Australian Indigenous Law Reporter
Inquiries and Reports - Australia
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence was formed in response to demands from women for urgent action to halt the unprecedented levels of overt violence in Indigenous communities across Queensland. The Task Force was established by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Minister for Women’s Policy, the Honourable Judy Spence MLA, in December 1998, following a meeting of 400 women at Queensland Parliament House the previous month to discuss the epidemic of alcohol-related violence against women and children.
Chaired by Associate Professor Boni Robertson of Griffith University, the Task Force comprised 50 Indigenous women with relevant knowledge and personal experience from across the state. A smaller Working Group of eleven carried out the process of research and consultation, visiting Indigenous communities and conducting interviews throughout Queensland during the first half of 1999. The report, containing 123 recommendations, was handed to the Minister in October 1999 and tabled in State Parliament on 2 December 1999. The Government’s response in early May 2000, was condemned and rejected by the Taskforce as inadequate. A redrafted response is expected by the end of July.
The Task Force was to investigate the causes and consequences of violence in Indigenous communities and advise on strategies for reduction and prevention based on a comprehensive understanding of underlying issues. Alcohol was identified as a major factor, while government inaction, the deterioration of traditional culture and identity and contemporary consequences of past injustices were also noted. The consultation process emphasised community involvement and provided an opportunity to voice concerns and contribute suggestions about how to break the cycle of violence.
The overwhelming emphasis is on the need for action. Indigenous women stressed the importance of working with men and the need for a ‘whole of Community/whole of Government’ approach to achieve long-term change. The Task Force expects a genuine commitment to ensure that its recommendations are implemented.
All we want is for the violence to stop. We don’t want our men to go to jail. But by the same token we as a community have to try to address the issues of alcohol, drugs and violence.
Violence at its most blatant has become a part of everyday life. Horrifying crimes are occurring regularly and have instilled in the minds of the elderly, the young and others a level of fear previously unknown to the Australian population. Murder and other violent crimes are destroying what has traditionally been the Australian way of life. However, for most people, their contact with violence is second-hand, through the daily newspaper or the nightly news or a movie. In many cases, people have a choice about whether they allow themselves to become exposed to the violence or whether they avoid it. However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities do not have the luxury of being able to disassociate themselves from violence. The high incidence of violent crime in some Indigenous Communities, particularly in remote and rural regions, is exacerbated by factors not present in the broader Australian Community.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence was formed when the degree of suffering in many Indigenous Communities had reached a crisis point. While the plight of Indigenous people has been highlighted in numerous state, national and international reports, many people found the current level of violence in Indigenous communities difficult to comprehend. Although there has been much speculation about the causes of the violence being witnessed, the impact of history cannot be isolated in any discussion on the origins and consequences of violence in the lives of Indigenous peoples in the contemporary context. Dispossession, cultural fragmentation and marginalisation have contributed to the current crisis in which many Indigenous people find themselves. High unemployment, poor health, low educational attainment and poverty have become endemic elements in Indigenous lives, and while the correlation between these factors and violence has been recognised, a more rigorous understanding is warranted.
While the violence being regularly committed in Indigenous Communities has become front-page news, it is not new. It has been acknowledged by Indigenous and non-Indigenous forums for many years. The people who could have made a difference have failed to intervene to stop innocent women and children from being bashed, raped, mutilated and murdered and exposed to forms of violence that have been allowed to escalate to a level that is now a national disgrace. Indigenous women’s groups, concerned about their disintegrating world, have been calling for assistance for more than a decade. While their circumstances may have been recognised, their pleas have not always been met and in some cases, deliberately ignored. At times, Government representatives appeared to regard violence as a normal aspect of Indigenous life, like the high rate of alcohol consumption. Interventions were dismissed as politically and culturally intrusive in the newly acquired autonomy of Indigenous Communities. Moreover, the ‘Aboriginal cause’ attracted little interest or sympathy in the broader Australian community, which seemed oblivious to the mayhem that was happening, even though the plight of Indigenous people had been described in numerous reports. The violence being witnessed can only be described as immeasurable and Communities, pushed to the limit, are imploding under the strain.
In investigating the violence, members of the Task Force were advised that the strongest message that they could give to the Government and the public of Queensland is that violence in all its forms, whatever its locale and in any circumstances, is unacceptable, and both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples must work together to help in its eradication. While Governments of all persuasions have made funding available to address the issues pertinent to violence in the lives of Indigenous peoples, the Task Force was advised that only minimal intervention has occurred to date. Service provision to Indigenous Communities was reported to be so poor in many Communities that people believe the services intended for their protection are in reality increasing their violation. Many people have become almost totally reliant on welfare, due to the breakdown of traditional social support and the lack of infrastructure and real employment, with the human services, health, family and welfare agencies, being clearly incapable of meeting the increasing demands raised. This has serious consequences in areas where poverty, crime and violence have already reached levels that will require both immediate and long-term interventions.
The time for preventive measures is long past. Both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people must work together to stop the carnage through proactive intervention. Indigenous people can no longer live under a system that defies and inhibits autonomy and self-determination. In the spirit of reconciliation and reciprocity, a whole of Government approach is required, with Indigenous people also taking responsibility to repair the broken lives of an increasing number of people. There must be no skimping; no shortcuts or kneejerk reactions, because as an Elder indicated ‘there may not be another chance’. The informants to the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence were adamant that while it was important to expose the severity of the violence, it was equally important to identify solutions. Many Elders acknowledged that while the stories must be told, it is also important to provide a way forward. The text of this Report therefore reflects these principles.
The degree of violence and destruction in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities cannot be adequately described. The Task Force found evidence of all forms of physical, psychological, cultural and structural violence being perpetrated, and while many may consider the violence to be a characteristic of Indigenous cultures, there are other factors that must be considered. The history of race relations in Australia is one in which Indigenous people have been subjected to forms of violence that, until recently, were unknown to many non-Indigenous Australians and as a consequence, the atrocities inflicted against Indigenous people have only recently been fully exposed. Colonisation and dispossession were factors identified throughout the consultations as being central to the current alcohol and drug abuse, violence and dysfunction witnessed in Indigenous Communities.
