Recent Resources for Feminists
Jordan: Impoverished women from Turkman communities left nameless in birth, marriage & death Print E-mail

 Jordan ~ Thursday 29 January, 2015

Born and buried without names in Jordan

By: Helmi al-Asmar

Amman is a city founded on recent immigration from inside and outside Jordan [Getty]

The Turkmen occupy makeshift dwellings in the wasteland of Jordan's capital, Amman. Without fixed homes, jobs, or ID cards, they live a separate existence from their Arab neighbours.

Her pale face and her piercing looks seared themselves into my mind.

These people are Jordanian citizens. Many of them have family registration cards, meaning they are long-standing Jordanians.

But these people appear as suddenly as they disappear.

Camping in the capital
They show up for a day or two, in strange-looking tents, and live between us - yet we know little about them.

I was led to their dwellings by sheer coincidence. I became curious to later discover more about this community. I visited them again, for a different motive; I thought they were of the Nawar people, but I found out that they are a different people. They are not Arabs.

Unlike the vast majority of Jordanians who speak Arabic, the people of this small community speak to each other in a Turkish dialect. Throughout the region they are known as Turkmen.

The community lives in the heart of the city, though, for all intents and purposes, they are on the margins of the city - if not completely outside of it. They are expelled from the city's "mercy", if it ever had any.

Harsh existence
I visited them for the first time in their dwellings on the outskirts of Amman, near the suburb of Sahab, with a guide who knows them well.

Wardeh's hair flowed freely; she did not cover her head. She said she was suffering from insomnia, and could not sleep until the dawn call to prayer. Her sister Monica smokes four packets of cigarettes a day and does not eat much.

Their father, Abu Hani, has no idea his daughter smokes so much.

Abu Hani says that his daughter had married years ago, but that her husband left her before she gave birth to her first son. When she gave birth, the father's family came and kidnapped the child. Since then, Monica has been desperate to see her son.

Unknown to authorities
Many people in the community are undocumented by the government, and so one can only guess how many Turkmen live in Jordan.

What is certain is that, without ID cards, they are some of the country's poorest, most discriminated against and most vulnerable residents.

Boys and girls in the community marry as children, sometimes before they reach 15.

Without documentation, their marriages go unregistered - which makes it easy for the men to leave their wives, marry other women, or to snatch away their children.

To limit the chances of this happening, fathers of divorced women sometimes register their grandchildren as their own offspring.

When they die, those without IDs are often buried under the name of another family member, whose documents they "borrow" for the ceremony and legal proceedings.

Although the Turkmen have two names, one for the family and one for strangers, in the eyes of the state and many in the city, they remain nameless and unknown.

Wadeh says she yearns for a permanent home and an identity card. This would allow her to live like other citizens in Amman - with a home, running water, electricity, access to school and perhaps even a job.

Moving on
On my second visit, Wardeh wore a headscarf. She was reciting with difficulty from the opening sura of the Quran and needed some help to finish it. Her enthusiasm for the religion seemed to be in the manner of someone freshly converted to Islam.

She had started praying for the first time in her life, thanks to a girlfriend who was teaching her about the pillars of the faith - even though Wardeh was way past her 20s and is a mother of two.

None of the ten members of her family can read or write.

They make a living collecting and selling junk and scrap metal, though what they make is barely enough to support them. It is possible to see men and youths from their community roaming the streets of Amman, selling leather coats, rugs, cameras and binoculars.

Women and children from their community also often beg, even though this is frowned upon among them. Most are without jobs and their children can't attend school. The only time they are likely to enter a government institution is if they are arrested for being "homeless"

But they do have homes, although their bare and simple dwellings exist between palaces, villas and apartment blocks. They can be uprooted at any time if a Jordanian neighbour makes a complaint against them.

