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Issue #1771      March 29, 2017

UN expert concerns over Australian violence

Women locked up for unpaid fines and red tape stopping others from escaping domestic violence were among issues that left a United Nations expert unimpressed during an inaugural visit to Australia.

Four Indigenous women locked themselves to the wall of a cage on Melbourne’s busiest intersection, as a protest to the treatment children receive in Don Dale Detention Centre. (Photo: Green Left Weekly)

UN special rapporteur on violence against women Dubravka Simonovic has been on a 15-day fact-finding mission to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cherbourg (Queensland) and Alice Springs.

Simonovic urged Australia to lift its game on providing crisis services and shelters for women facing domestic violence which is a key cause of homelessness.

Adequate funding for community legal services was also important, she said in Canberra while delivering her preliminary findings from her visit.

Simonovic was particularly concerned about the plight of Indigenous women who are 34 times more likely to require hospital treatment as a result of domestic violence and up to 3.7 times likely to experience sexual abuse.

She criticised the inflexibility of the Basics Card – a cashless debit card used to income-manage welfare payments – not being able to cover expenses related to domestic violence victims’ escapes from danger.

The cards are used in some remote communities in an attempt to curb spending on alcohol or gambling.

During a trip to a Brisbane jail, Simonovic spoke directly with women prisoners. She has called for better mental health care access and alternatives to custodial sentences for those with dependent children. Indigenous women are the fastest growing prison population in Australia.

“I would urge the government to review a policy of incarceration for unpaid fines, which has a disproportionate effect on the rates of incarceration of Aboriginal women because of the economic and social disadvantage that they face,” Simonovic said.

She also expressed concern about lax investigations into allegations of rape and sexual abuse of women refugees and asylum seekers in immigration detention on Nauru.

Koori Mail

Next article – Bring Them Here – Palm Sunday Rally for Refugees 2017

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