Indigenous people generally have been profoundly affected by the erosion of their cultural and spiritual identity and the disintegration of family and Community that has sustained relationships and obligations and maintained social order and control. While some Indigenous peoples were able to escape the past, whole families and Communities are now fighting to address the consequences. Appalling acts of physical brutality and sexual violence are being perpetrated within some families and across Communities to a degree previously unknown in Indigenous life. Sadly, many of the victims are women and children, young and older people now living in a constant state of desperation and despair.
Throughout the consultations, there was a strong message from Indigenous women that they recognise that their men are hurting too, and if there is to be a break in the cycle of violence, they must work collectively to reunite their families and to address the effects of alcohol and drug misuse and to eradicate these illnesses from their lives. There are few services available in Communities to deal with these critical situations. Although many Indigenous people carry unresolved trauma and grief from both historical and contemporary experiences, there are inadequate counselling services available in a majority of Communities. This situation not only compounds the stress experienced by individuals but also exacerbates the likelihood of violence. The atmosphere in many Communities is now one of continuing fear from which there is currently no escape. Due to isolation, poverty and the relatively small size of many Communities, innocent people cannot escape the violence as public transport and private vehicles are primarily nonexistent. It was reported to the Task Force that at least one member of each family in some Communities is likely to become a victim of violence.
This Report reveals that there has not only been a significant increase in the number of offences recorded in Indigenous Communities, but the level of severity in such crimes has also increased. Violence is now overt; murders, bashings and rapes, including sexual violence against children, have reached epidemic proportions with both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people being perpetrators. Youth suicides over the past decade have increased to an alarming level. In one Community alone, there were 17 youth suicides in one year. In another Community, there were 16 suicides within a similar period. Indigenous youth were said to feel undervalued, lost, disillusioned and with many now living without hope. People are continually going through ‘sorry business’. By any measure, we must all admit that something has gone desperately wrong and that urgent intervention is now required.
As a result of ill-chosen, discriminatory and poorly researched Government initiatives, Indigenous people have endured decades of oppression and neglect. The massacres and inhumane treatment of their families remain fresh in their minds. Many members of contemporary Indigenous Communities can still remember the policies that isolated them from the broader community, that exempted them from associating with family and kin, that forcibly removed them as children and subjected them to treatment that breached even the most basic human rights. Indigenous families today are continuing to be affected by the losses they have suffered.
The harsh reality for those in authority that have ignored or failed to intervene in the atrocities, is that action is now essential. The very public implosion of Indigenous Communities can no longer be hidden or excused as being ‘the Aboriginal way’. Such thinking is a serious indictment that must be challenged and rejected. Indigenous Communities have endured, and continue to endure, substandard and overcrowded housing, poor health, poor education and welfare dependency. Many live in environments similar to those in the poorest developing countries, and lack access to the resources required to alter their impoverished state. This is a situation that warrants urgent address.
A majority of the informants believed that the rise of violence in Aboriginal communities can be attributed to the so-called ‘Aboriginal industry’ in which both Indigenous and non-Indigenous agencies have failed in many ways to deliver critical services. In times of economic rationalism, the ‘industry’ has failed to produce tangible outcomes. Concerns have been raised about the absence of initiatives in many reports commissioned by Governments over the past two decades. Informants were aware of the misuse of services with the culprits being both non-Indigenous and Indigenous people. An example of such misused authority and how it assists violence is the sly grog trade where there seems to be reluctance on the part of authorities to prosecute for breaches to the regulations. The sly grog trade and violence were expressed by many throughout the consultations to be inseparable issues, worsened by the failure of responsible bodies to carry out their duties at the expense of Indigenous people.
The extent of violence is demonstrated by the rapidly mounting incarceration rates. It is also reflected in the statistical data on interpersonal violence, homicides, rapes and suicides. For those three categories of violent offences, sexual offences and breaches of domestic orders, the total for all reported Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander offenders in Queensland has increased from 664 in 1994 to 1075 in 1998. The Task Force believes the number of violent offences is much higher than the officially recorded data. This observation was expressed in the Indigenous Women in the Criminal Justice System Report (1996). The Task Force researchers heard many stories about crimes that women did not report for fear of reprisals from the perpetrator, his kinfolk or the justice system.
In all the consultations, there was an obvious reluctance to talk about sexual assaults. This reluctance was reported to result from fear of reprisals or shame because the nature of the attacks. One Community survey found 90% of rape victims were women. Non-Indigenous men committed 42% of the rapes, 41% were committed by Indigenous men and the remaining 17% were pack rapes. Anecdotal evidence was given that sexual abuse of young males is increasing, and is unreported, because of the hidden nature of male to male sexual attacks. Members of the Task Force were advised that while some Indigenous people do not experience violence, there are others whose daily lives are marked by its constant and/or intermittent presence. The harsh reality is that many families are now trapped in environments where deviance and atrocities have become accepted as normal behaviour and as such, form an integral part of the children’s socialisation.
The lack of collaboration in the past has hindered progress for Indigenous people. The reasons for poor collaboration include:
The informants considered and applauded models based on reciprocity to eliminate welfare dependency. Members of the Task Force believe, however, that economic independence and sustainability cannot be achieved without significant cultural and social development. All elements should form the basis of future Government and Community initiatives, with improved education, employment and training and cultural revitalisation being priority initiatives.
Innovative solutions were identified to deal with the high alcohol consumption evident in some Communities. In particular, rehabilitation and family unification programs were suggested as methods of reducing violence. The Task Force found that professionals working in Communities often suffer premature burnout, especially if their cultural awareness preparation has been inadequate. Indigenous people also often suffer burnout because of the immense workload that they carry and the limited resources available to provide assistance. Substantial issues exist concerning the delivery of services in remote and rural Communities and must therefore be addressed.
