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AFLS welcomes announcement of standalone plan to address violence in Aboriginal communities, urges Federal Government to properly consider culture and history across different Aboriginal groups and adequately resource Aboriginal Controlled Organisations

 

Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA (AFLS), a key family violence service provider in the Pilbara, Kimberley, Mid-West Gascoyne and Goldfields regions, welcomes the announcement that Women’s Safety Minister Anne Ruston will work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders to develop a targeted plan to address violence against women in Aboriginal communities.

AFLS has been a long-time advocate for genuine commitment from the State and Federal Governments to partner with Aboriginal communities to address violence against women and children, and recommended the establishment of a separate, dedicated National Plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in its submission to the Department of Social Services on developing the next National Plan.

AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that family and domestic violence is experienced in a different context in Aboriginal communities and that Aboriginal people are the authorities on what service responses will work for them. “The social, cultural and political context in which violence occurs in Aboriginal communities is unique to Aboriginal people, as are the deep-rooted drivers and underlying factors that contribute to violence against Aboriginal women. This includes the ongoing impacts of colonisation, intergenerational trauma, socio-economic disadvantage, systemic racism, and discrimination.”

“Addressing violence in Aboriginal communities requires a proper commitment to paying attention to the unique experiences of Aboriginal women as victims of violence and to working with Aboriginal communities to respond to violence in a way that is appropriate for them.”

Ms. Martin also emphasised the importance of recognising differences between Aboriginal culture across regional areas and remote community groups. “The Federal Government must understand that Aboriginal culture varies from community to community, and that dealing with violence in one community may be an entirely different experience to dealing with violence in another. The standalone plan to end violence against Aboriginal women must respond to this reality and be built on an understanding of history and culture as being experienced differently for Aboriginal people generally, and across regional boundaries and Aboriginal communities.”

Trusting Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to deliver services for Aboriginal people was also raised by Ms. Martin as a critical issue for the standalone plan. “I am concerned that there has been a tendency across Australia, and in Western Australia in particular, for non-Aboriginal Controlled Organisations to receive funding to deliver services to Aboriginal people. The standalone plan must adequately resource Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations like AFLS to support Aboriginal communities to address violence against women and children.”

Ms. Martin commended Minister Ruston for listening to the voices of Indigenous leaders at the National Women’s Safety Summit and said that AFLS looks forward to seeing how the Federal Government listens to Aboriginal communities and Aboriginal organisations in the future, to achieve their shared goal of addressing violence against women and children.

Justice investment in community legal assistance not enough

 

Aboriginal Family Legal Services WA (AFLS), a key legal assistance provider in the Pilbara, West Kimberley, Mid-West Gascoyne and Goldfields regions, congratulates Community Legal WA on its successful lobbying for a funding investment from the State Government in the legal assistance sector, as recently announced by the Attorney General. AFLS welcomes the investment in Community Legal Centres which, like AFLS, are severely underfunded.

Nevertheless, AFLS has expressed disappointment over the limited reach of the funding into the legal assistance sector over the next four years. The introduction of four-year funding agreements, and an additional $1.85 million for the community legal sector this financial year, will only be extended to Community Legal Centres. Specialist Family Violence Prevention Legal Services like AFLS and Southern Aboriginal Corporation, which provide legal assistance, preventative education and intensive support for Aboriginal victims of family and domestic violence, will not receive any funding under this deal. This is particularly disappointing when the services are members of Community Legal WA, but not ‘member enough’ to receive funding under this State Government arrangement.

AFLS CEO Corina Martin said that critical underfunding of Family Violence Prevention Legal Services in WA has placed constraints on the ability of the services to provide support for clients in need and created uncertainty about their future. “Family Violence Prevention Legal Services are in a particularly strong and unique position to drive systemic change and make a significant impact for Aboriginal people, yet we have been consistently underfunded and under-resourced. The State Government has never funded our services, yet they expect us to share our data, participate in their reference groups, and shape their strategies. This continued ignorance of the critical work we do to support some of the State’s most vulnerable and at-risk people is disheartening and shows continued systematic racism within Government, with an apparent distrust of Aboriginal Controlled Organisations to manage services for Aboriginal people.”

Ms. Martin emphasised concerns about non-Aboriginal organisations receiving funding to deliver services to Aboriginal people. “I am particularly concerned that there has been limited consideration of the demand for Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations to provide services to Aboriginal people, and instead a preference for non-Aboriginal organisations to receive that funding, despite not being Aboriginal controlled and often without an understanding of the particular culture, history and trauma of the Aboriginal people in the regions they operate.”

The growing disparity in demand for high-quality legal services in regional and remote Western Australia and the service gaps created by the State Government’s refusal to make long-term funding commitments to specialist Family Violence Prevention providers will only risk more harm to the communities who cannot be reached, or who only have access to culturally un-safe services.

“The barriers faced by Aboriginal people in accessing legal assistance and the justice system generally are well-established,” Ms. Martin said. “Lack of cultural competency and mistrust of mainstream legal services and their inability to respect the needs of Aboriginal women are issues that will not be resolved by throwing more funding at non-Aboriginal organisations.”

Ms. Martin urged the State Government to make long-term funding commitments to Family Violence Prevention Legal Services in WA, to provide the kind of steady income needed for the services to focus on improving and expanding service delivery across the state. “We look forward to seeing what investment the State Government makes in ensuring the sustainability of the service providers, and its commitment to improving outcomes for Aboriginal people, in the September State Budget,” she said.

The following statement has been released from the Department of Health.

Help stop the spread of COVID-19

We can’t see COVID-19 but it effects everybody.

We are still providing legal services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors of domestic, family and sexual violence in regional Western Australia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But our procedures have changed to keep everyone healthy and safe.
From Monday 18 May our Doors will be open for face to face appointments.

Welcome

We support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander survivors of family and sexual violence through community education, early intervention and legal advocacy.

Services

We provide legal and support services for all Aboriginal people who have experienced family violence or sexual assault.

Family Law

We can assist people with their family law matters when there are children involved. We represent clients in the Family Court WA, and help clients work out parenting agreements. We focus on what is best for the children.

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Child Protection

We assist people dealing with the Department of Child Protection and Family Support in childcare and protection matters. We can help you to talk to the Department about children remaining safely in your care.

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Criminal Injury Compensation

Eligibility advice for criminal injuries compensation, including for injuries, medical expenses and lost income. We assist with applications, and helping to obtain documents such as medical reports.

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Family Violence Restraining Orders

We help people who have been hurt by partners or family members. We can assist in applications for Family Violence Restraining Orders (FVROs) and will apply to the Court for an interim restraining order.

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Non-Legal Support

We provide non-legal support and case management in the form of community education and engagement, crisis intervention and client referrals. We can advocate for clients, and help in safety planning for families.

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Social Support

Our social workers provide culturally-safe and trauma-informed approaches. They help clients through the demands of their legal process, develop safety strategies, and build social and emotional wellbeing.

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“Thank you AFLS for your presentation to our nursing team. We continue to use your valuable resources and look forward to working with you again.”

ROBYN MACGREGORGOLDFIELDS MENTAL HEALTH INPATIENT SERVICE
Membership

Stronger Together

We encourage all Aboriginal people concerned about Family Violence to join our organisation. Our members are drawn from the six regions in which we operate, and also include Perth. You need to be at least 18 years of age to become a member.

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Campaign

Ochre Ribbon

Violence within Aboriginal communities against women, children and men has increased to alarming levels. The Ochre Ribbon Campaign highlights the need to stop this violence, and works to strengthen advances in prevention initiatives from other agencies and campaigns.

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