We Don't Shoot Our Wounded


Thank you, Madam Speaker, and I wish to thank Minister Berry for the statement that she has just read out on behalf of herself and Minister Stephen-Smith. I am especially grateful, Madam Speaker, to hear the minister apologise for the Barr Government’s years of ‘delay and silence’ when it comes to addressing the specific needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans in relation to domestic and family violence. This decade of neglect has not only created anger and frustration, as the minister acknowledged, but has also been understood by many as evidence of the contempt of those opposite.

More importantly, it has left numerous victims of domestic and family violence lacking the very helps that they have, in their wisdom, asked for. Minister Berry quoted the clear message from the Warawarni-gu Guma Statement: ‘Nothing about our mob without our mob’. This underscores the absolute importance of working with community members in addressing their concerns. But in this case, Madam Speaker, the ACT Government has had the ‘We Don’t Shoot Our Wounded’ report for over ten years and has done nothing about it. There is simply no point in consulting with community members and then ignoring what they say.

Five years ago, Beryl Women’s Refuge manager Robyn Martin publicly noted that ‘the government hadn’t taken meaningful action’ on this report.[1] Another five years have passed, and basic services still ‘do not meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families’. In fact, the Barr Government’s services are still, to again quote Minister Berry, culturally unsafe. Indigenous Canberrans still fear our child protection system, and this fear hinders their seeking help in many cases. This situation, Madam Speaker, is inexcusable.

I am glad to hear Minister Berry state that new resourcing will be considered in future budgets, but the simple reality, Madam Speaker, is that a genuine commitment to the territory’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities would have seen resourcing being carefully considered over the course of the last ten budgets. What a difference that could have made!

For the benefit of those opposite, I note that Indigenous Canberrans are looking for more than just words this time. As many of them have expressed to the Canberra Liberals, they have grown deeply weary of this government’s endless words. Julie Tongs, the CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Service, has recently expressed her alarm at possible cuts to frontline services foreshadowed in this year’s budget papers. Minister Berry has had numerous opportunities to provide an assurance that her decision to pull Safer Families Levy funding from frontline services will not let vulnerable victims fall through the cracks, but she has repeatedly avoided overtly making those assurances. This fact may help to explain why the minister’s statement today will inevitably be received with suspicion by the territory’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

They will be watching to see what this government actually does during the remaining twelve months of this assembly, Madam Speaker. And so will the Canberra Liberals. The minister’s apology today, if it is to mean anything, must be accompanied by real progress. Nothing less will do. Thank you.

[1] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6067889/act-government-hasnt-acted-on-indigenous-domestic-violence-report/

#MinisterialStatement #Family #DomesticViolence

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