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"When a black woman is murdered or missing, you don’t hear about it"​: Senator Lidia Thorpe


The following content involves information that is sensitive and which some readers may find triggering, please continue at your own discretion and seek out support if needed, we have included come links below.

Impact Policy would like to highlight that it is National Missing Persons Week, held July 31st - August 5th to raise awareness of the significant issues surrounding Missing Persons each year and those people whose whereabouts continue to remain unknown.

Specifically, we know for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community this trauma is compounded as a result of often limited, underwhelming or ineffective investigation or attention into the missing person investigations of Aboriginal communities.

Missing Persons is a complex and often uncomfortable issue to confront, but in addressing some of the systemic problems that contribute to Missing Persons in Australia, we can start to understand some of the contributing factors and the potential ways we can support those most at-risk of becoming a Missing Person.

This week is an opportunity to recognise the ongoing pain and trauma for the many family and friends of those who have gone missing and either remain missing or whose whereabouts remain unknown.

Recently Impact Policy came across the research and report of International Grammar School (IGS) student Katelyn Clarke through a linkedin post from Aboriginal Education Officer Jade Carr, as part of Katelyn’s Aboriginal Studies work, titled:

“Not The Ideal Victim: Media bias, failed investigations and the unheard stories of missing and murdered First Nations women and children”.

The report exposes the devastating truths around the ignorance and neglect in response to Missing First Nations Women and Children in Australia. It is a respectfully written and important piece of work combining shocking statistical data, including Katelyn’s own data collection, as well as insightful comparisons to international best practice initiatives surrounding missing First Nations Women and Children.

We were further inspired by the fact the report was expressed through the mind of a young person, capable of capturing the magnitude of these injustices and demonstrating the power that all young people have in influencing decision making and policy change.

Some of the key themes presented in the report include:


  • The over-representation of First Nations Missing Women and Children in Australia:


“…Indigenous women and children are grossly overrepresented among missing persons across the nation. While First Nations children account for approximately 6% of the Australian population under the age of 18, they make up roughly 20% of missing children (Wellington et al., 2021). Additionally, a 2021 review prepared for the Australian Federal Police found that at least 25.6% of children under 12 and 18% of those aged between 13 and 17 who go missing while in care are Indigenous”

Media bias and the under-representation of Missing First Nations Women and Children (they are “Not the Ideal Victim"):

“… ideology of superiority and inferiority underlying this binary encourages the valuing of some lives over others and functions as a powerful justification for ongoing racial, gender, and class-based oppression… if the missing woman is young, white, conventionally attractive, and from a “respectable” home, news media are more likely to report and exhaustively investigate the details of her life and disappearance.”

“We don’t know what we don’t know” Indigenous misrepresentation in the media:

“…this gross misrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in the media, combined with the failure of the media to give adequate attention to crimes against Indigenous peoples, has enormous negative consequences. As a direct result, the Australian public remains largely ignorant of the issues impacting Indigenous individuals, families and communities. This is reflected in the lack of community awareness of the cases of Indigenous missing and murdered women and children.”

Learning from Canada and the US

“…Experts argued that “specific colonial and patriarchal policies” displaced women from their traditional roles in communities and governance and diminished their status in society, leaving them vulnerable to violence… the report made 231 individual Calls for Justice, addressed to all governments (federal, provincial, territorial, municipal, and Indigenous); media, academic institutions and artists; health service providers; transportation service providers and the hospitality industry; police services and justice system actors; Canadian law societies and bar associations; education institutions and authorities; Correctional Service Canada; and all Canadians (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Women and Girls, 2019).

Acknowledging history - the devastating and ongoing impacts of colonialism:

“…for progress to occur, all Australian governments, institutions and communities must acknowledge the devastating and ongoing impacts of colonialism. No lasting change can be forged if this is not done…Actions to address the ongoing impact of colonisation on Indigenous Australians may include “addressing intergenerational trauma through healing strategies; strengthening connection to culture, language, knowledge and cultural identity; strengthening support for families; implementing specific initiatives for Indigenous women and girls; implementing targeted initiatives for Indigenous men and boys; challenging the condoning of violence in Indigenous communities; having a judicial system that ensures equality in law and access to justice; and reducing the rate of incarceration” (AIHW, 2020).”

If you would like to request a copy of the full report, please email sam.johnson@impactpolicyau.com

We anticipate the outcomes of the impending Senate Inquiry into Missing and Murdered First Nations Women and Children in Australia which is now scheduled for June 2022.

The inquiry will investigate the number of First Nations women and children who are missing and murdered, identifying the systemic causes of all forms of violence against First Nations women and children and the identification of effective actions that can be taken to remove systemic causes of violence, to increase the safety of First Nations women and children and to investigate the ways in which they can be commemorated (APH, 2022).

In the interim, it is vital to strengthen community where we can and to share awareness regarding this crisis. We would also like to share the opportunity to support the coronial inquest into the disappearance of Aboriginal woman Allison Neridine Bernard, 23 year old young Kowanyama mother of two children, missing since 2013. The State does not pay for families to attend Coronial Inquests. Ms Bernard’s family cannot afford to travel from their remote Aboriginal community to attend Cairns for the Inquest. If you would like to support the family of Allison Neridine Bernard you can contribute to their GoFundMe page https://www.gofundme.com/f/ms-allison-bernard-rip

These funds raised will ensure that Ms Bernard’s two mothers, son and uncle can be present in court as witnesses give evidence about Ms Bernard and her last sighting.

Support the community organisations that are supporting the women and children most at-risk of victimisation such as the Aboriginal Women’s and Children’s Crisis Centre, Women Up North and Wirringa Baiya:

Also a reminder to trust your instincts and report early if you suspect a loved one has gone missing, you don’t need to wait to report, call 000 as soon as possible.

If you are feeling triggered by any of this content, please seek help:

Families and Friends of Missing Persons Services:

1800 633 063

Griefline:

1300 845 745

Beyond Blue:

1300 224 636

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