No More: Racial and Gendered Violence

Suzanne Phoenix
May 22, 2024
June 21, 2024
Last Updated
May 23, 2024
Written by
Maggie Blanden
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First Nations readers are advised this post mentions names of people who have passed. This post discusses alleged domestic violence, you may wish to disengage for your own wellbeing.

May is Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Awareness Month. It is also the month that so-called Australia took a stand against the gendered violence epidemic. 

Last week, we saw the release of the Albanese Government’s federal budget, which wilfully disregarded the pervasive issue of violence against First Nations women and children, mental health initiatives, and grossly underfunds Aboriginal-led solutions. 

Finally, we were again reminded of the silence that surrounds the Senate Inquiry into Missing and Murdered First Nations Women and Girls. There has been no mainstream media coverage of the profound evidence given by Dr Amy McQuire, Professor Chelsea Watego, Debbie Kilroy and Dr David Singh on the white violence against our women. 

I refuse to allow the colony to sanitise the white violence against us. 

I have witnessed first-hand the realities of the crime spree against First Nations women in this country.

I am a direct descendant of this gendered crime spree. I am a descendant of the 12-year-old girls who were taken from their families as slaves and wives to be raped by the European sealers in lutruwita/Tasmania. 

These women are the Tyerelore, or the "Island Wives". I come from a long line of matriarchal survivors who continue today to protect our babies, children and community. And finally, I, myself, am a victim-survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I am proud to be earthside as a survivor, to share both my family and my own stories, and speak out against this epidemic. 

These events are not merely coincidences or isolated tragedies - this violence reflects the colonial legacy of violence against First Nations women.

In the past month, we have witnessed the power of collective outrage on a national scale, against the prevalence of violence against women. In response to the murder of 32 women in the first 119 days of 2024 alone, the nation took to the streets to display their overwhelming outrage and grief.

I was proud to join this movement and rally, alongside women and gender-diverse people, to shout a resounding “NO MORE”.

I am striving each day to ensure that my children live in a nation that is equally outraged at the disappearances and murder of First Nations women. I am committed to ensuring that our women’s untold stories, silenced voices, and their legacies are not forgotten. We can no longer be ‘afterthoughts or footnotes.’ 

No one should be left behind. 

Disappeared & Murdered Indigenous Women

Firstly, a word on terminology; I refuse to refer to this epidemic as ‘Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women’ (MMIW). I, among many other Blak women, refuse to frame our women as simply missing.  

No, our women are in fact violently and forcibly disappeared, through no fault of their own.  

Disappeared and Murdered Indigenous Women (DMIW) refers to the reality that for too long, our history as Blak women has been stained by a violent agenda inflicted upon us by the patriarchal settler state.

Since the arrival of the boats, our women, children and gender diverse communities have been vulnerable to the genocidal technique of widespread rape and murder of our women.

Society is only now starting to acknowledge this dark history, particularly the use of women’s bodies and rape as a weapon of warfare in the colony.

It is now time for so-called Australia to take a hard look at itself and realise that this white violence is not isolated to the past. This legacy of frontier domestic, family and sexual violence has and continues to be pervasive.

The reality is that this technique is a cornerstone of Australian settler-colonialism.

Statistics & Truth-telling

Let’s consider the data. 

First Nations women are 33 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence. We also know that one in three First Nations women and girls will be raped in their lifetime.

Where is the outrage for these women?

In 2022, we got a glimpse into just how extensive this epidemic truly is. It was revealed that 315 First Nations women have disappeared or been murdered since 2000. 

However, we must take a step back and critically reflect on this data.

Firstly, let’s remember that the settler legal system is systemically structured against our mob. Systems and institutions are therefore not structured to account for and prevent violence against us. 

We also know that many of our mob fear interactions with the police, authorities and state - which prevents reporting and engagement with the justice system. 

We know that the perpetrators of white violence are the missing people from this discussion. White men and white state entities are the perpetrators of this violence. Institutions, for example, the police, and child protection are afforded immunity and protection, which leads to inaction and intentional blindness by authorities.  

Alas, the cycle continues… What we are left with is an egregiously incomplete picture of white violence against First Nations women.

The carceral system has a narrow conceptualisation of violence against First Nations women. The above data is limited to the crime of murder only. We know DMIW is far more extensive and overwhelming than a white man’s court finding someone guilty of murder.

As Jumbunna Institute has campaigned for, the data should instead be expanded to reflect First Nations women; 

  • ​​Killed in homicides other than murder.
  • Killed in circumstances that don’t lead to conviction.
  • Killed in in circumstances that the law doesn’t understand to be homicides (e.g., long term biases in medical treatment and legally-authorised restraint). 
  • Who have been forcibly disappeared.
  • Killed by states or institutions (e.g. deaths in custody or deaths in care).

None of the above insights are new or ground-breaking. First Nations women and community organisations have been calling this out for many years. We saw so many of our staunch families and mob contribute extensively to the landmark Senate inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women as well as public campaigns and activism. Such calls for reform are well-documented and readily available to all – including the government and policy makers. 

Yes Albo, we are talking to you. When will you listen?

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