriginal women are Aboriginal men. There is insufficient data on the Aboriginality of perpetrators and FVPLS Victoria routinely sees Aboriginal clients, mostly women, who experience family violence at the hands of men from a range of different backgrounds and cultures, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal. The only certainty in the existing data is that Aboriginal women are at disproportionately higher risk of family violence.


This is an excerpt from the full article that was published in the spring/summer 2015 edition of DVRCV Advocate.


1. The Australian Productivity Commission (2014) Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage—Key Indicators 2014, 4.93 table 4A.11.22

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2006) Family Violence Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Cat. no. IHW 17, p.71

3. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) (2003) Submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional References Committee, Parliament of Australia, Inquiry into Legal Aid and Access to Justice, 13 November 2003, p.4

4. Victorian Auditor-General (2014) Victorian Auditor-General’s Report: Accessibility of Mainstream Services for Aboriginal Victorians, p.57

5. Matthew Willis (2011) ‘Non-disclosure of violence in Australian Indigenous communities’, Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice, No. 405


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