Policing Indigenous women
The relationship between Indigenous women and police intersects with processes of both colonisation and gender. There are commonalities in the way Indigenous women are treated by police with the way other women are treated, particularly where they share backgrounds of socioeconomic disadvantage and cultural and ethnic difference from the dominant society. As Alder (1995) has noted, how women are treated by police depends on a complex web of various factors including marriage, employment, children, housing, prior convictions, race and ethnicity, and presumed ‘femininity’. There are multiple disadvantages which arise as a result of the interaction of gender, class and ‘racial’ inequalities. Indigenous women also share a commonality in treatment by police with Indigenous men which derives directly from their Aboriginal status. Indigenous women and men were the subjects of colonial policies which relied heavily on police intervention—a subject already canvassed in this book. A further complicating factor is the gendered nature of the colonial process. Colonial policy was not gender-neutral. It relied on differing intervention strategies which were dependent on factors such as the sex, the age and the ‘colour’ of the subject. Colonial policies developed extensive classificatory procedures and strategies for controlling subjects depending on whether they were ‘half-caste’, ‘quartercaste’, and so on. These strategies also differentiated between males and females, children and adults.
These multiple layers of interventions and relationships provide the parameters within which Indigenous women and the police interact in contemporary society. They also provide the context for understanding the particular difficulties which Indigenous women face when dealing with police. For example, while domestic violence is an issue which affects all women, it is apparent that Indigenous women suffer more extreme levels of violence