First Nations women

First Nations women continue to be grossly overrepresented across indicators of disadvantage, including housing, safety, economic opportunity, health, education and financial security. The issues that affect First Nations women are multilayered and differ from those of other women. They need to be at the decision-making table if solutions are to be effective. Yet the Government’s 2021-22 Budget demonstrates that it is not listening to the voices of First Nations women. 

First Nations women are rarely recognised for the extensive work they do to support their families and communities or their vital role in cultural maintenance and the revitalisation of language. Many are on low incomes or unemployed. In 2016, only 41 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women were employed. Government policies such as the Cashless Welfare Card (where 68 per cent of participants are First Nations) and the Parents Next program (where 18 per cent of participants are First Nations) are applied punitively to entrench rather than alleviate women’s inequality. 

First Nations women also experience high levels of systemic discrimination. First Nations women are the fastest growing prison population, and are 21.2 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous women. These women have often experienced domestic violence, poverty, racism and poor mental health. 

Three in every five First Nations women have experienced physical or sexual violence. First Nations women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non- Indigenous women and 11 times more likely to die due to assault than non-Indigenous women. First Nations women also report higher rates of anxiety and depression than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. 

The Liberals' record

Australia has consistently failed to address the concerns and priorities of First Nations women. The Government has: 

  • Failed to respond to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s landmark Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women’s Voices) report, which represents the first engagement project specifically with First Nations women in 34 years – and has not committed funding to key calls for a First Nations women’s summit. 
  • Sought to expand punitive measures like the Cashless Welfare Card that have a disproportionate impact on First Nations women and their families. 
  • Cut funding to the peak advocacy body representing First Nations women escaping family and domestic violence. 
  • Refused calls from First Nations women leaders for a specific national plan to address violence against First Nations women. 
  • Dedicated more funding in this budget to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Personal Safety Survey’ than to specialist First Nations front-line domestic violence services. 
  • Failed to respond to the ALRC’s Pathways to Justice report into rising rates of incarceration, including of First Nations women. 
  • Provided no additional Commonwealth funding to meet the new child protection, housing and justice targets in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which are designed to reduce the overrepresentation of First Nations people in the child protection and criminal justice systems. 
  • Failed to deliver on the vision of the Uluru Statement from the Heart for a First Nations Voice to the Parliament which has the capacity to provide First Nations women with a direct say in policy that impacts their lives. 

Labor welcomes additional funding in the Budget to support additional places for First Nations students in “girls academies” programs