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Lessons Learnt: Preventing violence against Aboriginal women and children in Central Australia

Jan 24, 2022

Services: Codes 4 Life: WOMEN, Codes 4 Life, Desert Knowledge Precinct, Desert Leadership

Key messages and learnings from the panel discussion hosted by DKA and CAAFLU.

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Magnify Preventing violence panel

Ser­vice providers gath­er at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct to share insights on pre­vent­ing vio­lence against Abo­rig­i­nal women and children.

Over 70 peo­ple gath­ered at the Desert Knowl­edge Precinct, just before the Christ­mas break, to dis­cuss and gain insights on an impor­tant issue affect­ing our region: vio­lence against Abo­rig­i­nal women and children.

The event was part of the glob­al 16 Days of Activism against Gen­der-Based Vio­lence’ cam­paign, and pro­duced by Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia (DKA) and the Cen­tral Aus­tralian Abo­rig­i­nal Fam­i­ly Legal Unit (CAAFLU), with sup­port from the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment.

It host­ed three pan­el dis­cus­sions fea­tur­ing facil­i­ta­tors and speak­ers that includ­ed promi­nent sec­tor spe­cial­ists in the domes­tic, fam­i­ly and sex­u­al vio­lence (DFSV) space, as well as youth and social ser­vices. The dis­cus­sions cel­e­brat­ed Arrernte women tak­ing a stand against domes­tic vio­lence; shared evi­dence-based learn­ings; and pro­vid­ed insights into the impor­tance of male lead­er­ship in the space. [View infor­ma­tion on facil­i­ta­tors and speak­ers here.]

As we move into a new year con­tin­u­ing our work in the space, here are some key mes­sages and learn­ings from the day…

Pan­el 1 | Shar­ing Sto­ries: Resis­tance and resilience’

This pan­el was facil­i­tat­ed by Julian­na Mar­shall, and fea­tured Phynea Clarke, Sabel­la Turn­er, Shirleen Camp­bell, and Patri­cia Dodds. It cel­e­brat­ed Arrernte women who are tak­ing a stand against domes­tic and fam­i­ly vio­lence in our communities.

(L‑R) Julian­na Mar­shall, Phynea Clarke, Patri­cia Dodds, Shirleen Camp­bell, and Sabel­la Turner.

  • We need to lis­ten to Abo­rig­i­nal voic­es and improve media report­ing
    Sto­ries of Abo­rig­i­nal vic­tim-sur­vivors are often miss­ing from pub­lic report­ing. We need to allow these women to tell their sto­ries, and give them a voice in a respon­si­ble, respect­ful, and cul­tur­al­ly-appro­pri­ate man­ner.
    Media report­ing can also be fur­ther improved by lis­ten­ing to sec­tor experts and vic­tim-sur­vivors; seek­ing to unpack the issue in depth over report­ing on spe­cif­ic inci­dents; pro­vid­ing more infor­ma­tion on prepara­tors and not just the vic­tims; and pro­vid­ing help-seek­ing infor­ma­tion.
    [Read the media guide­lines for report­ing DFSV in the NT.]


  • Take a step back and let Abo­rig­i­nal women lead
    Abo­rig­i­nal women in Cen­tral Aus­tralia have been work­ing to counter dri­vers of vio­lence against women for many years. They have also been advo­cat­ing for sys­temic change at a nation­al lev­el, but expe­ri­ence many chal­lenges and inter­rup­tions with fund­ing uncer­tain­ty and changes to gov­ern­ments.
    Ser­vices need to allow Abo­rig­i­nal women to lead efforts to pre­vent DFSV, and lis­ten to them when it comes to issues involv­ing Abo­rig­i­nal communities.


  • Young Abo­rig­i­nal men need to be stronger
    In the old days, Abo­rig­i­nal men were hunters and fight­ers, and took on a strong role in the com­mu­ni­ty. We need young Abo­rig­i­nal men to resume their role as com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, and be at the fore­front of the sector’s response.

Pan­el 2 | Prac­ti­cal infor­ma­tion: Pre­vent­ing vio­lence – what works?’

This pan­el was facil­i­tat­ed by Niki­la Cran­age, and fea­tured Dr Chay Brown, Alli­son Gray, and Colleen Hayes. It shared lessons and evi­dence-based learn­ings in pre­vent­ing vio­lence against Abo­rig­i­nal women and their children.

(L‑R) Niki­la Cran­age, Dr Chay Brown, Alli­son Gray, and Colleen Hayes.