Issues affecting Indigenous people cannot be separated from a holistic approach to health and therefore, the Indigenous concept of health must be an essential component of health care solutions. Health is:
not just the physical well being of the individual but the social, emotional, and cultural well being of the community. This is a whole of life view and it also includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life.
While much attention has been given to raising the standard of Indigenous health, there continue to be serious issues that are not being met. Stress, unresolved grief and complications from alcoholism and drug misuse are aspects of Indigenous lives that present serious implications for the future, if left unattended. Mental health services are urgently required to address the emotional trauma experienced by Indigenous people. There is a need for localised healing programs that are specifically developed and subject to Community accountability.
The injustices of the justice system were unequivocally stated to be causing Indigenous peoples most grief. When discussing Community concerns, informants frequently expressed dissatisfaction with the justice system. The Task Force was told repeatedly that the justice system is archaic and must be adapted to meet the needs of the current environment. Crime prevention should not be wholly owned by Government but include diverse stakeholders. Elders throughout Queensland are calling for the use of cultural lore to address the escalating crime in Communities and the over incarceration of Indigenous people in both adult and juvenile centres Crime prevention strategies are considered to be deficient with little relevance to traditional lore which provides the most effective deterrent. The informants saw the legal system as being fatally flawed, ineffective and unable to meet the challenges currently being presented.
While investigating violence was the primary objective of the Task Force, Elders and Community representatives stressed the need to analyse both causes and contributing factors involved as a means of presenting solutions. Although alcohol and drug abuse were reported to be primary factors in the level of violence and abuse being witnessed, there were other factors arising from both historical and contemporary experiences that were also believed to be present. In providing a way forward, it was consistently stressed that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people must work together to halt the violence and reverse the long-standing disadvantages suffered by Indigenous Australians. Social justice, equity and reconciliation will depend on the full implementation of the recommendations of this Report. The future of Indigenous people can no longer be taken for granted and therefore this Report has been developed in a genuine attempt to address those issues that have stifled the advancement of generations and maintained multi-violations they have experienced.
The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Minister for Women’s Policy, the Honourable Judy Spence, established the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence to develop strategies and advise Government on the critical issues of violence in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and Communities across Queensland. To achieve these objectives, the Task Force believed it was important to give Indigenous people the opportunity to express their thoughts on the violence and dysfunction in their Communities and to facilitate a voice for change. The consultations provided a platform through which Indigenous women and men could present their views of the causes and contributing factors of violence and identify solutions as a way forward.
While the text of this Report reflects the concerns and directions provided by both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, there are components that will be of more relevance to Aboriginal people with the remaining components being applicable to both. This does not negate the essential needs of either group but reflects instead the diversities and commonalities that exist in Australia’s Indigenous peoples. While women and children were seen to be the primary victims of the violence, the women were determined that the plight of their men should be acknowledged if there was to be a break in the cycle that has developed. All informants wanted the violence to stop so that families and Communities could be reunited with no key members missing. Moreover, they insisted that the way forward is through collaboration and participation of all stakeholders in order to pave a brighter future for the children who are currently disillusioned by what they are seeing.
Indigenous people suffering the brunt of the violence felt nothing positive was happening. While many dedicated workers had struggled over the years to deliver critical services to those people in distress, their work was often unrecognised and under-resourced. The Task Force acknowledges those skilled and devoted workers for their determination and efforts. It must also admonish past Governments for failing to act to halt the escalating violence. It is time to build on the knowledge, skills and innovation of the people in reinstating law and order to rebuild lives that have been shattered by historical processes. The Task Force also provided an outlet to allow non-Indigenous peoples to express their thoughts on the violence, this aspect of the process became educational, with many of these people expressing horror at the level of violence and abuse that unfolded. This Report contains disturbing accounts of previously untold violations suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across generations.
You see Aboriginal people, in our culture we learn, we are taught to take a lot of pain. We grow into it and we take a lot of pain and we put that pain onto someone else. Our people, we have deep-seated hurt from generations because that hurt, it’s all through the families and the Communities.
This Report will show extremes within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander societies. At one end of the spectrum, there are Indigenous people who do not drink, are loving and caring parents, and who work to support their families. At the other end, there are people who are profoundly disempowered, and through no fault of their own, are indisputably the most marginalised people in Australia. Communities are lost and dysfunctional and Indigenous men and women, through the excessive use of alcohol and other drugs, self-medicate their grief. Inevitably they become entrapped in lifestyles marked by violence and abuse. Violence is not merely an Indigenous issue. Australia was founded on violence.
It is violence to move people forcibly from their place of birth and to dump them in strange places, just to satisfy someone else’s racist obsessions. It is violence to separate family members by policy or by designed economic hardship and necessity. It is violence to classify people by race in order to deny privileges to some and heap privileges on others. It is violence to systematically deny the most basic human rights in the service of such a system.
The Report has not been written to apportion blame for past wrongs suffered by Indigenous people. Rather, it is a call to account for the many people who have ignored the plight of women and children and allowed the violence to continue without intervention. By their silence and inaction, they have condoned the violence inflicted on families and prevented the broader community from gaining a true understanding of the plight of Indigenous people. ‘Silence is the language of complicity.’ The Report deals with the past injustices imposed on Indigenous peoples so that both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can address the contemporary consequences. In 1987 the Aboriginal Coordinating Council (ACC) conducted a five-day workshop in Cairns. The workshop was held in response to a call from senior Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living within the Deed of Grant in Trust Communities/reserves of Queensland. The Elders wanted to discuss and find solutions to two critical and interrelated issues, child abuse and domestic violence. It was felt at that time that those issues were associated with high levels of alcohol consumption and illicit drug abuse, juvenile offences, adult incarceration, suicide, and other issues specific to social disintegration. At the close of the workshop, Mrs Hilyer Jonny said, ‘I’ll go home [to Doomadgee] and talk to the women and we will talk to the Council and we will do something.’