If this happens, the bulldozers move in, flattening their makeshift homes and forcing residents onto the streets. Life will start again. They will find a new patch of wasteland in another part of the city, gather some straw, pieces of cardboard, and a unfold their tarpaulins, and build a new home in Amman.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

UK: 1.4 million women victims of Domestic Violence in 2014, 3 times more likely amid lowest incomes Print E-mail
 UK ~ Thursday 12 February 2015

1.4 million women suffered domestic abuse last year, ONS figures show

Office for National Statistics survey shows that rates remain stubbornly high, while violent crime more generally continues to fall

The most common types of intimate violence were non-sexual partner abuse (22%), stalking (21%) and sexual assault (20%). (Alamy)

By Alan Travis, home affairs editor

An estimated 1.4 million women and 700,000 men have suffered domestic abuse in the last year, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS data also reveals a hidden link between poverty and domestic abuse, with women living in the poorest households more than three times more likely to be victims than those in higher income families.

The official statistics on violent crime and sexual offences in England and Wales, which are published annually, show a positive picture of a steady long-term decline in violent crime over the past 20 years.

The number of violent incidents in England and Wales has fallen from a peak of 3.8m in 1995 to about 1.3m in 2013/14.

With 526 homicides in 2013/14, the murder rate is now at its lowest level since 1989, when 521 were recorded. Gun and knife crime is also falling.

New figures on alcohol-fuelled crime, however, show that the number of violent attacks in which drink played a role remains stubbornly at around 53%, as it has for the last 10 years. Alcohol is reported to be a particularly key factor in incidents between strangers, two-thirds of which were drink-related.

The publication of the official violent crime analysis coincides with the launch of a £1m project by Cardiff University researchers to develop smart cameras to help detect fights brewing amongst night-time city crowds on the streets. Alerts will be used to get officers to hotspots as quickly as possible.

Prof Simon Moore of the university's violence and society research group, said: “Developing smart camera technology that can pinpoint violence is a really cost effective way of helping police to do their jobs. Officers can't monitor hundreds of city centre CCTV cameras all the time.”

The violent crime figures show that despite the long downward trend in violent crime, domestic abuse remains a widespread problem which affects more than 8.5% of women and 4.5% of men every year, according to results from a special module within the survey.

According to the ONS, 4.9 million women, or 28%, and 2.4 million men, or nearly 15%, have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16.

For women, the most commonly experienced types of intimate violence were non-sexual partner abuse (22%), stalking (21%) and sexual assault (20%). Men also experience stalking (10%) and non-sexual partner abuse (9%).

The statistics show that a decline in domestic abuse between 2004/5 and 2008/9 seems to have levelled out. Figures have been fairly stable over the last five years, despite repeated police and Home Office campaigns.

The under-reporting to the police of intimate violence remains acute, though there is evidence to suggest a modest improvement.

Police recorded 64,205 sexual offences in 2013/14, the highest figure since 2002/03, which the ONS said reflected the increasingly willingness of victims to come forward.

It said evidence from the separate annual survey of England and Wales that asks people about their experience of crime, shows that there had not been a rise in the number of sexual assaults. If anything there has been a small fall in the number of sexual crime victims rates in the past year.

Interviewers also asked those who had experienced a serious sexual assault since 16 who they had told. A third said they had not told anyone about their most recent experience (33%). Among those who had told someone, 58% said it was someone they knew personally and 28% said they had told someone in an official position.

One in six - or 17% - of sexual assault victims in the latest 2013/14 survey said they had told the police. This is an increase on the 13%who said they had done so in 2011/12 and the 11% in 2009/10. Two-thirds of those went to the police said they were helpful but one-third of them did not share that view.

The main reasons given by those who told somone - but did not go to the police - were that they were too embarrassed; they did not want to face more humiliation; or they believed that the police could not help. Most of the victims who did not tell anyone said it was because they were too embarrassed.

The crime survey also found that while reporting rates of sexual offences are increasing, attitudes towards sexual violence are still slow to change. Although the majority (66%) of people did not think that victims were not responsible for someone raping or sexually assaulting them while they were drunk, 26% still think that the victim is responsible to some extent if they are drunk.

The size of the minority who thinks the victim is in some way responsible if they have been flirting heavily with their attacker beforehand rises to more than 33%. These proportions have not changed much in recent years and tend to be concentrated in the 16-19 age group and the over 55s.

India: Women left to recover in cold, wet conditions as tubectomy regulations again violated Print E-mail
  Saturday January 31, 2015

73 women sterilised in 4 hrs in Varanasi

By Sanjay Pandey:
Health officials in Uttar Pradesh have not learnt a lesson from the botched-up sterilisation surgeries in Chattishgarh that left several women dead.

