The election of 3 Indigenous women to federal parliament from the Northern Territory (NT) provided a historic opportunity to address violence against women and children in remote communities, the new NT Chief Minister, Natasha Fyles, says. After a newspaper ran a three-part series on Ruby, an indigenous woman who was brutally raped and beaten by her father in the remote NT community of Yuendumu and then forced from the town after he was convicted and jailed, Fyles pledged programs that would have “direct and positive results’’ to combat the problems. Ms Fyles took over Darwin’s top job in May, promising to make social issues a top priority for her government. Ms Fyles declined to comment on the specifics of any particular case but described Ruby’s story as tragic and sadly not unusual in a Territory context. She blamed alcohol abuse and intergenerational trauma for the NT’s high rates of domestic abuse.

Ms Fyles takes office as the NT’s federal representation includes three indigenous women after the May 21 election: Marion Scrymgour, the new Labor MP for Lingiari, Labor Senator Malarndirri McCarthy and Coalition senator Jacinta Price. Ms Fyles told The Australian the best way to combat severe social strife was not to try to re-­invent the wheel but to make existing services deliver their intended results in the places where change was most needed.  “Domestic, family and sexual violence affect the whole community,” she said. “It is only through a united effort from governments, communities and individuals that we can reduce its impact and prevalence. This year, the NT government will invest a record $54m into the prevention of domestic, family and sexual violence.

“We have made the historic appointment of the NT’s first Minister for the Prevention of Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence. We will continue to work with the federal government and our NT representatives in Canberra to secure further needs-based funding to combat this issue.” She said local leaders needed to be involved in the design and operation of the programs because this was critical to ensuring their success. Much of the abuse on Ruby occurred in the house where Aboriginal teenager Kumanjayi Walker was staying with his partner, Rakeisha Robertson, when he was fatally shot by NT police constable Zachary Rolfe. It emerged not long after Constable Rolfe was acquitted of Walker’s murder that the latter subjected his partner to often unreported abuse. Walker was wanted for escaping from court-ordered rehabilitation and for threatening the police.

The NT coroner is examining the case of a woman known as Roberta, who was dragged from Darwin to Katherine by her violent parolee partner and eventually beaten to death. Authorities did not warn her about his release and failed to detect that he was breaching the conditions of his release by drinking while on parole. Coalition senator Jacinta Price said she was “happy to work with anybody who’s prepared to support victims” but added that one sticking point could be reluctance among her Labor colleagues to acknowledge the role of traditional culture in perpetrating violence. “These women should know that traditional culture plays a role in how violence is accepted in communities,” she said. “Violence should not be something that is so readily accepted. I hope Labor makes sure that when they are providing funding, they support victims as opposed to Indigenous legal services that predominantly support perpetrators.”

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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