After another eleven years of repeated lobbying of politicians by Mrs Jonny and other Indigenous women, as well as numerous newspaper articles, public attention was finally drawn to the now horrifying levels of violence in Indigenous Communities. Mrs Jonny and other women were invited to Brisbane by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal and Advocacy Service to attend a meeting to discuss the atrocities from an Indigenous perspective. From this meeting, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence was born. Again Ms Jonny used words that were echoed by many other women present.
Ever since I have been to meetings we have been talking, talking about domestic violence all the time. . . I would like to see action, not talking all the time. ... Action speaks louder than words. I have to live in the Community amongst domestic violence, family violence, alcohol violence and other violence.
The women spoke strongly about alcohol as a major cause of violence. It was seen as influencing all aspects of their lives and creating chaos even for those who didn’t drink.
You see, we are Aboriginal peoples. We are not Europeans. We all live together but we, we are Aboriginal peoples. I’m thinking and feeling here now, we are losing the culture. Maybe it’s not lost but it’s going. Even the men talk to me, even the drinkers, saying the grog’s too much, too much. We ourselves, we Aboriginal women, we don’t drink and we, we are having a big struggle.
The Indigenous women who participated in the initial workshop were insistent that an inquiry should not take place because:
it had all been said before. We are the most researched, the most investigated group of people on earth, and still our situation continues. We know what the issues are. We’ve been trying to tell government for years. We need action now.
The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Minister for Women’s Policy, the Honourable Judy Spence, also rejected an inquiry when she addressed the Queensland Parliament on 10 November 1998.
There have been numerous studies, investigations and inquiries into alcohol, violence and associated problems in remote Aboriginal communities. Many of these reports are still gathering dust on shelves in university libraries or in government departments. If we initiate yet another inquiry, we will be squandering resources in administrative and bureaucratic processes rather than putting the money directly into the communities — into action rather than talk.
Indeed, the Chair of the Aboriginal Coordinating Council in a letter to the Minister said, ‘What is needed now is not passive action via a long cumbersome inquiry process, but rather positive, active action that can provide direct assistance to Community Councils to deal with these problems.’ Similarly, the Chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council, formerly the Queensland Government’s peak Indigenous advisory body, stated publicly:
The fact is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what the issues and the problems are, ...It is time for the money to be spent on addressing the problems, not on another inquiry to identify things which have already been identified.
Previously, the Aboriginal Coordinating Council and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, in submissions to the Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force inquiry of 1988, and later to the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, had identified a number of critical concerns if violence was to be addressed within Indigenous Communities. These included issues of law enforcement and reform, alcohol and other drug misuse, victim support and perpetrator programs, children’s healing needs, issues of young male/female socialisation into adult life, de-colonisation programs, community education initiatives, family support programs, reunification of families, social services provision, training for specialist workers, and the need for a whole of Government approach. Until recently, there has been an appalling failure by Government and Indigenous organisations to address the critical needs of Indigenous peoples who have or are experiencing violence. In 1999, the violence is considerably worse than it was eleven years ago, despite any interventions that have been implemented. It is now essential to adopt a whole of Government/whole of Community approach to reduce and prevent family violence and address the associated issues in Indigenous Communities. The Task Force endorses the words of the Minister.
We do acknowledge the problem of alcohol-related violence in Indigenous communities. We acknowledge that unemployment, isolation, poverty, the lingering effects of the removal of children, cultural disorientation, dispossession and the decline of traditional law are all part of the reason for the high levels of violence and alcohol abuse in these communities. We do not need to be psychiatrists to see that violence is often the last resort for people living with a sense of hopelessness and despair. This government is determined to take action across-the-board to address issues of jobs, health, housing, education, infrastructure, isolation, alcohol abuse, family violence and lack of opportunities — to take a whole of government approach in order to achieve real outcomes.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women living in Deed of Grant of Trust and other Communities within Queensland have been particularly disadvantaged. ‘Yet in their dignity and strength, they continue to support their men while they search for solutions and struggle for strength to survive.’ The women participating in the consultations stated unequivocally that the violence cannot be addressed without the input of their menfolk. ‘If we are to leave anything for our children, we have to work together.’ This Report may hold the future of Indigenous Australians within its pages. To paraphrase Mrs Jonny, the Task Force requests that the Minister takes the Report to her parliamentary colleagues, talks to them, and obtains a collective commitment to ‘do something, for actions do speak louder than words.’
Those were the key points expressed to the Task Force through the submissions and consultations. Accordingly, the Report has narrated these stories, mostly from women, including new stories and old stories which, though repetitious, were told yet again from sheer frustration. Is anybody listening? It is time for action. It is time to put aside the old and ineffectual methods and policies of past administrations, and to solve problems through real and long-term structural change. It is time for a combined and genuine commitment from all levels of Government, Communities and most importantly, individuals. It is time for the greatest act of political will seen outside wartime. The degree of effort required cannot be understated. It must be given genuinely, in friendship and as equal partners.
Recommendations — Policies — service delivery — access to services
(a) The Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy should initiate a whole of Government (Federal, State and Local) approach to address the issue of violence within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and Communities. A Memorandum of Understanding on this issue should be set up with the Federal Government and the Local Government Association, the Aboriginal Coordinating Council and the Island Coordinating Council. The Memorandum of Understanding should delineate and identify clearly the roles and responsibilities of the stakeholders and articulate a critical plan of action, as well as evaluation.
(b) At the same time, the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy should forge a working partnership between Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities for a whole of Community/whole of Government approach to crime prevention, policy development and service delivery, to ensure that Indigenous Australians, particularly victims of violence, have access to much-needed essential services.
(c) At the tabling of this Report, a public forum should be held to discuss its contents and findings. Thereafter, on a biannual basis, a Ministerial summit should be held to discuss and review the progress of the Report recommendations.
(d) A statewide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice forum should be established under the Minister’s direction, which will meet regularly to develop and review justice strategies as they would apply to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
(e) Community Councils, including executive staff, should receive continuous, compulsory training on Local Government by-laws and management from their appointment onwards.