Lucknow: On Thursday, 73 women were sterilised at a special camp in Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in just four hours by a single doctor. The doctor took a little over three minutes for one operation. According to standard procedure, a doctor must not perform more than 30 such surgeries in a day.

The women were made to lie on the ground under the open sky amid biting cold. The agony of the women was compounded by the fact that the ground was wet owing to the rains that lashed the area the day before.

According to the reports, the surgeries were performed at Chiraigaon Primary Health Centre on Thursday. The matter came to light on Friday when pictures of the women lying on the floor appeared in local channels.

Sources said that 76 women had got themselves registered for surgeries at the special camp at the PHC, which has 30 beds.

The registration of three women was later cancelled after it was found that they were not well.

Though such special sterilisation camps were organised at the PHC almost every week yet there was no arrangement to provide post-operative care, sources said.

UP Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan has ordered a probe into the matter. "It is a very serious matter...we will probe it and stern action will be taken against the guilty officials," Ranjan said.

Earlier, similar reports had been received from some other districts as well. Barely a few months back, doctors had performed 42 tubectomy in a single day and then made the women to lie on the floor.

DH News Service
 Saturday January 31, 2015

73 sterilisations in a single day: Chief secy seeks report

Varanasi/Lucknow: Promising stringent action against doctors and officials for performing sterilization surgeries on women against the prescribed norms in Varanasi, chief secretary Alok Ranjan said on Friday the government would ensure there was no repeat of such incidents. On Friday, officials in Varanasi held a sterilization camp at a primary health centre where 73 women were operated upon in four hours. Due to lack of adequate facilities to accommodate the patients, the women were then asked to recoup on the floor before being discharged.

On Friday, taking serious exception to the incident, Ranjan directed officials to conduct a state-wide campaign between February 1 and April 30 to spread awareness about the need to improve neonatal and child health statistics in the state. In an open violation of prescribed norms, as many as 73 women were reportedly operated upon by a single doctor at a camp held at a Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Chiraigaon area on Thursday. According to an office bearer of Provincial Medical Health Service (PMHS), the state government`s guideline permits a doctor to do maximum of 30 surgeries a day at the camp.

However, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr MP Chaurasia claimed that there was no negligence in sterilisation operations, and the operations were performed by two doctors. Fortunately, the incident of Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh), where many women had lost their lives at a sterilisaton camp held in November last, was not repeated in Varanasi. What had happened in Bilaspur could have happened in Varanasi too as the health department had put the lives of several women at risk by performing family planning surgeries on a large scale without proper post-surgery facilities.

According to Dr Arvind Singh, secretary, PMHS, there is clear guideline of the state government that a doctor can perform 20-30 operations a day at the camp. The members of medical fraternity on the other hand feel that administrative pressure works behind such incidents, as the health department wants to meet the targets. Coming under pressure, doctors take the risk of performing maximum surgeries at such camps.

UN Security Council: More needed to end the brutalization of women & girls in conflict zones Print E-mail
UN News Centre ~ Friday January 30 2015

Scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict ‘far from being rooted out,’ Security Council told

Scroll down to also read "India for greater female participation in UN peace efforts"

Refugee children from the Central African Republic being tested for signs of malnutrition in an encampment on the banks of the Oubangi River in Equateur province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. (UNHCR/B. Sokol)

Despite some positive developments across the United Nations system, the task of protecting civilians has become more onerous as conflicts have become increasingly vicious, with the brutalization of women a deplorable persisting trend, a senior UN relief official said today, as she urged the Security Council to press all conflict parties to abide by their international obligations towards civilian protection.

Briefing the Council’s open debate, which focused on the vulnerabilities of conflict-affected women and girls, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-Wha Kang said that from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya, to the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan, Sudan, Ukraine and many others, civilians caught up in armed conflict are being killed and maimed, fleeing their homes and fearing for their lives.

"Now more than ever, the protection of civilians needs to be at the top of our priorities," said Ms. Kang, explaining that at the start of 2014, humanitarian organizations appealed for aid to help 52 million people in urgent need of assistance and protection. By the end of the year, the number had gone up by almost 50 per cent to 76 million. Overwhelmingly, these people are civilians affected by conflict – and the majority are women and girls.

