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Preventing violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

2 minutes

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women experience disproportionate rates of violence, and violence that is often more severe and more complex in its impacts. 

But violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is not an ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander problem’. Nor should Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people bear sole responsibility for addressing it. This violence is an Australian problem, and it is perpetrated by men of all cultural backgrounds.  

All of us, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and non-Indigenous people, have a responsibility to work together to prevent violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.

Understand the issues

There is no single ‘cause’ of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, however, research and consultation points to three main underlying drivers that intersect to produce such high levels of this violence.

Research shows that colonisation sets the social context for this violence, with the three intersecting drivers being: 

  • ongoing impacts of colonisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities 
  • ongoing impacts of colonisation for non-Indigenous people and society 
  • gendered factors. 

Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women must be considered in the context of broader colonial violence and the ongoing impacts and violence stemming from colonisation.

This includes racial discrimination, the intergenerational impacts of dispossession, the forced removal of children, the interruption of cultural practices that mitigate against interpersonal violence and the ongoing and cumulative economic exclusion experienced by Indigenous communities across Australia. 

It is important to note that non-Indigenous Australians are also impacted by and benefit from the ongoing impacts of colonisationin regard to their access to power, privilege, resources and the condoning of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Gender inequality intersects in complex ways with the ongoing legacy of colonisation, racism and intergenerational trauma a legacy that affects both Indigenous women and men.  

Essential prevention actions

Responding to current extreme levels of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is critical. But to prevent this violence from happening in the first place, we need actions that directly address its three underlying drivers. 

Address the legacies and ongoing impacts of colonisation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families and communities, including:

  • heal the impacts of intergenerational trauma, strengthening culture and identity 
  • strengthen and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families 
  • implement specific initiatives for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, boys and men, and children and young people 
  • challenge the condoning of violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities 
  • Increase access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Address the legacies and ongoing impacts of colonisation for non-Indigenous people, and across Australian society, including:

  • challenge and prevent all forms of racism, indifference, ignorance and disrespect towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and cultures 
  • address racialised power inequalities and amend discriminatory policies and practices 
  • challenge the condoning of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. 

Address the gendered drivers of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women, including:

  • implement intersectional approaches to preventing violence against women across the Australian population 
  • challenge the condoning of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women by challenging both racist and sexist attitudes and social norms 
  • support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s participation in leadership and decision making 
  • challenge gender stereotypes, and the impacts of colonisation on men’s and women’s roles, relationships and identities 
  • strengthen positive, equal and respectful relationships between women and men, girls and boys 
  • engage both Indigenous and non-Indigenous men to challenge harmful and violence-supportive ideas about masculinity and relationships. 

Key information about violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women

Examples of programs and initiatives


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