(f) The number of functions handled by Community Councils should be reviewed in favour of Community organisations, which could be responsible for enterprises such as housing and welfare-related concerns. Suitable training and support must accompany the Community initiatives, to facilitate a process of Community development and empowerment. Local residents could work collaboratively with Councils to provide economic, social and cultural sustainability for Communities.
(g) Regional centres need to be trained and funded to develop specialised resources and training program packages for interventions. Regions should network and interact for increased efficiency.
(a) To ensure equitable participation in Community-based decision-making, affirmative action must be introduced to Government-appointed boards and Community Councils. Community Councils and Local Government Shire Councils should preferably comprise 50% men and 50% women.
(b) A Queensland Indigenous women’s network should be established to ensure women’s input at all levels of Government in order to: address the existing and future issues impacting on Indigenous women and children; enable active input to and participation in the decision-making process involved in formulating policies, programs and services impacting on Indigenous people; and ensure fair access to all services and programs.
Recommendations — The economics of deprivation and the challenge of economic sustainability
3. Economic development and sustainability
(a) Regional summits should be held with ATSIC, Government agencies, Community Councils, mining companies and private industry to develop strategies and set time span objectives for the social and economic development needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Communities in Queensland.
(b) Both the Federal and the Queensland Governments should aid Communities in the development of small business enterprises.
(c) In collaboration with Councils, the State should establish a Working Party to develop alternative structures and strategies for the administration and funding of DOGIT Communities to create economic independence and viability.
(d) Action must be taken by all levels of Government to ensure that accountability for funds is not based on financial terms alone, but is extended to outcomes that can be measured by changes at the client and Community level.
(e) Serious consideration must be given by all levels of Government to utilising remote Indigenous Communities in a strategic approach to national surveillance and security along the coastal shorelines. This could involve training Indigenous people in monitoring and detecting illegal activities, as well as assisting police in searches. It would capitalise on the unique skills and resources of Indigenous people familiar with their local environment. This initiative should be fully resourced and funded by Government.
(f) There should be a full evaluation of the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP). CDEP should be fully utilised to aid Community development and be regularly monitored and assessed by independent bodies.
Recommendations — Alcohol and other drugs
(a) Government must take urgent action to set up an inquiry into the sale and management of alcohol in Queensland. This inquiry must investigate the sly grog and drug trade in remote Communities, and the alleged lack of action by authorities.
(b) The sly grog trade must be addressed in a collaborative effort by Communities, DATSIPD, Queensland Police and the Liquor Licensing Board to ensure laws relating to alcohol are strictly enforced.
(c) Indigenous people must be included in all collaborations with the broader Australian service agencies involved in strategies aimed at terminating the illicit alcohol and drug trade.
(d) Isolated Indigenous Communities should use their remoteness to advantage, and be more strategic in using their by-laws, in collaboration with Queensland Police, to control the import and misuse of alcohol and illicit drugs. These initiatives should be resourced and fully supported by the State.
(e) Alcohol and drug addiction must be addressed using proven methods of rehabilitation and trained personnel. Ongoing training, updating and evaluation of methodology should be obligatory.
(f) The Government should direct part of the revenue from each Community’s liquor sales towards rehabilitation activities on a shared basis with the Community Benefit Fund.
(g) The marketing methods used by manufacturers of alcohol in Australia must be investigated and manufacturers held responsible, in line with the statutory requirements applied to producers of pharmaceutical products.
(h) Manufacturers of alcohol must accept liability for rehabilitation and treatment programs, and systems for the safe disposal of bottles and cans. Manufacturers should be required to produce containers less likely to cause harm than glass bottles.
(i) The Queensland Government, in collaboration with Community Councils, should investigate the viability of trialing alcohol-free environments in two remote Communities for a period that would allow discussions to occur on the development of strategies for better management of alcohol within those Communities. The Queensland Government, the Liquor Licensing Board and ATSIC should assist financially in this period to ensure the Communities are economically sustained. The initiative should be fully evaluated and monitored. If successful, similar approaches should be made to other Communities concerned about the use and sale of alcohol and the management of their canteens. Rehabilitation services should be available for Communities to deal with dependency problems during this period.
(j) The proposal to appoint Indigenous Liquor Liaison Officers must be postponed until adequate consultation with relevant stakeholders has been undertaken.
Recommendations — Education as empowerment
(a) Both the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments must recognise the invaluable role of education in the prevention of crime and family violence, and the role of the education system as an early intervention agent.
(b) Indigenous scholarships should be available across all disciplines of education and Government Departments, and based on cadetships or apprenticeships to provide a combination of hands-on training and study. A strategy should be introduced to attract mature-age Indigenous people and school leavers to career structures.
(c) The Queensland and Commonwealth Governments must assist Indigenous students to access education in an environment sensitive to their socio-cultural and economic needs. Educational programs in rural and remote Communities must address the historical language and cultural barriers evident there.
(d) Training packages must be funded for specifically designed programs that address disadvantage and encourage Indigenous people to participate in further study so they can compete for employment and or business opportunities.
(e) Non-Indigenous professionals working in the areas of health, education, legal, social and administrative services must be trained in the cultural context and history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples before they undertake work that involves Indigenous clients. A true sign of reconciliation would be for Government to negotiate with tertiary institutions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies programs to be mandatory units in law, teacher education, health service delivery, and social services/welfare courses.
(f) Locally produced Community education materials should be available for all age groups to support Community initiatives and facilitate change to reduce violence and strengthen families. Local Elders may provide a valuable role and service here.
(g) Community education must be a vital component of any strategy that is established to address violence and crime. Programs to increase Community awareness of issues must be supported with funding for a minimum of at least three to five years.
(h) Educational resource materials such as videos and resource manuals, for example on child development and parenting, must be used for training in Community health clinics, CDEP training facilities, high schools and other nominated agencies. Where possible, resources should be locally produced or at least produced with local input.
(i) Parenting programs should be available in all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, childcare agencies, health centres and within the general community.
(j) Education Queensland must expand the life skills component presently taught in schools to be inclusive of Indigenous families and to encourage parent participation.