Joined at the Council by Helen Durham, Director for International Law and Policy for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Iwad Elman, of the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security, Mr. Kang said that currently, the average length of conflict-related displacement is now 17 years.

"One of the worst examples of this is Syria, where half of the population has been displaced…but the numbers are growing elsewhere, for example in Darfur, where 450,000 people were displaced last year, adding to the more than two million people already in internally displaced persons camps (IDP) camps," she continued, stressing that while the Council has taken action to bolster civilian protection and recognized the specific needs of women and girls, more overall measures are required as "the scourge of sexual violence in armed conflict is far from being rooted out."

Spotlighting several troubling examples of the "consistent and persistent" brutalization women face, Ms. Kang said that as militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) have captured territory in Iraq and Syria, they have used and punished women to demonstrate their power. Women have been repeatedly raped, forced into marriage and sold into slavery. Nigerian women and girls have given harrowing accounts of their experiences at the hands of Boko Haram, she added.

"Simply, crisis exacerbates gender inequalities. While entire communities suffer the impact of armed conflict, women and girls are often the first to lose their rights to education, to political participation and to livelihoods, among other rights being bluntly violated," she continued, and such challenges are manifestations of deeper, systemic problems.

"We need to better understand the social, economic and power dynamics which result in the continued enslavement of and use of violence against women, particularly in conflict situations. We must also make concerted efforts to expand women’s representation and participation in rule of law processes and protection mechanisms. Women must be included in the political leadership, security forces and accountability mechanisms in countries," she said.

To facilitate these efforts on the ground, 17 Women Protection Advisers have been deployed to six UN peacekeeping operations and embedded in the Offices of the Special Representatives. In South Sudan, the UN Mission regularly consults displaced women in the POC sites through consultation groups which have been formed. Those consultations help to ensure that prevention and protection strategies led by the mission take into account the perceptions and security needs of women.

Yet much remained to be done, she said, and While the primary responsibility for protecting and assisting civilians affected by armed conflict lies with the parties to the conflict, many parties have demonstrated complete disregard for their obligations under international humanitarian law and human rights law.

"In some cases, parties to conflict deliberately target civilians and use tactics designed to cause them the greatest harm possible," noted Ms. Kang again drawing attention to Boko Haram, which she said had massacred hundreds of civilians and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and medical clinics in Nigeria during the past few weeks. This follows repeated incidents of kidnapping of hundreds of women and children. In Syria and Iraq, all parties have been targeting civilians based on ethnic and religious grounds.

Despite this troubling context, she said, "International law is clear: parties to conflict are responsible for meeting the basic needs of persons under their control. Yet, time and again, we see parties to conflict violating these basic obligations with impunity, with grave consequences for civilians." As such, conflict parties must be pressed to do more to comply with their legal obligations and ensure accountability whenever such obligations are violated. But the responsibility does not lie solely with the parties themselves.

"This Council and the international community must take steps to tackle the impunity that continues to fuel many conflicts, as well as the endless flow of weapons and arms. There is nothing that emboldens violators more than knowing that they will not be brought to account for their crimes," she declared, adding: "We also need to build up our collective capacity, to find political solutions to conflicts at an early stage, rather than struggling to cope with the consequences."

The efforts of humanitarian workers and peacekeepers are no substitute for timely and resolute political action to prevent and resolve conflict. And women must be full participants in the process, Ms. Kang stressed, as she urged stakeholders to be more attuned to the specific threats that civilians are facing and the risk of escalation of violence and violations, often manifested through heightened discrimination and repression of minorities, including against women and girls.

"When we see early warning signs, we must be able to act quickly and effectively," she concluded, drawing attention to the importance of the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative.
  Saturday January 31, 2015

India for greater female participation in UN peace efforts

To protect women caught in conflicts, India has called for grea To protect women caught in conflicts, India has called for greater female participation in UN peace efforts and a broader approach that focuses on "peacebuilding" rather than concentrating on traditional peacekeeping operations.

India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji told the Security Council Friday: "The participation of women in all aspects of the prevention and resolution of conflicts is an important policy measure which the Council should encourage while mandating peace operations."

