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Christine Anu Watched Her Mother Endure Years Of Domestic Violence

One of Australia's best-known performers, Christine Anu, has kept a painful secret for years.

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Aria award winning singer Christine Anu says she watched her mother endure years of mental and physical abuse and lived in women's shelters as a child.

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Speaking exclusively to BuzzFeed News, Anu recalls her childhood as one marred by violence and abuse.

The singer claims she watched her mother endure years of domestic violence at the hands of her father and says much of her, along with her four siblings', younger years were spent in women's refuges.

"Mum could only take a couple of us at a time to women’s shelter so not all the children would come," she says.

"Mum didn’t have money to get a cab or ring someone that had a car that could take us places. She basically packed what she could on her back, I would have something on my back and my sister would have something on her back and we’d walk. We’d spend all the day walking. Mum would sleep for an hour on a park bench while we fed the ducks until we could be housed," Anu says.

Those childhood memories have continued to haunt her, and until now she kept them secret, even unsure of how to tell her two teenage children.

"When I was growing up It was so prevalent, it was in many households around us, and it was a normality."

Anu hopes that by sharing her story it may help other victims of family violence, and children who have witnessed family violence, to seek help.

"This is a subject of secrecy that’s been happening since I was a kid in the seventies," she says. "Australia needs to join in the discussion, and we all need to put a very big light on domestic violence and violence against women and children."

Later in the week Anu will publish an article on her website to encourage the community to strip away the stigma surrounding domestic violence.

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In the letter Anu writes about the alcohol-fuelled violence that plagued her home in the Torres Strait Islands.

"So often, we blame the woman. She could have done this or she could have done that. And the ultimate – why doesn’t she just leave? The implication that she’s in the wrong for staying," the letter reads.

"Domestic violence and violence against women is a difficult subject to discuss, but it’s something I really want to touch on this week. There has been so much air given to these issues of late, politically and in the media. It’s encouraging to see that steps are being taken to make such a devastating and sometimes crippling personal crisis less of a taboo," Anu writes.

Anu is now calling for schools to include early education in high schools about what constitutes a healthy relationship.

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"The discussion needs to start before children become sexually active, before they enter into relationships. Discussing openly what a healthy relationship is and the things to do in a situation where you feel threatened," Anu says.

Anu, a role model for Indigenous Australians, told BuzzFeed News that she promised herself that her son and daughter, now 19 and 13 years old, that they would be raised differently.

"When I was little every day was a day where we were unsure of how we would wake up and how we would go to sleep. It was never a given. There was always crying people in the house, it was just a very unsure environment to be brought up in."

Now she hopes that through education the violence will stop.

"These are very angry men who lash out at a defenseless woman. A woman who might have started out a strong woman, who believed wonderful things about herself, but eventually the self-esteem gets bashed out of her."

"We need a holistic approach. Their needs to be a heavier sentence, but it also needs to come with rehabilitation, because sadly the men are also probably doing what they saw growing up. The cycle has to stop."

Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander women are twice as likely to be assaulted by their partner than non-Indigenous women. Indigenous women are also 34 times more likely to be hospitalised due to injuries caused by domestic violence than non-Indigenous women.

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence you can find a list of support services at White Ribbon. You can also find the contact for crisis centres in your state.

Allan Clarke is an Indigenous Affairs Reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.

Contact Allan Clarke at allan.clarke@buzzfeed.com.

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