Indigenous DV victims turned away: inquiry

·2-min read

Indigenous domestic violence victims have been turned away or at risk of being misidentified as the perpetrator by Queensland Police, an inquiry has heard.

Queensland Police's First Nations and Multicultural Affairs Unit Superintendent Kerry Johnson says a lack of training and "unconscious bias" amongst officers may be to blame.

He cited a recent Brisbane case where police had not protected an Indigenous woman because of the way she had acted at the station.

"Unfortunately she has an alcohol and drug addiction issue. The way that she was acting, she was turned away," Supt Johnson on Monday told an inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence.

"It was seen that she was being argumentative. (But) her mother reached out to me ... and the DV liaison officer ... got back into the situation and supported her after what were clearly breaches of DV issues."

He added: "The reality is there could be some unconscious bias ... that needs to be identified".

Asked by counsel assisting Anna Cappellano if unconscious bias still existed in Queensland Police when dealing with domestic and family violence, Supt Johnson said: "I think it does, I think it would have to."

A lack of cultural training among police could also lead to an Indigenous domestic violence victim being locked up, he told the hearing in Cairns.

"Even when a DV is happening and ... the respondent is removed ... the aggrieved was fighting with the police all the way to the car," said Supt Johnson, citing another case.

"The reason why she was doing that ... is she didn't want to be seen as siding with the police.

"These are complex layers.

"If you are ... an officer not having an understanding of it ... that would be quite an easy situation for her to be taken to the watchhouse herself ... when what she is trying to do is save face in front of her partner."

Supt Johnson said a recent survey had identified a lack of cultural capability among Queensland officers but said it "has now been rectified".

Supt Johnson said "intergenerational trauma" had led to First Nations people's distrust of police, also influencing domestic violence matters.

"Quite often it is us not understanding a lot of the cultural things going on in the background," he said.

"We can inadvertently add to that by sometimes talking to the wrong person if there is a conflict going on.

"First Nations politics is incredible, the layers to it. It would take a lifetime just to understand it."

The inquiry will also hold hearings in Brisbane, Townsville and Mount Isa.

Judge Deborah Richards is heading the independent commission announced in response to Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce recommendations.

The commission is expected to report by October 4.

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