Speaking in a debate on protecting civilians in armed conflict, he drew on Indian women's participation in peacekeeping operations and said, "Our experience in Liberia showed that the actual requirements for addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict were related to the concept of peacebuilding, rather than peacekeeping."

A representative of non-governmental organizations (NGO), who was invited by the Council to speak about the issues facing women, said the UN should increase the number of women staff in peacekeeping operations, in both military and police components.

Ilwad Elman of the NGO Working Group On Women, Peace and Security said that when there are female peacekeepers and police, women in areas of conflict are better able to communicate their concerns about safety and request protection.

Mukerji said India was the first UN member to bring about the active participation of women in peacekeeping operations when it sent an all female police unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Liberia in 2007.

He recalled what the then-US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said of India at the Council in 2009: "They have set an example that must be repeated in UN peacekeeping missions all over the world."

India now has a total of 137 women participating in UN Peacekeeping Operations, 112 of whom are from the police and 13 are from the military. Of them 102 serve in a police contigent in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

Setting out a strategy to deal with the problem, Mukerji said the Council should now split up "the complex multidimensional nature of its peacekeeping mandates, and focus on addressing issues confronting women in armed conflict situations through focused peacebuilding activities, so that the transition to a post-conflict society can be sustainable."

This approach would give greater scope to humanitarian and development programs and fight the exploitation of women caught in armed conflicts, he said.

The nature of armed conflicts has changed since India first contributed troops to UN operations under the traditional mandate when "keeping the peace, was the best guarantee for protection of civilians caught up in armed conflicts," he said.

"Whereas earlier, our peacekeepers were deployed to keep the peace between states," he said, "we are now witnessing a steady increase in the deployment of UN peacekeepers in situations of internal conflicts within member states."

The impact of the instability and violence in the areas of conflict due to the breakdown of government "has been felt by the most vulnerable of the civilian populations, especially women and girls," he said.

Mukerji pointedly drew attention to how the working of the Council itself has contributed to the situation. "The evident inability of the Council to address and nurture sustainable political solutions to such conflict situations" was a major reason for the "open-ended" situations of conflict and instability that took a toll on women.

India speaks authoritatively on UN peacekeeping operations as it is the single largest contributor to these missions, having sent over 180,000 troops to 43 of the 68 operations which have claimed the lives of 156 Indians.

Nearly 70 nations spoke at Friday's session because of the growing concern over the victimisation of civilians - - and women in particular - - in conflicts around the world.

"Sexual violence during armed conflict is a violation of international humanitarian law," Helen Durham, a director at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said. "It is not inevitable. It must and can be stopped. What is required is a concerted effort by everyone concerned to prevent and put an end to it."


Rosie Batty, Australian of the Year, a powerful, articulate catalyst for change to Domestic Violence Print E-mail

 Melbourne ~ Sunday January 25, 2015

Rosie Batty is Australian of the Year

By Shane Green

Video: The Rosie Batty Factor

Domestic and family violence campaigner Rosie Batty reflects on her year in the public spotlight.
Australians of the Year share some common features. In the main, they are individuals who stand out in their chosen fields: those who can hit or kick a ball, can act or sing, excelled in their professions. But no one has been like Rosie Batty.

As she collected her award from Tony Abbott on the lawns in front of Parliament House, we as a nation watched and applauded this remarkable woman. But at the same time, as we have always done when she has appeared in public, we drew a short, pained breath at the profound tragedy of it all, that the beginning point was the death of her 11-year-old son, Luke.

Three weeks short of a year ago, Ms Batty and Luke were making a life in the small semi-rural community of Tyabb, a single mother and son. The facts of what happened next are   tragic: Greg Anderson, her former partner and Luke's father, murdered his son in the nets after cricket practice.

Rosie Batty Australian of the Year. ( Jay Cronan)

The shocking and public act of family violence jolted us, how the everyday and seemingly safe setting of kids practising cricket on a weekday afternoon became so brutalised. Still, after the initial coverage, there is every chance the story of Luke Batty and the wider, overarching concerns about domestic violence may have receded.

Rosie Batty ensured that didn't happen. Following Luke's death, the expected and accepted thing would have been a retreat into private grief. But the next day, she emerged from her home to speak to reporters. "My name is Rosie," she said. "I am the mother of Luke."

