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First Peoples

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Family and community violence are significant causes of morbidity and mortality in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and populations. The findings clearly show that colonisation and related violence enacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, perpetuated by intergenerational trauma and the undermining of traditional gender structures. This report highlights the need for agencies and stakeholders to listen to First Nations people affected by family and community violence.

Key findings:

  • Participants described a set of interrelated factors as the catalysts of violence – housing problems, racism, financial stress, alcohol and other drug use, poor physical health and loss of social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) – including mental health difficulties, unemployment, contact with the justice system and incarceration. Trauma and the negative impacts of ongoing colonisation were identified as the common underlying causes of these catalysts.
  • A similar prevalence of recent experience (within the last year) of family and community violence was found across major cities, regional and remote settings, with no excess in remote settings. This contrasts with common conceptions and representations, including in the media, that violence disproportionately affects remote communities. Violence was experienced across all age groups, and all age groups were affected by recent violence.
  • Family and community violence affects both men and women; however, its impact on women appears more severe, with women being more likely than men to experience frequent violence and to experience violence from a partner or family member. 
  • At the heart of the expressed need from communities was the desire to strengthen community and culture to prevent violence. Participants spoke of the need to heal families, through redressing the breakdown in kinship and family structures. Those experiencing violence wanted the violence to stop and family disruption to be minimised.

This Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led and governed research report voices the experiences and wisdom of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members and service providers across Australia on family and community violence. The results highlight the imperative for a system that listens and learns. It emphasises the importance of community-led initiatives to break the cycle of violence and to generate ongoing solutions, informed by the best evidence and evaluated appropriately. The findings speak to the strength, cultural richness and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the enormous obligation and potential that all stakeholders have for building on these strengths to improve outcomes for current and future generations.

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