Media Release by The Hon Mal Brough MP

National plan for action against Indigenous violence and child abuse

The Australian Government will be inviting State and Territory Governments to come together as a matter of urgency to develop a national action plan to address community safety in Indigenous communities.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said the meeting was essential given the disgrace of violence and child abuse in many indigenous communities and the need to develop a concerted approach across jurisdictions to help break the cycle of abuse.

Mr Brough said the meeting would focus on one realistic and practical outcome to ensure that women and children in particular are protected wherever they live and that they have confidence in the justice system.

The aim is to agree a plan that ensures indigenous Australians have the confidence to report crime free of retribution and no longer fear giving evidence to authorities and in courts of law.

Mr Brough said a commitment to better protection of witnesses and families from retribution is essential if we are to succeed in establishing law and order in many communities.

He said that he had received a number of calls to his office over the past few days that reinforced the level of abuse. However, those concerned were disinclined to give evidence due to a culture of fear and violence. For example:

  • Nurses reporting dealing with children between 7 and 15 years of age with sexually transmitted diseases, but unwilling to provide childrens’ details out of fear for the children and the nurses own personal safety.
  • A solicitor reporting his own experience and awareness of criminal activity and abuse in indigenous communities, but himself fearful of being named.

Mr Brough said that breaking the culture of fear and silence was critical, with higher police presence and visibility being an essential element of any response.

“The problems are undeniable and political leaders at all levels of Government currently have an unprecedented level of support from all sectors of the indigenous and wider communities to act decisively,” Mr Brough said.

“This gathering is an opportunity for Commonwealth and State leadership to set aside politics and provide a framework for a nationally consistent approach to tackle child abuse and violence.”

“I recognise that the Commonwealth has a role to play but we can’t do anything effectively without the wholehearted participation of the States and Territories who control policing and oversee most aspects of the criminal justice system.”

“Just as I did with Alice Springs Town Camps, I stand ready to help in whatever way the Commonwealth can, provided the States and Territories bring to the table a credible and meaningful response from within their own resources.”

“The heartbreaking stories of violence and abuse perpetrated on children and women can no longer be ignored.”

“I am asking my Ministerial counterparts at State and Territory level to accept this invitation in good faith, with a view to announcing an agreed response that we can all be held accountable to.”