What is this Research about?
In 2017, the Australian National University was commissioned by the Department of Social Services to undertake the Family and Community Safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (FaCtS) Study.
The study was led and governed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and sought collaboration from urban, rural and remote communities to understand what is needed to reduce family violence and generate evidence into its origins.
The study is groundbreaking and a first of its kind.
56 focus groups
1,584 community member surveys
49 community member interviews
98 service provider surveys
41 service provider interviews
You are invited to read about the research and its findings in the Final Report
Family and community violence stems from colonisation and related violence enacted on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, perpetuated by intergenerational trauma.
The catalysts are housing problems, racism, financial stress, alcohol and other drug use, poor physical health, poor social and emotional wellbeing, including poor mental health, unemployment, contact with the justice system, and incarceration. Participants spoke of the need to heal families, through redressing the breakdown in kinship and family structures.
Experience of violence
62% per cent of community participants had experienced some type of violence. Importantly, however, 80% had not experienced violence in the previous year. The prevalence of experiencing violence within the past year was similar across cities, regional and remote settings. This finding refutes the idea that violence is more prevalent in remote settings.
Frequent experience of violence was reported more commonly by women than men. Women and men were equally likely to report having experienced physical and emotional violence within the past year. However, experiences of sexual violence in the past year were twice as common for women than men.
Women and men were more likely to report experiencing physical violence from a family member, than from someone known outside the family or someone unknown.
Community members and service providers identified shortfalls in the capacity of services to work with women, men, and children, and with people experiencing violence and people using violence. Specific gaps were flexible, trauma-informed services for families to allow them to stay together in their homes where appropriate, services for men, and youth.
Barriers to engagement with services included racism, a general lack of services, a lack of accessible services, a lack of awareness of available services, lack of cultural appropriateness in many services, fear that engagement with services could lead to further violence, and/or of losing children, or fear that it would lead to their partner being taken away when people wanted support to stay together.
Community member participants expressed reluctance to report violence because of concerns about stigma, lack of trust, fear of reprisals and coming to the attention of government services.
Among those experiencing violence, people were more likely to tell someone such as trusted community members about it, rather than formally reporting it to service providers or police.
Youth were less likely to seek and receive help than other age groups.
Concerns were raised about the ability of services in remote communities to meet the needs of those experiencing and using violence.
Reducing family and community violence can only be achieved where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities lead change. Addressing the causes and the catalysts of violence are key to long-term improvements in family and community violence. Approaches must be embedded in a decolonising and trauma-informed framework that addresses intergenerational trauma.
Change that leads to an overarching ‘ecosystem’ that listens and learns is required. Practically, service delivery, public housing, public health, and social security must be increased, and measures taken to resolve uncertainty of program funding and externally enforced compliance requirements. At the policy level, this means moving from the ‘one size fits all’ approach, to locally based models with local decision-making. At the program level, this means ensuring there are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander designed and led activities that are trauma-informed and focused on healthy relationships, kinship, and culture.
Education is essential. Winding back the ‘normalisation’ of violence in some families and communities, which has emerged from the damaging effects of colonisation, requires improvements in awareness and understanding of healthy relationships and strong culture. Services must be orientated around families and broader kinship systems.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must be employed in governance roles, and there must be opportunities for Elders to be involved and to be compensated with honoraria. There needs to be culturally driven advocacy-based counselling for those currently experiencing family violence, and greater engagement between services and community, better integration of services to provide holistic care and appropriate pathways for those experiencing and using violence towards appropriate services. Existing acute services should assist both victims and perpetrators of violence through trauma-informed services. More Indigenous liaison officers – including in the police service – and improved cultural competence of non-Indigenous staff within all services is essential.
There is a lack of rigorous evidence on what works to prevent violence and support those affected by violence. All communities had ideas for potential solutions.
The FaCtS Study findings speak to the strength, cultural richness and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the obligation and potential that all stakeholders have to build on these strengths and improve outcomes for current and future generations.
FaCtS Study Researchers
Who is involved in the Research?
This collaborative project is led by researchers from the Australian National University.
National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH)
Centre for Social Research and Methods (CSRM)
How can I find out more?
Send us an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or free call 1800 290 633.