As the world advances in the 21st century, seeking new routes to increased civilization and improving the quality of life, violence still counts as a significant obstruction in the way of the social progress. Domestic violence is a topic of intense actuality within the Australian indigenous communities. Factors affecting the high rates of family violence in the Australian indigenous communities include the heavy unemployment among members of this community, the low socio-economic conditions and living standards, substance abuse, lack of proper education, dispossession or the distress caused by colonisation (Cripps & Davis, 2012). Racism and vilification, the decline of the traditional values and community kinship, institutionalization and child removal policies, inherited grief and trauma, overcrowded houses or the disposition from land and culture are other significant factors that accelerate the Australian Indigenous domestic violence rates (NSW, 2011).
The prevalence of this phenomenon indicates, at the first glance, the incapacity of the competent authorities to handle this situation. However, policies are developed and applied for maintaining the situation under control, reducing and eliminating domestic violence.
Family violence captures a significant sociological coverage throughout the world. Because the contexts in which domestic violence occurs differs and because the policies and regulations meant to prevent it vary, the definition of family violence implies various approaches. Jackson (2007) defines the domestic violence “as any act or omission by persons who are cohabiting that results in serious injury to the other members of the family” (p. 581). By family, researchers refer to both the traditional family, wherein the members are related by blood, living in the same household, but also non-traditional couples living together or extended families (Cripps & Davis, 2012; Jackson, 2007). Summers and Hoffman (2002) more vividly describe the family violence as the physical, verbal and emotional abuse that occurs within families. Cripps and Davis (2012) specifically describe the family violence in the Indigenous context of as abuses with physical, emotional, social, spiritual, sexual, cultural, economic or psychosocial manifestation exerted over a member of one’s family.
A NSW report (2011) indicates that in 2008 the rates of reported cases of domestic violence among the Aboriginal women were 8 times higher than the cases reported by non-aboriginal women and 4 times higher among the Aboriginal men, compared to non-Aboriginal Males. A highly concerning statistics shows that in 2004 the number of the sexual assault among Aboriginal females bellow 16 years old was double compared to similar cases occurred in non-Aboriginal families (NSW, 2011).
Strategies and policies have been developed to reduce these concerning rates of domestic violence among the Indigenous communities in Australia. Many policies address specifically the factors that contribute to the prevalence of the domestic violence within these families in the first place. To prevent the family violence that occurs due to poor economic condition and high unemployment rates, policies were developed for increasing the employment of indigenous; there were integrated Indigenous individuals in the integrated services and in the justice process (Cripps & Davis, 2012).
NSW (2011) outlines strategic policies that include specific actions for addressing the issues that cause the Indigenous domestic violence in Australia. There are four such elements:
- strategic leadership (focusing on leading health processes);
- effective service delivery (intertwine institutions for consolidating protection and need accommodation policies);
- culturally competent workforce (developing strong institution for addressing the Indigenous domestic violence);
- strong community capacity (integrating Indigenous in the consultation, awareness, policy making, etc. against domestic violence) (NSW, 2011).
Support programs include the family violence prevention legal services (FVPLS), which answer the needs of victims of family violence in 26 centres in remote very remote and regional areas, defining the need for similar centres to be implemented in urban Australia, where 70% of Aboriginal people live (Cripps & Davis, 2012).
For responding to Australian Indigenous women and children who were victims of domestic violence, at a national level are instituted services meant to meet their needs, incorporating specialized supportive practices, qualified personnel, and economic assistance (Council f Australian Governments, n.d.).
Policies meant to reduce and prevent the domestic violence among Indigenous families in Australia also approach the source of the problem – the perpetrators – with the purpose of changing their violent behaviours by focusing on developing their self-consciousness, knowledge and skills (Cripps & Davis, 2012). Although the policy was effective between 2000-2005, a rate of 35% of recidivism registered among those who completed more than 80% of the courses included in the policy (Cripps & Davis, 2012).
Other policies to address the domestic violence within the Australian Indigenous families include community involvement in monitoring and reducing domestic violence, justice programs, mediation programs, education and awareness actions or alcohol restriction (Cripps & Davis, 2012).
Reducing and preventing the rates of domestic violence among the Indigenous Australian families require the involvement of Indigenous communities in this social issue, but also the intertwine of national policies with customized policies, designed on the specific of Indigenous communities. Respecting the cultural heritage of the Indigenous individuals, supporting them with health and social policies meant to increase employment and living standards will lead to decreasing the domestic violence among the Indigenous Australian communities.
Cripps, K. & Davis, M. (2012) “Communities working to reduce Indigenous family violence”. Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse.
Council of Australian Governments (n.d.) National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children. Council of Australian Governments.
Jackson, N.A. (2007) Encyclopaedia of domestic violence. New York: Routledge.
NSW Government (2011) Aboriginal Family Health Strategy 2011-2016. New South Wales Health Department.
Summers, R.W. & Hoffman, A. M. (2002) Domestic violence: a global view.. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc.