The inquiry into Queensland Police Service’s response to domestic violence has heard Aboriginal community-controlled organizations must act as first responders for First Nations women to feel safe reporting their experiences.
Dr Marlene Longbottom has told the court many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are unwilling to come forward and share their experiences of domestic violence, as the inquest continued in Brisbane on Thursday.
She drew on her research undertaken as part of the 2018-2019 First Response Project, including findings that outlined why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are reluctant to report domestic violence to the police and the desperate need for an alternative option.
“First of all, [an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation] would be culturally safe. A police station is not culturally safe,” she said.
“When it comes to the retraumatizing of victim survivors when they’re making a complaint or reporting violence, they have to tell their story over and over and over again.
“There has to be alternative ways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to report violence and not necessarily [be] reliant on the police and the police station, because it’s likely that racialized and gendered experiences will occur and [also] further discrimination.
“The other layered context to this is the fact that police being mandatory reporters has the potential for removal of children – we have all of these complex factors.
“So Aboriginal community-controlled organisations… could actually be places where they’re safe, they’re able to come to and actually get the support that they need in a holistic and comprehensive way.”
Racism ’embedded’ in policing culture
The project, which was funded by the Lowitja Institute and was part of Dr Longbottom’s PhD, stated the evidence behind the academic’s personal experiences.
“My research… was an affirmation about what I was seeing as I was growing up in Aboriginal community, with Aboriginal women experiencing violence, but also my own personal lived experience” she said.
“The PhD, what it taught me was that racism is embedded within policing culture. It actually comes out in the racial and gender-based micro and macro aggressions within these structures and systems.
“What I also found was that interpersonally, if a person is displaying certain behaviors that can be seen to be a discriminatory or a racialized experience, that then layers the Aboriginal woman’s experience.
“They’re layered in terms of the Aboriginal woman reporting the situation or the experience, and then having to navigate these attitudes or behaviors by police and self-regulate emotions and thoughts and feelings in that process.”
In her submission provided to the Women’s Safety and Justice Task Force, Dr Longbottom also “urged caution” against the rollout of a women’s only police station as a solution to First Nations women currently not reporting to police stations.
“Again, it comes back to the cultural safety. You can’t just add women and stir,” she said.
“What we see is white services did not support or provide culturally safe services for Aboriginal communities.
“This is why a lot of people get frustrated because there’s a perception that what works for white women will work for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and that’s simply not the case.
“There’s a whole cultural construct that’s being overlooked and missed… Again, it comes back to a racialized space, and I can’t emphasize enough that we need to cut to the chase and start looking at how race actually impacts service provision and access to services.”