(k) Education Queensland must employ more Indigenous counsellors and remedial teachers across all levels of schooling to meet social and learning needs of Indigenous students.
(l) Education Queensland, in collaboration with relevant Departments and agencies, must address the educational disadvantage experienced by Indigenous youth in detention centres.
(m) Education Queensland must investigate the lack of participation by Indigenous students in education, including the rates of suspension and exclusion.
(n) A broad range of strategies should be implemented for Indigenous children to enable them to enjoy positive school environments, social competence, life skills, recognition of achievements and positive life events. The overall aim should be to encourage and strengthen family and Community participation in education.
(o) Teachers must be specifically prepared for service in remote areas and should not be recruited until they have achieved a reasonable degree of experience and seniority and are familiar with Indigenous educational needs.
Recommendations — Indigenous health and well-being
(a) Queensland Health must implement the Resource Allocation Formula to address Indigenous health disadvantage. Services that cater for high transient populations must have appropriate funding levels factored into the Resource Allocation Formula.
(b) Multi-service delivery centres must be established in all Communities to provide coordinated services for alcohol and drug addictions, family violence, sexual assault, grief counselling, advocacy for women, child counselling, and support groups for men.
(c) The Task Force recommends that places for Indigenous people be reserved on Queensland Health District Service Boards of Management to equal participation in regional health policy development and planning, and that proper procedures are used to make appointments.
(d) Priority must be given to a whole of Community, whole of Government approach to the provision of Indigenous health services, particularly in rural and remote regions. Decisions made by health authorities should be open and inclusive regarding funding allocations, program design, implementation and evaluation.
(e) Strategies to remedy health problems must be designed in collaboration with Communities, and resource materials should be locally produced under appropriate direction to maximise ownership.
(f) Holistic health services to all areas, especially to rural and remote areas and the outer islands of the Torres Strait, must be developed or upgraded urgently.
(g) Health services for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must be established or upgraded to include allied health services. Some services may need to be mobile to increase client access. Queensland Health must develop Community education initiatives to inform Communities about the allied health services available and how and why to use them.
(h) Queensland Health, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, should develop a Statewide Indigenous Elder Abuse Prevention Program.
(i) Rehabilitation services, including social and emotional well-being centres, must be established and upgraded through a process of Community consultation and local ownership, using accredited models and professionally trained workers.
(j) Indigenous mental health services must be expanded in line with Recommendations 264 and 265 of the Queensland Government’s Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Report 1997, but with the suggested alteration of the title ‘mental health’ to ‘emotional health’.
(k) Queensland Ambulance’s pre-hospital care model is endorsed as a valuable adjunct to care in Indigenous Communities. It should be supported and implemented as a priority.
(l) Transport to rural and remote Communities must be subsidised so that isolation does not disadvantage Indigenous people in accessing food staples and health services.
(m) Health facilities must be increased in rural areas generally.
(n) More Indigenous health professionals must be trained and employed in every health discipline, and actively recruited by Queensland Health’s Indigenous Unit.
(o) The Government needs to acknowledge Recognition of Prior Learning and upgrade the skills of Indigenous people with long-term experience in specific specialty areas.
(p) Community clinics and hospitals should be used as training institutions for Indigenous students in health sciences where they undertake clinical placements and internships.
(q) Governments should increase the numbers of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health professionals and para-professionals specialising in family violence, child abuse, children’s, men’s and women’s health, substance abuse, aged care, and grief and loss.
(r) The Queensland Government, in consultation with Community Councils, should negotiate with Community Aid Abroard, World Vision and other aid organisations, to locate specialist teams in selected remote Communities to facilitate improvements in health. Their work could involve the development and upgrading of infrastructure, the training of local people, and the establishment of specialist services.
(s) Support must be provided to establish National Sexual Assault Prevention Services, and to educate Indigenous professionals to deliver specialist sexual assault services, and train-the-trainer packages.
(t) Health education programs on a broad range of issues, for example illnesses caused by lifestyles, should be introduced as compulsory across State-funded Community service agencies, in schools and in CDEP training sessions.
(u) Health care professionals, especially doctors, must be specifically prepared for service in remote areas, and should not be recruited until they have a reasonable degree of experience and seniority and are familiar with Indigenous health needs.
(v) To avoid charges of discrimination and alleviate the disadvantages suffered by Indigenous Australian children, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Australia is a signatory, must be observed (Articles 18, 19, 24, 26, 27, 29 and 30) by both Commonwealth and State Governments.
(w) Easily accessible Indigenous child support and advocacy agencies must be established across the State, and staffed with well-trained personnel, to help children who have been emotionally and physically abused.
(x) The full effects of alcohol abuse on the physical and psychological development of children must be investigated and evaluated and strategies implemented to ensure that children affected receive the highest possible access to services and ongoing management and care.
(a) The state of housing, including insufficient housing, must be urgently addressed by ATSIC, Community Councils and both Queensland and Federal Governments. Serious attention must be given to the housing needs of Indigenous women and children in rural and remote Communities.
(b) The Department of Equity and Fair Trading must take urgent action to ensure that all Councils comply with their responsibilities under the legislation. All tenants must be informed verbally and in writing of their legal rights.
(c) The Community levy system used to procure rental monies must be urgently reviewed by the Department of Equity and Fair Trading in consultation with Community Councils.
(a) There is an urgent need to provide and upgrade facilities for people escaping violence. Women’s, men’s and children’s shelters must be established in all Indigenous Communities under the funding and jurisdiction of the Supported Assistance Accommodation Program (SAAP). Funding for shelters must be provided on a triennial basis in order to assure continuity and quality management. SAAP must be given the responsibility for training and developing a wide range of service delivery programs for the education of workers, case management, family support and child advocacy. Such training should focus on sexual and physical assault and trauma counselling (see Section 4.6 on families). This strategy relates to Recommendation 1, which emphasises the need for a whole of Government, whole of Community approach.
(b) Protocols should be drawn up jointly by service providers, health staff, police, shelter staff, men’s groups and welfare agencies, to improve the methods of dealing with people who are injured through interpersonal violence.