In a calm, low voice, she told the story of the increasingly erratic behaviour of Luke's father. But it was not a story of anger. "No one loved Luke more than Greg, his father. No one loved Luke more than me. We both loved him," she said. "I want to tell everybody that family violence happens to everybody, no matter how nice your house is, no matter how intelligent you are. It can happen to anyone, and everyone."

Her demeanour, her strength, was remarkable. As the past 11 months have demonstrated, these traits are deeply ingrained. From the tragedy of Luke's death, she has emerged as a powerful, articulate campaigner on the often-hidden crisis of domestic violence, speaking with the loud and clear authenticity of one so painfully touched.

Her name brings an instant recognition, and her strong voice has moved the likes of retiring Victoria Police chief commissioner Ken Lay, who has talked about the "Rosie Batty factor" as a catalyst for change.  She has championed the cause, calling for an overhaul of the court system and criticising systemic failures and a lack of leadership.

Certainly, the Rosie Batty factor has been at work in the new  Victorian Labor government fulfilling its election promise to call a royal commission into family violence.

That such change could result from such tragedy is a positive. But Rosie Batty also deals with the profound pain of the loss of her son.

"There have been moments of acute reality at the loss of Luke and unreality of finding myself doing things I would never have done otherwise," she says. "It has that sense of being unreal."

In part, the power of the Rosie Batty factor has been the empathy from every parent placing themselves in her position, trying to imagine what it could be like – that short, pained breath we take.

"I could never imagine not having Luke," she says. "When you have a child, you just can't  imagine them not being there, or seeing them suffer or something happening to them. As a parent, you're just built to protect them, from pain, from hurt. You're overly sensitive when it comes to things that happen in the playground, at school. So ultimately, there is that acknowledgement as a parent that you can't imagine having to cope with what I'm having to cope with."

Before Luke's death, Ms Batty had seen others experience tragedy, and marvelled at their personal strength.

"I've always been amazed at the courage and strength that people do have. Ultimately, you have no choice but to get up each day and face the world, and put one step forward. What is the alternative?"

The support and respect she has received from the wider community has been enormously helpful, she feels. "And certainly, it could have been a different experience," she says. "I could have said wrong things, and I could have all gone very ugly for me in many ways. I just feel incredibly fortunate that it has unfolded in such a positive and constructive way."

As for awards and acknowledgements, she has received plenty – including some of which she was unaware. It has made her appreciate their value.  "You actually don't realise how much an award means to you until you're actually acknowledged," she says.

But beyond the accolades is the momentum for real change generated by the Rosie Batty factor. "What I'm looking forward to is really starting to see the change in legislation, strategy, programs and things like that," Rosie Batty says, "the work starting to unfold."

[But, please read on to learn of the impact of  the Abbott Government’s outrageous budget cuts to Victorian community legal services, Aboriginal services and men's support services - which all help women to leave violent relationships]


Melbourne ~ Sunday January 25, 2015

Victorian family violence services face cuts

By Miki Perkins/Reporter for The Age

Family violence experts have echoed Australian of the Year Rosie Batty's calls for the government to guarantee long-term funding to specialist women's services.

Many Victorian community legal services, Aboriginal services and men's support services - which all help women to leave violent relationships - will have to slash programs or face closure because of federal funding cuts.

The new Yarra Ranges Legal Centre in Healesville is set to close after only 10 months because its $200,000 in federal funding was pulled after the change in government.

This comes despite surging family violence in the region: police stats show the number of applications for intervention orders in the Yarra Ranges has increased by almost 230 per cent in the past five years. Family violence cases are the centre's biggest area of work.

Eastern Community Legal Centre head Michael Smith, who manages the centre, says if they are unable to find back-up funding it will close its doors in June.

"We're very proud of Rosie and we would hope  with her announcement [as Australian of the Year] the Federal Government will make family violence a real priority and fund it properly," Mr Smith said.

In Victoria, 14 community legal centres will be affected by federal budget cuts from June. A third of all new cases opened by Victorian centres each year relate to family violence, the Federation of Community Legal Centres says.

Antoinette Braybrook,  chief executive officer of the Victorian Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service, says the well-regarded service is facing closure.

