Interview with Charmaigne Weldon
My own experiences of domestic and family violence have given me a profound insight into how the direct harm of this violence can be compounded by later interventions, such as the removal of children from their communities. . . .
While many within government agencies may believe that sharing information about clients at risk may help to prevent domestic and family violence, this poses its own risks. In order to gain the trust of Aboriginal women and their families, maintaining and communicating respect for privacy are of fundamental importance. Without that trust, many domestic and family violence offences will go unreported. It is essential too that a WDVCAS operates as an autonomous women’s service of high integrity and not just as a handmaid to the police and other government agencies. . . .
High ethical standards, an understanding of our history, and sensitivity to our cultural protocols are profoundly important when working with Aboriginal women and gaining their trust; as is an awareness of their experience of repeated betrayals by white authorities. Closing the gap will first require breaking down problematic attitudes that currently discourage our women from engaging with services that could otherwise support positive changes in their family lives. . . .
As the recent protests have made clear, it is time the Australian Government explored other criminal justice models, such as the women’s police stations in South America and the less punitive Scandinavian prison systems which focus on restorative justice, for alternatives which do not destroy Aboriginal communities. To win the trust of Aboriginal women, services must acknowledge the wrongs of the past and show a commitment not to repeat them.