Budget 'falls short' on helping Indigenous survivors

·3-min read

Greens senator Dorinda Cox has cautiously welcomed federal government support in the budget for Indigenous survivors of family violence but experts say it doesn't go far enough.

Tuesday's budget provided $68.6 million over two years from 2023/24 to support family violence prevention legal services to support for First Nations victim-survivors of violence, and for an review to inform the development of a national standard for government data on lost, missing or murdered women and children.

The Greens spokesperson for First Nations and a Yamatji Noongar woman, Senator Cox said the funding would assist the work of the Senate inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children.

"As a former police officer and a family violence researcher, I had a snapshot but not a clear picture of the enormity of violence-related issues happening in our community, and the lack of justice First Nations people receive compared to white Australians," she said.

"Part of the issue is the lack of harmonisation of government data on missing and murdered First Nations women and children across the states and territories. It's promising that the government is listening and committing to take important steps to develop a national standard for managing this information."

Wynetta Dewis, chair of the National Forum of First Nations Family Violence Prevention Legal Services said the budget maintained funding levels for frontline service delivery for an additional two years, but with increased costs of living that means they will struggle.

"We need more from this government," she said.

"First Nations women suffer some of the highest rates of homicide in the world, and it is their safety and wellbeing, and that of their families, that suffer when government does not adequately invest in our organisations.

"We can't keep waiting while more of our women die."

Antoinette Braybrook, chief executive of Aboriginal legal service Djirra which focuses on family violence prevention in Victoria, said their services were already stretched.

"Alarmingly, we have not had a CPI funding increase for more than seven years and it's really concerning because of the work that we do at the front line for Aboriginal women's safety," she said.

Ms Dewis also raised concerns about the lack of clarity in the budget regarding family and domestic violence funding initiatives, saying that a number of these have no clear recipients.

She said there was $145.3 million allocated over four years from 2023/24 to 'support activities which address immediate safety concerns for First Nations women and children'.

The budget allocated $17.6 million over two years to deal with 'family safety initiatives' and $23.2 million over four years to support families impacted by violence 'through seven place-based programs', she said.

"We know nothing about these initiatives, activities or programs," Ms Dewis said.

"That is not good enough."

Academic and human rights lawyer Hannah McGlade has published widely on violence against Indigenous women.

"I'm pleased to see we've got a commitment to improving data on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls," she said.

"However, I am concerned at advice I've received from the National Indigenous Australians Agency supporting the Senate inquiry, that there won't be a public hearing with Aboriginal women researchers and experts.

"I've been working in this field for over 30 years, but unfortunately, along with my colleagues who have also specialised in violence against Indigenous women, it appears now that the inquiry is being under-resourced and will not be able to to hear from us. That's quite concerning."