ICAN director and matriarch of Indigenous financial counselling, Susan Cook, was appointed to a 13-member Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council that will inform the development of the next National Plan to end family, domestic and sexual violence in Australia.
“Our role on the advisory committee is to come up with a plan to stop family violence, and then feed that up to the Minister to be incorporated in a larger national plan,” said Mrs Cook. “But what our advisory group is calling for, is a stand-alone national, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander plan. Because all our issues are complex, and every community is different.”
Mrs Cook highlighted that colonisation, and the stolen generation has resulted in intergenerational trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This trauma coupled with issues directly associated with poverty have created a unique set of circumstances that could potentially be lost in a broader national plan. This thinking was evidenced at the recent National Summit on Women’s Safety.
“Many of the National Summit sessions focused on men as perpetrators that need to be punished, whereas the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women want their men to be cared for, as well,” Mrs Cook said. “This point comes through with every conversation you have with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women. And yes, the men are violent, but they want them to be re-educated, and supported for change.”
“We understand this behaviour is a result of colonisation, and the stolen generation. Men have copied these behaviours from their fathers, their grandfathers, and their great grandfathers. A history, of disempowerment and the inevitable frustration that flows from generation to generation.”
Indigenous rights campaigner and advisory group chair Professor Sandra Creamer and Fiona Cornforth, CEO Healing Foundation presented on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues at the National Summit. “They spoke a lot about healing, healing our families and healing our men, to stop the circle of violence,” Mrs Cook said. “We need to have to have a look at things holistically, like health, and our well-being.”
Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said the Advisory Council would help ensure the issues and challenges facing First Nations peoples were elevated and given specific focus in the next National Plan.
“It is my absolute commitment, to not just hear but, to really listen to and respect the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women,” Minister Ruston said. “The diverse backgrounds and expertise of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council will ensure a genuine partnership as we work together to develop the next National Plan. Importantly, the advisors have a wealth of experience working on the ground in communities which will be vital to develop community-led solutions to on-the-ground challenges.”
Mrs Cook will work closely with ICAN’s financial counselling and capability team over the coming months to ensure issues surrounding the interconnection between finances and abuse, help inform the advisory group’s plan.
The Morrison Government made a $1 million commitment in the 2021-22 Budget to establish and operate the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Council over the next three years.