Senate inquiry said don’t treat First Nations deaths as a tick in a box

During the Wednesday afternoon session of a Senate inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children, witnesses from the Department of Social Services (DSS) and the Aboriginal and Straits Islander Advisory Council Torres appeared.

A question posed to the DSS by Senator Nita Green was what would be different in the new National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children 2022-2032, Greta Doherty, DSS Women’s Safety Group Lead , said the government was not starting from scratch.

“The plan benefits from the last 12 years of experience we’ve had with the current national plan, the 2010-2022 plan, which has put a lot of effort into building the evidence base,” Doherty said.

“I think we are strengthening our understanding of both the drivers of violence and the impacts of violence in society, both at the individual, social and community level. I recognize that there are still significant gaps.

Doherty added that the launch of the new national plan is expected to take place in October 2022.

Regarding data collection, a question discussed throughout the dayProfessor Muriel Bamblett of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council said data collection had improved.

Bamblett added that the survey should ensure it also focuses on children, not just women.

“When you see 12, 13, 14 year olds on the street, I think if we don’t see them in this survey and we have a response for the kids, then I think we’ve missed a really big opportunity, said the professor.

“But are we capturing this data? Are we capturing the right data? Is it a matter of jurisdiction, not just a Commonwealth? And how can courts actually report disappearances and murders? »

Bamblett went on to describe how she had seen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women lose their lives to domestic violence, without being referred as they should have been to Aboriginal organizations.

“There’s no accountability when people fail our people,” Bamblett said.

“The loss of life for us, we take it seriously. But sometimes the systems don’t see it as — it’s just another “check the box”, another Indigenous person has died.

“I think we need to build in more accountability for [the] general public when our people are murdered.

Responding to Bamblett’s comments, Doherty added that Australia’s national child protection framework was underway, including a specific action plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

“Community Services Ministers, which is the cabinet group responsible for Australia’s child protection framework, agreed that there obviously needs to be a strong focus on First Nations children in policy responses,” Doherty said.

Bamblett said she has had to fight for Indigenous children’s culture on occasion.

“The main challenge we have is that we have so many children who cannot find their Aboriginal family because their adoption records are sealed,” the professor said.

“We have a large number of native children who were purchased from other states and territories or as part of a vacation, so their grandparents or great-grandparents were born here. And many churches have destroyed their archives.

Doherty acknowledged that an intersectional approach to violence was something the department was mindful of, particularly in developing the next national plan.

“With the voices of victim survivors whom we had the privilege of listening to throughout the consultation process, it became very clear that responses to violence must take into account all the circumstances in which a person finds themselves. , looking at poverty, looking at issues like alcohol and other drugs,” the official said.

“A person-centred approach is really the goal, the ambition, I think of all the work we do.”

The group leader added that as the national plan was still in draft form, she was unable to provide further comments as it was being finalized.

On the issue of genocide posed by Thorpe, Doherty added that the draft plan takes into account the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as other treaties to which Australia is a party. .

Doherty said some measures related to investing in family safety are being considered as part of the budget process.


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