(c) Hospital and clinic security needs must be re-assessed with whole of Community input, to ensure maximum safety and protection for both patients and staff. To this end, the recommendations made by rural and remote area nurses on violence in Communities should be adopted as a matter of urgency.
(d) All services must establish and implement a code of ethics and protocols on issues of client confidentiality and worker responsibility.
Recommendations — Families and security
(a) There must be unequivocal support and immediate action from all stakeholders — Queensland and Federal Governments, ATSIC, Community Councils and other organisations — to pursue initiatives immediately to retain and strengthen family units and promote harmony in Communities.
(b) The Department of Families, Youth and Community Care should develop, in consultation with Indigenous youth, a Queensland Indigenous Youth Charter. To formalise this Charter, it is recommended that the Department hosts a Youth Summit in collaboration with relevant agencies and with Indigenous youth representation from all Communities in Queensland.
(c) Services for both victims and offenders should be better coordinated through Community network groups such as Community Councils, women’s groups, men’s groups, health centres, hospitals, justice groups and visiting magistrates.
(d) Respite care, ‘time out’ camps, rehabilitative care and counselling must be available for children who live in violent environments, families and/or neighbourhoods.
(e) There must be adequate counselling services available for women, children, men and family groups in all areas of need.
(f) There must be continuous family education programs to inform and remind Communities, families and individuals of the rights of children, child advocacy issues, and the fact that violence is a criminal offence.
(g) Urgent attention must be given to the health, social and financial needs of elderly carers. Queensland Health and the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care must implement strategies to support carers.
Recommendations — Law or lore — the Indigenous experience of justice
(a) The Queensland Government must call an Indigenous Justice Summit in consultation with relevant stakeholders. The Summit agenda must address the drawn out debate on policing in Indigenous Communities, the inclusion of restorative justice and customary lore, and Community involvement in crime prevention and intervention. Three proposals are recommended that must be resolved at the Summit to expedite better Community policing:
(i) an autonomous Indigenous Police Force should be established; or
(ii) the Aboriginal Community Police should be inducted into Queensland Police; or
(iii) the Aboriginal Community Police should be trained as Special Constables under the jurisdiction of both Queensland Police and Community Councils.
(b) The Community Councils, Indigenous Legal Services, Police Liaison Officers, Aboriginal Community Police, Elders and local justice groups must be central to the discussion, planning and legislative process. The Attorney General should re-establish the Indigenous Justice Advisory Committee complemented by a Secretariat.
(c) Crime prevention strategies must be adopted short- and long-term programs across Queensland in consultation with local justice committees, Community Councils and Indigenous legal services and relevant Government agencies must establish a national database of violent offenders. Action must be taken to review the current remand and sentencing with the adult and juvenile courts.
(d) Family violence offenders must undertake mandatory accredited Family Violence Perpetrator Programs, whether serving a custodial or a non-custodial sentence. The preference is for programs developed and run by Indigenous people with Elders’ input.
(e) The Department of Justice and the Department of Public Prosecutions must establish Indigenous Units staffed with fully trained and qualified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop and promote an awareness of Indigenous justice issues through community education programs. Indigenous Court Support Workers must be appointed to all courts. In remote areas these workers must be able to provide interpreter services.
(f) The Department of Justice, the Department of Public Prosecutions, and all associated agencies, must formally recognise, endorse and facilitate ongoing cultural awareness/Indigenous life issues training for staff, including judges and magistrates, at all levels of the courts and legal systems. This training must be designed with the input of Indigenous groups at the local level in recognition of their cultural diversity and life conditions and aspirations for future generations.
(g) Legal representation of Indigenous peoples in rural and remote areas must be addressed urgently through collaboration between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services, the Department of Public Prosecutions and Legal Aid Queensland.
(h) An Indigenous hotline for family violence victims, staffed by qualified Indigenous counsellors, must be established similar to the current Domestic Violence Telephone Service.
(i) Victims of crime must be informed of their qualification to claim compensation. This responsibility rests with the Department of Public Prosecutions, Queensland Police, the Department of Family, Youth and Community Care, Queensland Legal Aid and Aboriginal and other Legal Services.
(a) Crime prevention protocols must be established to allow Communities to work with local Community justice groups, Magistrates, Police and Aboriginal Legal Services to design strategies to curb violent and antisocial behaviour of offenders.
(b) All parties to Domestic Violence Protection Orders must receive mandatory counselling relating to violence prevention.
(c) Amendments to the Domestic Violence legislation must include provisions for extension of the period of detention for offenders breaching Domestic Violence Protection Orders to 12 hours. For continuing breaches, it is also recommended that the legislation provide for the removal of offenders from the Community to a diversionary centre.
(d) Diversionary centres must have formal protocols and appropriate services should be provided by qualified professionals. These issues must be resolved following consultation with the Queensland Indigenous Women’s Network.
(a) An Indigenous Support Unit must be established within Queensland Police. It should be staffed by senior Indigenous public servants, to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate recruitment, training and retention strategies for Indigenous people.
(b) Queensland Police must be specifically prepared for service in rural and remote areas and should not be recruited until they have achieved a reasonable degree of experience, seniority and familiarity with Indigenous issues, particularly Indigenous lore. Preparatory training must include cultural awareness, both at the institutional and local level, and training in family violence issues.
(c) Queensland Police should increase recruitment of Indigenous people, including female officers, to be placed in strategic locations throughout Queensland.
(d) Queensland Police services should be better utilised to provide 24-hour coverage of Communities, as most altercations occur after 5pm.
(e) The policing services for the outer Islands of the Torres Strait need to be reviewed and substantially upgraded.
(a) The treatment of juveniles in the Justice System needs a complete review. There must be a Summit involving all stakeholders to review police methods of contact, prosecution, detention, remand, release and rehabilitation of juvenile offenders.
