The Gunawirra initiative aimed at preventing domestic violence and alcohol abuse:
Gunawirra is against family violence
Gunawirra Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal professionals work against family violence. Its effects are brutal and long-lasting, especially for children. Family violence is a crime. Impacts can be far reaching. For a family who lives with violence, it is very hard to study, work, or to give children the nurturing they need.
The presence of family violence is a strong predictor of child abuse. It reduces the capacity of people who have experienced violence to enjoy the everyday freedoms of our society.
A growing body of literature has highlighted the causes and extent of violence in indigenous communities. Much written by indigenous people seeking profound changes in their communities.
Indigenous Australians have called for greater investment in the skills of local people who show leadership to prevent violence. They’ve called for action to address alcohol and drug abuse and for more integrated community services to support vulnerable families and children.
Gunawirra heeds these calls.
- Indigenous people are eleven times more likely than non-Indigenous people to be hospitalised with assault?related injuries and are five to ten times more likely to die as a result of assault-related incidents.1
- In 2006-07, the rate of hospitalisation for Indigenous people as a result of spouse or partner violence was almost 34 times that of non?Indigenous people.2
Gunawirra sees family violence is a problem of national importance.
“Stopping this violence means ending the alcohol abuse that leads to violence; changing attitudes and beliefs about violence and relationships; ensuring effective crisis responses; and taking measures to stop perpetrators from being violent”
Gunawirra takes this role directly up in our present active Miller Program and our proposed inner Sydney program.
Reducing alcohol intake and tackling alcohol abuse is fundamental to reducing Aboriginal family violence.
A recent study by the Australian Institute of Criminology3 found that:
“alcohol is now regarded as one, if not the, primary risk factor for violence in Indigenous communities”
and that alcohol use was:
“one of the strongest predictors of Indigenous people’s contact with the justice system.”
Spouse or partner homicides involving an Indigenous offender and victim are 13 times more likely to be alcohol related than non-Indigenous homicides.4 Seventy per cent of Indigenous homicides involve both the victim and the offender consuming alcohol, compared with 22.5 per cent of non-Indigenous homicides.5
Families need to know that these difficult issues can be talked about and addressed. Leadership at all levels is critical including change at the grassroots level.
Working with up to 60 families in Marrickville and Miller, and with great intensity with eight families in each centre , Gunawirra professional staff work directly to avoid the devastating impact of violence, abuse and neglect.
Gunawirra does this by:
- Creating a neutral setting that is nurturing and protective — play group style settings but with group and cooking and sports and recreational facilities for the parents as well as models of caring such as infant massage and lactation specials, etc. (Miller and Marrickville)
- Providing high quality and timely care to people who have experienced violence is crucial to preventing the cycle of violence from continuing. Research has shown that the first point of contact for a person who has experienced family violence is critical to their recovery process.
- Offering education services about the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse and how they lead to domestic violence.
- Giving group support to any mother in pregnancy and in early childhood up to age five to empower her to remove herself and her children from danger, be that danger from within herself or from her partner. Offering group therapy and psychotherapy as a means of avoiding violence and management of their own anger towards their children, and redirecting their energy creatively in working and caring for their child. Service delivery models that recognise the complexity of a person’s needs while providing a consistent high levels of assistance and follow through with case plans are most successful. It is also critical that children who are exposed to family violence and child abuse are given support, time and space to recover. Their recovery from this trauma is also vital in preventing the cycle from continuing.
- Working with strong local leaders to strengthen social norms against violence by changing attitudes and fostering respectful relationships.
- Coordinating support services to aid the recovery of people who experience violence, including children who experience or witness violence.
- Working in consultation with Aboriginal Communities and with DOCS and any other NGO to give support and strengthen the individual families we care for.
- Recognising the link between mental health, social and emotional well-being and alcohol abuse, we give vulnerable individuals daily support to get their lives on track, stay safe and achieve a level of independence. This model was developed in consultation with our indigenous communities and recognises and promotes spiritual, cultural, mental and physical healing for indigenous Australians living with mental illness.
- Information sharing between service providers (such as children, parenting and women’s services, night patrols, mental health, schools and health clinics) and police and governments is critical to responding before violence happens.
Gunawirra makes a direct response to growing local and international literature on the steps communities can take to reduce family violence, child abuse and neglect11 including:
- Working intensively with parents on core parenting skills such as setting boundaries for children.
- Providing childcare, playgroup and other services that can provide parents with respite, friendship networks, and information and skills.
- Ensuring that additional supports are available for families in times of need or heightened vulnerability.
All of these receive priority from Gunawirra.
- C. Bryant (2009) ‘Identifying the risks for Indigenous violent victimisation’, Indigenous Justice Clearinghouse Research Brief 6.
- Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2009) ‘Report on Government Services 2009’
- Wundersitz, J (2010) Indigenous perpetrators of violence: Prevalence and risk factors for reoffending Australian Institute of Criminology Reports, Research and Policy Series p105
- Dearden, J & Payne, J (2009) Alcohol and Homicide in Australia. Trends and Issues in crime and criminal justice no.372 Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology
- Bryant, C (2009) op. cit.
- Pilkington, J. Aboriginal Communities and the Police’s Taskforce Themis: Case Studies in remote Aboriginal community policing in the Northern Territory. North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency,2009.
- Valentin J, An Independent Assessment of Policing in Remote Indigenous Communities for the Government of Australia, March 2007.
- James Pilkington, Aboriginal Communities and the Police’s Taskforce Themis: Case studies in remote Aboriginal community policing in the Northern Territory, October 2009.
- The Allen Consulting Group, Independent Review of Policing in Remote Indigenous Communities in the Northern Territory – Policing further into remote communities – Report to the Australian Government and the Northern Territory Government, April 2010.
- A number of these Australian Indigenous healing models and programs are referred to in “Voices from the Campfires: Establishing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation” (2009), Report by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation Development Team
- Schorr, L. & Marchand, V. Pathway to the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. June 2007.
- For more information on the Remote Service Delivery Partnership go to: http://www.fahcsia.gov.au/sa/indigenous/progserv/families/RSD_NPA/Pages/default.aspx