Authors

Garth Morgan, Candice Butler, Reno French, Tamara Creamer, Lisa Hillan, Eva Ruggiero, Jennifer Parsons, Gareth Prior, Lela Idagi, Rachel Bruce, Tracy Gray, Thomas Jia, Mary Hostalek, Jamie Gibson, Beverley Mitchell, Traven Lea, Kristy Clancy, Ursula Barber, Daryl Higgins, Alex Cahill, Sebastian Trew

Background

The report shows child protection responses to domestic and family violence must focus on children and women.

It includes a literature review with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies preferenced, that shows the gaps in this area of study and the need for community led approaches to improving service and system responses to DFV for children and young people.

QATSICPP would like to take this opportunity to thank the community researchers, university partners, Jenny Parsons (Mulungu) and QATSICPP team members Candice Butler, Reno French, Tamara Creamer, Lisa Hillan and Eva Ruggiero for their valuable contributions to this critical research.

Key findings

Our evidence review highlighted that despite the overwhelming impact of DFV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s and young people’s lives, to date their voices have been largely silent in the literature. This unfortunately mirrors experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people in the service context of the communities involved in this research, where funding is provided specifically for adult service users.

Findings from the initial cycles of action research highlight that a child protection response to DFV within children’s lives alone is not sufficient to address DFV for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. All sites involved in this research have detailed the lack of therapeutic or specialist support available for children and young people.

To break the cycle of violence our action research and review of literature to date has identified that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people need to be provided with:

• opportunities to heal from their experiences of witnessing or being a victim of violence, including in their minds, bodies and spirits
• support for their families, not just themselves, to address DFV in holistic and culturally strong ways that use the power of cultural lore and values to drive changed behaviour
• therapeutic healing circles embedded within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services to help fill the gap of limited specialist support. These community controlled organisations are best placed to engage children, young people and their families and enable them “to have conversations about the use of violence and what the impact is on our families” (Community researcher)
• opportunities to learn about and be held within their cultural values, systems and traditions to support them to connect to the strength of their identity and spirituality,
and to provide a strong cultural compass to guide them for their lifetime.

  Messages for practice

Emerging findings captured in the project’s first report point to the need for alternative system responses. As our research has indicated that the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people who have come to the attention of the child protection system due to DFV are generally absent, increased ways to hear and respond to children and young people are required, including understanding what supports they want and need.

Our action research has highlighted the significant intergenerational nature of trauma transmission for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people experiencing DFV, resulting in increased negative life outcomes, including increasing young people’s interactions with youth justice systems. In regional and remote areas of Queensland, where this research is occurring, current responses to address the impacts of DFV for First Nations children and young people are inadequately resourced and overly reliant on child protection systems to respond.

To date our evidence reinforces that the critical elements of healing and trauma recovery provide a significant pathway to explore in creation of a best practice framework and that increased culturally safe responses are required from multiple systems, including education and mental health services, to support First Nations children and young people who experience DFV to break the cycle of trauma.