Australians watching were confronted this week by a tragic reality for too many Aboriginal women.
Four Corners recounted - in horrifying detail - the brutal killing of an Aboriginal woman, the failure of our justice system to respond, and the failure of our community to care.
Lynette was battered, bruised and ultimately destroyed by men's violence. It was ended by the most obscene disregard for her humanity. The system did not protect her and justice has not been done.
To protect women like Lynette, our justice system needs to heed the evidence at hand and we need urgent investment in the services for the safety of Aboriginal women - including Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS), women's refugees and housing, counselling and health services.
Instead, like so many frontline services, FVPLSs are not funded to support all the women relying on our service for their safety. This year's budget includes just a fraction of the funding needed for family violence services across the board - and is expected to leave thousands of Aboriginal women without access to this vital service.
Violence against Aboriginal women and their children is at epidemic levels. If you are an Aboriginal women you are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and 10 times more likely to be killed by someone who purports to love you. It is important to note that, as with Lynette, the Aboriginal women we work with are hurt by men from many different cultures and backgrounds. Talking about violence against our women is not about pointing the finger at Aboriginal men.
By 2021-22 violence against Aboriginal women is estimated to cost the nation an extraordinary $2.2 billion a year. Its moral cost - which sees lives lost and communities destroyed - is unquantifiable.
Two recent cases have also broken this silence and highlighted the failure of the justice system to protect vulnerable women. Take the case of Ms Dhu, a victim of violence, who at 22 died whilst in police custody for unpaid fines. Or that of Andrea Pickett, who at 39 died at the hands of her husband in front of her young children after police failed to uphold restraining orders.
FVPLSs respond to this crisis by providing essential services for safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victims/survivors of family violence. Our specialist, culturally safe services ensures women can access the support they need knowing they will not be judged, knowing that we will fight hard for them and their kids in a system that has a history of forced child removal and systematically failing our community.
To end the unacceptable impact of violence against Aboriginal women, like Lynette, Ms Dhu and Andrea Pickett and the many others we don't hear about, we need all parties to back up words with investment in services for safety.
The NSW Attorney General has asked the Director of Public Prosecutions to review Lynette's case. This is the least that should happen. Lynette deserves better. All Aboriginal women deserve better because Aboriginal women's lives really do matter.
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