In some Australian Indigenous communities violence is so widespread there is an expectation that it is inevitable and is something to be tolerated and not disclosed. That’s a grim conclusion from an Australian Institute of Criminology paper Non-disclosure of violence in Australian Indigenous communities released this week. According to AIC Director, Dr Adam Tomison, “overall, Indigenous people experience violence (as offenders and victims) at rates two to five times those experienced by non-Indigenous people.  This can be even higher in some remote communities and much higher for Indigenous women”.

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“Indigenous people are more likely to turn to their families and communities than police when victimised, due to a fear of being ostracized, causing more harm to their families and the possibility of disclosures leading to further violence in the community.”

In addition, societal obligations and previous experiences with the criminal justice system were found to be barriers to disclosing violence, especially child abuse. Some female victims fear that reporting violence may lead to their children being taken away and ultimately cause more harm to their families and the community than tolerating violence without disclosure.

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A lack of Indigenous-specific victim support services and a lack of Indigenous staff within mainstream services were also found to reduce disclosure by Indigenous victims. Especially in remote communities, there may be few avenues for support and a lack of anonymity and confidentiality may further reduce the options available to victims.

“It is essential that services take flexible culturally-secure approaches that respond to the diversity in Indigenous culture”, Dr Tomison said.

“Responses for Indigenous victims need to be developed in conjunction with Indigenous communities and incorporate Indigenous perspectives, while recognising the practicalities of service provision in this environment.”