Partnerships with local Aboriginal cooperatives

In response to the disproportionate impact family violence has on Aboriginal communities and the lack of culturally appropriate legal solutions, an important component of our Why didn’t you ask? project is the development of partnerships with Aboriginal communities across the region.

It is also apparent from the inherent shaming and blaming of Aboriginal people for the violence that there is much work to be done to shape a legal response that acknowledges the inter-generational trauma associated with colonisation and the stolen generations.

In recognising the need to make legal advice and representation more accessible and appropriate for Aboriginal people, we have begun to establish links with the Aboriginal communities and cooperatives in Bendigo (BDAC), Echuca (Njernda) and both the Swan Hill Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service and the Swan Health Aboriginal Health Service.

Our first legal clinic for Aboriginal people was held in Swan Hill on February 28 where we worked in partnership with the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service at the Making a Wills Day. Making a Will Days have also been scheduled for the BDAC and Njernda communities in March. The Wills Day at BDAC will take place on the 14th of March from 10am-1pm at BDAC’s Eaglehawk site (3 High St, Eaglehawk). We will deliver this service in conjunction with State Trustees.

The next step is to launch regular legal advice clinics at BDAC and Njernda and to work in partnership with the Murray Mallee Community Legal Centre to provide a legal service at the Swan Hill Aboriginal Health Service. As well as these clinics, all three organisations have expressed interest in legal education around family violence, local referral pathways and information about the legal intervention process to enable staff to support clients who may disclose family violence to them.

To date we attended a staff meeting at BDAC and have scheduled a presentation at Njernda staff In-Service in April to inform us about the legal  issues they and their clients regularly come up against and to seek their advice in more effective ways to provide legal support and education to community.

Networking with key staff at the cooperatives and attending meetings of the Indigenous Family Violence Regional Action Group (IFVRAG) has helped us to tap into existing support groups such as the Njernda playgroup and the BDAC Gatie Booni Booni Mooroopook women’s group.

In consultation with the conveners of the Gatie Booni Booni Mooroopook Women’s Group and the IFRAG, we have sourced funding to incorporate a family violence legal advice clinic into a painting workshop to encourage the women to design a symbolic painting for our brochure and to rework the wording of our interim family violence intervention brochure.

We have also benefited from an informal connection with a local Aboriginal artist, Georgina Riseley, to source an interim design for the cover of the current Family Violence Intervention Order Process brochure from her Synergy of Three painting (pictured).

“Why didn’t you ask?” is funded by the Legal Services Board.

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