Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

On Regional and Cultural Approaches to Australian Indigenous Violence

Academic journal article Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology

On Regional and Cultural Approaches to Australian Indigenous Violence

Article excerpt

Based on a national analysis of Indigenous family violence, the 2001 monograph on 'Violence in Indigenous Communities' by the author and his colleagues for the Australian Attorney-General's Department called for government agencies to 'take a regional approach to supporting and co-ordinating local community initiatives' together with 'partnerships between Indigenous program personnel and mainstream services ...' (Memmott et al., 2001, p. 4).This current article reports on regional aspects of two subsequent pieces of research by the author, one in the Barkly Region of central-east Northern Territory for Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation (2007) and the other in the Torres Strait for the Queensland Department of Communities (2008). The research findings from both of these studies develop the case for government policy to accommodate regional approaches to Indigenous family violence due to combinations of geographic and culturally specific causal factors. The importance of nurturing social and cultural capital in Indigenous communities to strengthen social values, leadership and cohesion in addressing Indigenous violence will be emphasised. Some comment will be made on the role of underlying factors ('deep historical circumstances') in contributing to violence, in conjunction with precipitating causes and situational factors, the former being somewhat downplayed in policy debate over the period of the Howard government.

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Although Indigenous family violence has become an increasingly disturbing social problem in Australia during recent decades (Sutton, 2009, p. 106-9), there have been only a modest number of empirical analyses of the complex and dynamic causal factors underlying the problem. This article emphasises the value of a sociogeographic approach to problem analysis and response design. It reinforces the need for government agencies to 'take a regional approach to supporting and co-ordinating local community initiatives' together with 'partnerships between Indigenous program personnel and mainstream services ...' (Memmott et al., 2001, p. 4). This article reports on regional aspects of two recent pieces of consultancy research by the author, one in the Barkly Region of central-east Northern Territory for Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation (Paul Memmott & Associates [PMA], 2007) and the other in the Torres Strait region for the Queensland Department of Communities (PMA, 2008). Profiles of these two remote regions are used to develop the case for government policy to accommodate regional and community-based approaches to Indigenous family violence due to combinations of geographic and culturally specific causal factors. Finally, the significance of nurturing social and cultural capital in Indigenous communities to strengthen social values, social cohesion and leadership in addressing Indigenous violence is emphasised.

Background and Context to the Two Studies

Anyinginyi Health Aboriginal Corporation (AHAC) is an Aboriginal Medical Service based in Tennant Creek and services the Yapakurlangu or Barkly Region of the central-east Northern Territory. From within Anyinginyi, the Piliyintinji-ki' Stronger Family Unit was developing a range of services that provided a whole-of-family and whole-of-community approach to program delivery to improve their health and social wellbeing. Associated aims were firstly to provide individuals and families with an increased understanding of life issues and to accept control and responsibility for their lives, and secondly to enhance the capacity of Aboriginal people to define their problems, and to work with Piliyintinji-ki to develop strategies to address them.

Piliyintinji-ki staff aimed to help an individual 'get better' through seeking to support their entire family experiencing social and emotional issues associated with trauma, including grief, forced separation of children from families, sexual abuse, substance misuse, family violence and suicide. …

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