The Guardian July 4, 2001


Governments ignore family violence

by Bertie Button*

Action on family violence has been a top priority for ATSIC in Queensland 
despite what the media is saying and despite what governments are allowing 
to be said.

In February 2000, the first full meeting of Queensland's five newly-elected 
ATSIC Commissioners and seven newly-elected Regional Council Chairpersons 
unanimously endorsed the Indigenous Women's Task Force Report on Family 
Violence (the Robertson report) and announced a series of initiatives.

A press release issued at that time outlined the projects and called upon 
the State and Federal Governments to make their responses to the Robertson 
report "priority one" in Queensland.

We have been frustrated by the lack of action from governments since then.

Goolburri Regional Council went ahead and spent $200,000 to employ six 
domestic violence and trauma counsellors across Southern Queensland. We 
asked the Sate and Federal Governments to match this dollar-for-dollar, but 
there has been no response.

ATSIC's resources are tightly stretched, but we are doing what we can. 
There needs to be a much greater effort to turn around the problems in our 
communities.

We need funding for halfway houses to help offenders return to normal 
community life once they have completed their prison sentences. We need 
more funding for counsellors and for family and juvenile support services.

We also need legislative change to the existing system of protection orders 
to make it more effective in protecting women and children. We need 
legislation that puts more responsibility on the parents and guardians of 
children and adolescents.

But ATSIC can't make this happen.

And the State Government won't make it happen. Early in March last year, 
the Goolburri Regional Council met the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal 
Affairs, Judy Spence and Anna Bligh to discuss our ideas and ask for 
support, but our proposals were brushed aside without due consideration.

Minister Spence told us that the Government would fund two women's shelters 
in Far North Queensland and that was it. Her attitude seemed to be that we 
didn't know what we were talking about. Judy Spence is immature and 
ineffective and should resign.

The State Government has shown minimal interest in family violence issues 
apart form reacting to media headlines.

Indigenous communities in Queensland have some real answers to offer to the 
real problems that we are living with on a daily basis. We need some real 
leadership and real commitment from politicians before any of us will see a 
significant difference to problems of family violence.

* * *
*Bertie Button is the Chairperson of the Goolburri Regional Council.

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