Linda Burney Slams Warren Mundine Over Claims The Aboriginal Community Ignores Domestic Violence
"Angered and flabbergasted at the lack of understanding."
Linda Burney, the first Aboriginal woman to be elected to the house of representatives and a former domestic violence victim, has lashed out at the head of the prime minister's Indigenous Advisory Council for claiming that the Indigenous community ignores domestic violence.
On Tuesday, Warren Mundine wrote an opinion piece for The Australian newspaper with the headline "Indigenous people must find a voice to condemn domestic violence".
"Indigenous people, progressives, feminists and the media don’t want to talk about Indigenous abuse. Partly they don’t want to say negative things about Indigenous people," Mundine wrote.
"Partly they are labouring under the myth that calling out Indigenous wrongdoers tarnishes all Indigenous men. What about indigenous women and children? Are people outraged only when white women are abused? Do only white children deserve protection from pedophiles?"
Mundine's piece also called into question the prime minister's decision to call a royal commission into youth detention in the NT following a report by the ABC's Four Corner's program.
"Within 24 hours, Malcolm Turnbull had announced a royal commission. Three days later an Indigenous woman was brutally killed in Bill Bell Park in Darwin. Recently, just after royal commission hearings began, another Indigenous woman was killed near Bill Bell Park. Both killings were in broad daylight but neither killing made the news," wrote Mundine.
Burney, the federal Labor member for Barton and a victim of domestic violence, told BuzzFeed News that she is "angered and flabbergasted at the lack of understanding Warren demonstrated in that article [about] what is actually going on at the community level".
"Warren has had a big spray in the media, but the question is, what is he going to do about it?," Burney said.
"The chief advisor to the government comes out, makes these statements, yet had been there when the government withdrew services and said nothing. [That] has to be questioned."
Mundine was appointed as the head of the IAC under former prime minister Tony Abbott.
During Abbott's prime ministership a staggering $534 million in funding was slashed from Indigenous programs in the 2014-2015 budget and the controversial Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) was created, under which all Aboriginal organisations, regardless of their size, must compete for funding.
Several small frontline services in Aboriginal communities dealing with family violence prevention were unable to compete with larger organisations and saw their funding withdrawn or their outreach dwindle.
"[Mundine] is the person that has overseen, as the head of the prime minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, the demolition of child and family services across Australia, the demolition of half a billion dollars out of the Indigenous affairs budget, the demolition of Aboriginal legal centres that support women to pursue issues of domestic violence, and the demolition of most of the advocacy services in Aboriginal affairs, including the withdrawal of federal funding from a number of Aboriginal programs that specifically work at the community levels dealing with family violence," Burney said.
Antoinette Braybrook, the head of the Family Violence Prevention Legal Service (FVPLS), told BuzzFeed News she welcomed Mundine's push for a conversation around family violence but dismissed his claims that Indigenous communities hide and harbour abusers.
"It isn’t helpful for him to be saying that Aboriginal women and men have been silent on this issue."
"Warren Mundine is correct to highlight that the issue of violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women has been largely ignored for far too long. However, there [are] many Aboriginal women, and Aboriginal men, who have been speaking out on this issue and working on this issue for many, many years," Braybrook said.
The FVPLS has provided assistance to thousands of Aboriginal victims of family violence and offered them legal advice since 2002. Despite this, the service is under constant threat of having federal funding withdrawn.
Braybrook, a Kuku Yalanji woman, says Mundine should use his position to lobby the government to increase funding for community services.
"There remains chronic under-funding of family services for Aboriginal women and their children. Many of our services report having to turn away 30-40% of clients because they don’t have capacity," Braybrook said.
In September, NT coroner Greg Cavanagh announced he would hold an inquest into the deaths of two Aboriginal women, Kwementyaye Murphy and Kwementyaye McCormack, in Alice Springs in 2014 and 2015.
Both women suffered horrific abuse at the hands of their partners and died as a result. Indigenous women in the NT are 23 times more likely to be the victims of domestic violence and there have been 17 Indigenous deaths in the NT related to family violence in the past four years.
"Rather than unfairly criticising the voiceless, what we need is for people like Mundine to be supporting increased funding to services such as FVPLS so that we can address the unacceptably high rates of violence against Aboriginal women and ensure that Aboriginal women’s voices are heard loud and clear," Braybrook said.
Mundine has rejected the criticism by Burney, telling BuzzFeed News that he has been a vocal advocate on domestic violence awareness for several years.
"In 2004, I made speeches about [domestic violence] and was on the White Ribbon board, the campaign against violence for women. My writing has gone back a few decades in regards to this."
"Let's not pretend the issue is about funding, we've had this problem, violence against women, for decades and millions of dollars have been tossed at this area," he said.