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Sensitivity Warning

First Peoples

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this resource may contain images or names of people who have since passed away.


Family violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities continues to attract considerable scholarly and public attention. The standpoint of this research project is that family violence experienced within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is shaped by the specific and historical context of colonialism, systemic disadvantage, cultural dislocation, forced removal of children and the intergenerational impacts of trauma.

As a result, it requires a distinct and tailored set of responses across multiple fronts led by Aboriginal communities and nested in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural values and world views.

Key Findings:

  • Law and Culture remain an integral part of daily life for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, despite constant attempts by the settler state to extinguish Aboriginal forms of sovereignty over their land and its resources, and assimilate Aboriginal people into mainstream law and culture. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Law and Culture remain “facts of life” that govern the broad spectrum of social relationships and make daily life meaningful and intelligible.
  • Participants confirmed the importance of the wider family structure in preventing family violence, caring for victims and punishing offenders, and the duties and obligations inherent in functioning skin relationships, which are the bedrock for social life in these communities.
  • It is necessary to dispel reports in the media and by politicians that Aboriginal Law or Torres Strait Islander Law condones or contributes to family violence. This view has been discredited by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, by Australian politicians, and in a number of governmental and law reform commission reports.
  • The communities consulted expressed a desire for practitioners and policymakers to recognise that Aboriginal Law and Culture must play a significant role in healing conflict and implement responses based on Law and Culture. Such cultural models should undergird work with Aboriginal victims and offenders to assist with health issues, trauma, healing and other issues impacting their wellbeing and their ability to function to their full capacity within the communities.
  • Practitioners and policymakers also need to provide financial and infrastructural support for community-owned, on-country healing, run by Elders rather than non-Indigenous, non-government organisations. The work of Ranger programs and Elderregulated bush camps is strongly supported.
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ANROWS Research Report 19