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Wangkiny Yirra “Speaking Up” Project: First Nations women and children with disability and their experiences of family and domestic violence

  • Research program
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Wangkiny Yirra ‘Speaking up’ Project. First Nations women and children with disability and their experiences of family and domestic violence – Research Report


First Nations people are much more likely to live with disability than non-Indigenous people. First Nations women and children experience very high rates of family and domestic violence (FDV).

The Disability Royal Commission wanted to know more about this so they commissioned a report led by First Nations researchers from Curtin University in Western Australia. The report is about the experiences of FDV for First Nations women and children with disability.

This video is a summary of that report.

The researchers interviewed:

  • First Nations women and children with disability

  • carers

  • people working in Aboriginal Controlled Community Organisations (ACCOs), community services and government departments.

Everyone who shared their experiences was from Western Australia.

What did the report find?

The report says trauma and harm experienced by First Nations people can contribute to experiences of family violence and difficulty getting help. It says barriers and issues like racism and disadvantage face First Nations people with disability, including young First Nations people with disability.

The report says that trauma resulting from the impact of colonisation is passed down through generations of First Nations people, including those with disability.

The report found:

  • First Nations women with disability grew up witnessing violence, and one third experienced sexual abuse in childhood.

  • Women experienced many types of violence, including sexual, physical and emotional violence. Many experienced extreme levels of violence from many partners.

  • In many cases for women, violence led to disability, including brain injury, trauma and physical disability.

  • Women are scared that child protection authorities may remove their children, which means they do not report FDV.

  • Children were having trouble managing their anger and emotions.

  • Children were missing school and being suspended from school due to bullying and an education system that is not culturally safe.

  • There are barriers to accessing assessments and proper diagnoses of disability which make it hard for First Nations women and children to get support.

  • There are issues with training, support and lack of cultural safety for First Nations staff in mainstream services.

  • There are concerns with racism within disability services and FDV services.

What does the report recommend?

People recommended lots of ways to better meet the needs of First Nations women and children with disability.

These include:

  • reforming the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and child protection systems

  • funding ACCOs to support First Nations people with disability in the community and in prisons

  • developing culturally secure FDV services

  • providing support for kinship carers of children with disability

  • ensuring all children in juvenile justice and the child protection system have full health and disability assessments when they enter the system

  • funding early intervention programs for mothers that are delivered by ACCOs

  • investing in culturally safe kindergarten programs so there are more opportunities for early intervention for children, and to support them moving to education

  • delivering training to all relevant services so that staff are aware of the impact of disability and trauma, and understand the relationship between health and FDV.

More information

To read the full report, visit our website. Go to the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Research program.’