  • The more gen­der equi­table a soci­ety is, the less vio­lence against women
    DFSV is the most com­mon form of vio­lence against women, with the pri­ma­ry dri­ver of vio­lence against women being gen­der inequal­i­ty. This is because gen­der inequal­i­ty cre­ates con­di­tions in which women and men are not con­sid­ered equal.
    Peo­ple with gen­der equi­table views are far less like­ly to ever use vio­lence or to even feel vio­lent. If we want to reduce vio­lence in our soci­ety, we must fix the pow­er imbal­ances between non-Indige­nous peo­ple, sys­tems, and struc­tures, and Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander people.


  • We need to address the impact of coloni­sa­tion
    For Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Islander women, the ongo­ing vio­lence and sta­tus dis­par­i­ties cre­at­ed by coloni­sa­tion inter­sects with gen­der inequal­i­ty to dri­ve vio­lence. We need to have dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tions to address the impact of coloni­sa­tion on today’s society.

  • We need a ded­i­cat­ed pre­ven­tion work­force
    It is impor­tant to pre­vent vio­lence before it hap­pens. This means we need bet­ter sup­port and fund­ing for work­ers in the pre­ven­tion space, to be able to bet­ter respond to the dri­vers of vio­lence and stop it before it happens.

  • Vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma is real, and it is impor­tant to take care of front­line work­ers
    Vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma is a nor­mal response to ongo­ing expo­sure to oth­er people’s trau­ma. Vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma chal­lenges our under­stand­ing of the world in five key areas: safe­ty, trust/​dependency, esteem, con­trol, and inti­ma­cy.
    Sec­tor work­ers need to be mind­ful of and be able to recog­nise the signs of vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma. Self and col­lec­tive care, as well as debriefs and super­vi­sion, are impor­tant for all front­line work­ers that deal with DFSV.
    [Read about com­mon symp­toms and self-care to man­age vic­ar­i­ous trau­ma.]


  • Focus on dadirri’ / deep lis­ten­ing
    Despite many efforts to under­stand Abo­rig­i­nal per­spec­tives and expe­ri­ences, there is a focus on struc­tured reports which fail cap­ture the essence of authen­tic sto­ries. It is impor­tant to real­ly lis­ten to the sto­ries of the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ty through deep lis­ten­ing and yarn­ing, rather than pre­de­ter­mined questionnaires.

Pan­el 3 | Male Lead­er­ship and Roles: Men are part of the solution’

This pan­el was facil­i­tat­ed by Niko­las Ros­al­s­ki, and fea­tured Char­lie King, Michael Lid­dle, and David Woodroffe. It looked at the impor­tance of male lead­er­ship in end­ing domes­tic and fam­i­ly vio­lence in our communities.

(L‑R) David Woodroffe, Michael Lid­dle, Char­lie King, and Niko­las Rosalski.

  • More Abo­rig­i­nal men need to be involved
    There are not enough Abo­rig­i­nal men at the table when these con­ver­sa­tions hap­pen, and we need to invite them and make sure they are involved in these impor­tant dis­cus­sions. Because despite men being the prob­lem, they are also part of the solution.

  • Sport and oth­er far-reach­ing plat­forms need to be utilised as medi­ums to spread the mes­sage
    The sec­tor needs to utilise plat­forms with large audi­ences, such as sport, to spread anti-vio­lence mes­sages. This could help reduce the fre­quen­cy of vio­lence, and nor­malise call­ing it out’.

  • Coun­selling and sup­port ser­vices need to be utilised
    Many men who are plagued with men­tal health issues are not deal­ing with their emo­tions and vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. This then leads to anger, which caus­es them to lash out.
    Coun­selling ser­vices and pre­ven­tive pro­grams need to be more avail­able to men, for them to be able to deal with and express their emo­tions in a healthy manner.

  • Every­one has good in their heart
    Despite some men com­mit­ting vio­lent acts, every­one has good in their hearts. It is impor­tant for us to find a way to tap into that side of them.

DKA and CAAFLU thank all our facil­i­ta­tors, speak­ers, and atten­dees who joined us on the day; and hope these lessons guide the work being done by the many ded­i­cat­ed ser­vice providers in Cen­tral Aus­tralia over 2022.


This event was pro­duced by Desert Knowl­edge Aus­tralia (DKA) and the Cen­tral Aus­tralian Abo­rig­i­nal Fam­i­ly Legal Unit (CAAFLU), with sup­port from the North­ern Ter­ri­to­ry Gov­ern­ment. Part of 16 Days of Activism against Gen­der-Based Violence’.

Other DKA Stories

Codes 4 Life: Women Hosts First Workshop

Nov 25, 2020

25 women gathered at the Precinct to develop prevention practices against domestic, family and sexual violence.