Ms Braybrook, who has been with the service since it was founded, said control of its funding has been taken over by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and it has been forced to re-apply from scratch for funding in a tender process.

With funding for the Victorian centre to run out at the end of June, Ms Braybrook will not learn if their application is successful until July.

"I've been working in this job for 12 years and I've never felt this much uncertainty before, it is really, really concerning," Ms Braybrook said. "We've got amazing staff that are sticking by us, but the pressure's on for everyone." 

When she accepted her award for Australian of the Year on Sunday, Ms Batty made reference to the high incidence of family violence for Indigenous women: "The statistics are unacceptable, indisputable and, if they did happen on our streets, there would be a public outcry."

As well as legal services and housing services, men's services in Victoria have also been affected by federal budget cuts.

About $600,000 a year in specialist family violence services grant funding has been cut, with about half of that money allocated to men's behavioural change programs, said No to Violence spokesman Rodney Vlais.

In a statement, new Social Services Minister Scott Morrison said he would welcome an opportunity to meet Rosie Barry and hear her proposals.

Last year the Federal Government launched the Second Action Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children and allocated it more than $100 million, Mr Morrison said.


AM December 23 2013

Concern over cuts to Indigenous family violence program


Connie Agius reported this story on Monday, December 23, 2013 08:00:00
Listen to MP3 of this story ( minutes)

TONY EASTLEY: One of the Coalition's key appointments in the field of Indigenous affairs has spoken out about the government's cost cutting.

The chairman of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council, Warren  Mundine, is concerned about cuts to the national program helping Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are victims of family violence and sexual assault.

He says that although cuts to Indigenous legal aid programs were necessary, he doesn't think the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service program is the right place to start.

With more, heres Connie Agius.

CONNIE AGIUS: The Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service is a national program with offices around the country. It provides a range of legal and support services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who are victims of family violence and sexual assault.

A woman, who we'll call Jane, credits the program with her escape a violent home.

JANE: I was a victim of family violence for seven years. And so it just escalated to a point where it was quite dangerous for myself and that it was dangerous for the children.

CONNIE AGIUS: It was important to Jane that she find a service that understood her culture.

JANE: It meant that I didn't need to have to explain my position as an Aboriginal woman and mother. It meant that I was working with Aboriginal workers as well, and it meant that when I have the service in court that they were able to speak as if I was the one that was speaking about my situation as an Aboriginal woman.

CONNIE AGIUS: Jane benefited from one of four legal assistance programs now targeted for government cuts. The program's administrators say they'll lose $3.6 million over the next three years.

The Attorney-General, Senator George Brandis, issued a statement to AM saying funding will be stripped from policy reform and lobbying activities - and he says frontline legal services won't be affected.

But the national convenor for the program, Antoinette Braybrook, disagrees.

ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: The Family Violence Prevention Legal Service program does not get funding for policy and law reform, so I'm not sure how they can say that it is only to that and frontline services won't be affected. That $3.6 million cut to our program will have to come from frontline service delivery.

CONNIE AGIUS: Antoinette Braybrook says Aboriginal women are 34 times more likely than the rest of the community to be hospitalised because of family violence. She says the service is already struggling to keep up with demand.

ANTOINETTE BRAYBROOK: We're always at capacity and trying to manage those high caseloads. So we are under-resourced now, and these cuts will only contribute to us not being able to meet that demand.

CONNIE AGIUS: Ms Braybrook's concerns are shared by Warren Mundine, who is the chair of the Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council.

WARREN MUNDINE: It is really tough, because we do need to ensure that we are working hard in this area, because it is a very crucial area for us.

CONNIE AGIUS: Is this the right area to be cutting, in terms of funding?

WARREN MUNDINE: Well no, not really, because it's an area that it is likely in regard to the domestic violence situation, and I see this as a very critical and crucial area for us.

What it really means for us in the Council and that is we need to get on top of this very quickly, and we have to then have conversation back with the Government about, okay, what are the outcomes we need to have in this area, and how do we ensure that the funding and that the proper programming that it replaced to ensure that we are reducing the rate of domestic violence and violence within Aboriginal communities overall.

CONNIE AGIUS: While Warren Mundine is critical of this particular cut, he supports the Government's general plans to cut waste in Aboriginal spending.

TONY EASTLEY: Connie Agius reporting.

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