(b) All agencies involved with children, especially the Department of Families, Youth and Community Care, the Justice Department and all legal services, should produce an information booklet and other educational materials incorporated into a workshop package to inform Indigenous juveniles and adults of the powers of the Departments, agencies and the courts in matters relating to juvenile justice. A child sexual assault resource kit for workers should be included.
(c) A set of protocols must be established to ensure that representatives from Indigenous childcare agencies are involved in the preparation of reports on Indigenous children appearing before the courts.
(d) Court facilities must be reviewed to ensure the trauma experienced by children appearing before the courts is minimised. Improvements should include better interviewing methods, utilising screens, closed circuit technologies, safety rooms and counselling services.
(a) Court services to rural and remote areas must be increased and improved. Sittings must be more frequent, hearings less expeditious, access to legal help better, presentation of cases improved and client information services upgraded.
(b) The Department of Public Prosecutions must enforce all the recommendations of the Indigenous Women Within the Criminal Justice System report published in 1996.
(a) The roles and appointments of Community Police need to be urgently redefined as suggested under ‘Recommendation (a) Justice processes’.
(b) In the event that the Aboriginal Community Police are retained, either under the current arrangements or through the collaborative jurisdiction of Queensland Police and Community Councils, their training program needs review. It must be an accredited program under Queensland Police and given before appointees are assigned to the workplace and then as an ongoing requirement. Female Community Police need to be trained in specific areas by female Queensland Police.
(c) Appointees to the Community Police must not have convictions for serious crimes that date back less than ten years. Candidates with a history of sexual assault or child abuse should be rejected. Applications may be made to alter this period of disbarment to the local justice committees or local advisory committees, with input from Community women.
(d) Community Police must be familiar with Community by-laws and with their scope of jurisdiction under the Community Services Act. They should have a basic knowledge of criminal offences within State jurisdiction.
(e) In the short term, the role of Community Police must be clarified and standardised across Communities in relation to their functions, duties and powers. They must also receive award wages under the relevant industrial provisions.
(a) The roles of Indigenous Police Liaison Officers must be accredited and formalised across Queensland to provide a career structure with appropriate industrial recognition.
(b) Indigenous Police Liaison Officers must be appointed for all urban, rural and remote areas and their duties should include crime prevention work in schools and Communities.
(a) There is an urgent need for specific training for Community Police, Police Liaison Officers, and Queensland Police, in dealing with victims of assault and child abuse. The Task Force recommends that these programs are taught by the Queensland Police Sexual Assault Investigation Unit, to ensure that uniform protocols are followed in relation to all aspects of sexual assault and child abuse, for example, interviewing skills, child witnesses and court procedures.
(b) Queensland Police, Community Police and Police Liaison Officers need to be trained in trauma counselling.
(a) Indigenous Community Corrections Centres should be established across the State to aid in the rehabilitation of Indigenous offenders as part of their progressive release back into the Community. Particular attention must be given to the needs of Indigenous women.
(b) A treatment assessment process for Indigenous offenders, including female offenders, must be established prior to sentencing, with specific offender needs being a mandatory component of the sentence. Such treatment, for example trauma, drug and alcohol counselling, must be available from the beginning of the sentence.
(c) Comprehensive treatment programs are needed to maximise rehabilitation of both male and female offenders. These offender-specific programs must be adequately staffed, funded, implemented and independently evaluated, both during custody and post-release.
(d) All offenders must have access to industry, education and life skill programs. Programs for Indigenous prisoners must be developed and implemented by Indigenous peoples with traditional knowledge.
Recommendations — Land — spirit — culture — identity
(a) Governments must support initiatives to establish programs and services that will enhance Indigenous cultures and spirituality.
(b) Special places, including separate women’s and men’s centres, should be set aside for the revival of culture and healing.
(c) Indigenous peoples must have more opportunities to tell life stories and share them with non-Indigenous people. Support is needed to allow Elders and young people to share stories that teach roles and responsibilities.
(d) Cultural re-integration programs are needed to help redefine cultural identity. Local groups must be encouraged to develop and facilitate their own programs.
(e) There is a need to support joint projects between Indigenous and non-Indigenous services to provide holistic ways to address violence and abuse.
 Only the Executive Summary, Introduction and Summary of Recommendations from the report are reproduced here. The full version of the report is available at <www.qldwoman.qld.gov.au/>.
 Consultations, Central Queensland, 1999.
 Consultations, Gulf, 1999.
 Submission, North Queensland, 1999.
 National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party National Aboriginal Health Statistics Report Canberra, Australian Government Publishing Service, 1989.
 The plural terms ‘peoples’ and ‘Communities’ will be used throughout this document to acknowledge the diversity of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and Communities within Queensland. Alternatively, the word ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Aboriginal people’ may also be used as inclusive terms in relationship to the First Nation Peoples of Australia.
 Consultations, Mt Isa, 1999.
 Simpson M A ‘Bitter Waters:Effects on Children of the Stresses of Unrest and Oppression’ Wilson J P and Raphael B(eds), in International Handbook of Traumatic Stress Syndrom Plenum Press New York, 1993.
 The Aboriginal Coordinating Council and the Island Coordinating Council were established under the Community Services (Aborigines) Act 1984 to advise both State and Federal Ministers on matters of concern to the well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from what were previously called Queensland Aboriginal Reserves, and are now known as Deed of Grant in Trust regions. Each Council is comprised of an elected Chair and Deputy Chair and holds responsibility for approximately one-third of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Queensland.
 Hilyer Jonny, Brisbane, 16 December 1998.
 Evelyn Josiah, Kowanyama, May 1999.
 Consultations, Brisbane, 1999.
 Ministerial Statement by the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Minister for Women’s Policy, Hansard (Queensland House of Representatives), 10 November 1998, 2817.
 As above.
 As above.
 Ministerial Statement by the Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy and Minister for Women’s Policy, Hansard (Queensland House of Representatives), 10 November 1998, 2817.
 Aboriginal Coordinating Council Submission to the Queensland Domestic Violence Task Force Cairns, ACC 1988.
 Consultations, North Queensland, 1999.
 Ms Hilyer Jonny, 1998.