Indigenous women missing from the conversation

Last week we saw what should have been two major tipping points for the federal government.

In Canberra and across the country thousands of people, mostly women, protested for justice, for their voice to be heard, for equality, and for the right to feel safe at work.

Thousands protested last week for gender equality in the March 4 Justice.Credit:Eddie Jim

It seemed the Prime Minister was too afraid to walk outside his office and address the thousands of women demanding better.

Last Thursday it was National Close the Gap Day, which should be a significant day for all Australians.

It’s a yearly reminder of the reality facing First Nations people in this country.

It’s a reminder for us that our children are twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to die before the age of five.

Close the Gap Day is a yearly reminder of the reality facing First Nations people in this country.Credit:Joe Armao

Fewer of our children attend school, more of our students are below minimum standards in reading and numeracy, and fewer attain year 12 or the equivalent.

More of our people do not have jobs.

We are 17 times more likely to be arrested.

We have shorter lives than non-Indigenous people.

But these statistics have become just numbers. They no longer galvanise people to march across the country and demand better. We’ve heard it all before.

What was missing from this conversation was the major crossover between the March 4 Justice events last week and Close the Gap Day – and that’s outcomes for Aboriginal women.

Regardless of where they live, Aboriginal women are one of the groups at highest risk of family violence in Victoria and across the nation.

Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised from family violence than non-Aboriginal women, and are almost 11 times more likely to be killed because of violent assault.

Aboriginal women have been identified as the most legally disadvantaged group in Australia.

Research has found that men’s violence against women is a primary driver in up to 95 per cent of Aboriginal children entering out-of-home care.

To be clear, family violence is not a part of Aboriginal culture. It’s a direct result of the dispossession and attempted destruction of Aboriginal culture since colonisation.

Here in Victoria, we are pursuing a path to Treaty, which is an opportunity for Aboriginal people to be truly consulted as equals on what they need, in a way that has been avoided since colonisation.

We recently announced the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, which will give our people in this state the chance to have their truth since colonisation told.

Aunty Geraldine Atkinson of the First Peoples’ Assembly with acting Premier James Merlino and (right) Marcus Stewart at the launch of the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission.Credit:Simon Schluter

The commission will be led by the Aboriginal community every step of the way and will give us a clear understanding of the past so we can provide a better future for our women, our children, and all of us, into the future.

While we’re still waiting for leadership from the federal government on this issue, we will continue to blaze a trail here in Victoria. Our lives matter too much.

Aunty Geraldine Atkinson is co-chair of the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.

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