Democrats Deputy Leader and spokesperson on Indigenous Affairs, Senator Andrew Bartlett, says the latest round of public concern about child abuse in Indigenous communities will not result in positive change unless there is a change in attitude by governments and political parties at all levels.
While the recent revelations are shocking, it is not the first time such problems have been publicised, said Senator Bartlett.
Concerns of violence and abuse have been raised in the past by many people particularly Indigenous women – but the issue has largely been treated by governments as not sufficiently serious to receive properly resourced, long-term solutions.
Another round of community and media outrage, tough talk from politicians and quick fix solutions, all wrapped up in stories and images of aboriginal hopelessness and despair, will achieve nothing unless there is a genuine commitment from governments to properly fund the necessary programs over the long-term, coupled with a willingness to let those programs be designed and managed by indigenous people.
In my own state of Queensland, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Womens Task Force on Violence reported back in 1999 on the issues of community violence and made numerous recommendations to reduce and eliminate community and family violence. Other studies, such as the Cape York Justice Study in 2002 have followed on from this.
I recently met with a number of Community Justice Groups in Far North Queensland who have a role in supporting women and children at risk of violence. Yet these groups are badly under-funded and under-resourced that one almost has to wonder if they have been set up to fail by governments who are keen to shift the blame for their own failings.
There needs to be a national commitment and a national strategy to address the issue of violence in Indigenous communities, but it must enable locally developed and managed solutions to local problems.
Responses to violence must have consequences for perpetrators, but there is a real risk that entire Indigenous communities and their culture are being vilified along the way, which will do nothing to fix the problem, Senator Bartlett said