NTCOSS on the crisis in NT of women being killed

“It is all well and good to pay lip service to ending gender-based violence … but we need to put our money where our mouth is” – NTCOSS’ Tessa Snowdon on ABC Radio Darwin following Four Corners’ broadcast on a national crisis “hidden in plain sight: the killings and disappearances of Indigenous women across Australia”.


Liz Trevaskis: It’s about 4:08 and this week’s Four Corners on Monday night brought some national attention to the alarming number of Aboriginal women, predominantly mothers, being killed in domestic and family violence related murders in the NT. Really horrifying stuff, but it is something that we sadly see evidence of on our streets, you know, kind of every day. There are, though, plenty of people working on solutions and trying to figure out what it’s going to take to fix this crisis. This is what domestic violence researcher Dr Shay Brown told us yesterday. I’m hoping to see come out of this national attention that has been so reluctantly granted as a result of last night’s traumatic Four Corners is I want to see funding. I want to see people match their commitment, their shock, their grief with money and funding and resources for the Northern Territory, for specialist domestic family violence services, so that they can begin to address the scale and severity of the problem that we have in the Northern Territory. Domestic violence researcher Dr Shay Brown speaking on the programme yesterday. Of course, Monday’s Four Corners episode comes less than a week after the federal government announced an ambitious national plan to end violence against women and children within a generation. No specific funding has been tied to that plan, but the sector hopes funding could equal $1 billion over ten years. The problem is the NT historically only gets about 1% of funding from these kinds of national buckets of money. And it’s something that we’ve talked about plenty of times on this programme We get funding based on our population, not based on what we need, so how can we get what we need? Tessa Snowdon’s from the NT Council of Social Service and represents the Domestic Family and Sexual Violence Sector, and I spoke to her earlier.

Tessa Snowdon: The Northern Territory needs to see really strong national leadership on this when it comes to allocating that funding and we need it based on the need of our jurisdictions, not the population size. So because we have those really high rates of violence in the Northern Territory and the severity of violence is much higher as well because we have that small population, we just don’t see the resourcing. So we need the national stage to stand up and go, we hear you, we value you and we are actually going to fund you and service you so that your communities can benefit from these programmes But it’s not just the national governments responsibility. We need the other states and territories to stand up and support us as well. And it’s all well and good to pay lip service to how we want to support people to end gender based violence. But we need to put our money where our mouth is and actually resource the jurisdictions adequately across Australia, but particularly communities of people who need it most. And we’re seeing that the Four Corners report really shed light on that. And in the Northern Territory, unfortunately, that is the normalised violence that our communities and the women in our communities and the children and our communities are having to live with every day. And we need strong leadership and powerful leadership to stand up and go, Enough’s enough, we hear you, we respect you, we value you, and we want to help you.

LT: Historically, when this kind of pot of money has been divvied up around the states and territories, the NT has received about around about 1% of funding because our population is so small comparatively. What percentage of a national bucket of funding that is maybe somewhere in the vicinity of $1,000,000,000. What percentage of that does the Territory need?

TS: Well, we know that the domestic family and sexual violent assault rates in the Northern Territory are three times higher than the national average and the domestic family and sexual violence related death rate is six times higher. Let’s keep those stats in mind. We need to see an allocation of funding that reflects that. So at a bare minimum, if this is being allocated on a percentage of national rates, let’s go three times higher. But ideally, we’ve got six times the rate of death in our community from domestic and family and sexual violence related murders. We need to see a rate six times higher for the Territory to get a greater slice of the pie. Nationally, the states and territories, other states and territories are going to need to give up some of their funding.

LT: How likely is that?

TS: Well, I think this is we recognise that in the other states and territories there are victim survivors, there are individuals who really rely on the level of service provision in those areas. We don’t want to see these services cut. We don’t want to see these jurisdictions miss out. If the Federal Government could increase the whole entirety of funding for the domestic and family and sexual violence responses across Australia, this would mean that for those communities with a higher level of need, we can see an increase in resourcing without taking away from other jurisdictions and their service provision.

LT: So it doesn’t have to be a smaller slice of the pie for other states. Or maybe it is. It’s just a bigger pie.

TS: Yeah. And I think that it’s all about we can do multiple responses at once. Earlier this year, as one of the conversations I’ve had about funding and about the huge need in the crisis in the Northern Territory I was speaking with someone from a women’s shelter. They’d been hoping to hire a liaison officer for the kids that came in with the mums fleeing domestic violence to help those kids through what they had seen and possibly experienced as well. The situation as it was described to me was that with costs going up and money needing to go further than it had before, this was something that they had to abandon.

LT: Can you give me some other examples of things that are not happening in the NT because there isn’t enough funding

TS: I think not only in that crisis response, in that example you were given, we’re seeing that across the whole jurisdiction. And the funding that service is currently have is going to see more of that occur because with other added costs of running services, they’re having to keep cutting back. But along with that, we don’t have the resourcing to invest in these really great initiatives that we know are more at the primary prevention, early intervention and to actually help address domestic family and sexual violence on a long term basis. Crisis supports will need to be funded during that time and probably even at a higher rate because we know that when we respond to domestic family and sexual violence on the primary prevention and that often results in greater pressure on the crisis and we don’t have the resourcing to invest in that system. We need to see that leadership and that resourcing given to us from the Federal Government. Four Corners on Monday night was a devastating watch, but a lot of Territorians will know these stories. Obviously a lot of families are affected by it.

LT: Do you think that national attention will make some difference to the NT’s chances at getting the funding that’s needed? Look, I would hope that seeing such a heart wrenching story like what we saw on Four Corners this week would hope, bring help, bring attention to the Northern Territory and the plight of the women and children in our jurisdiction, and particularly Aboriginal women and children. As it was stated in Four Corners, these women feel invisible in these service systems and does it really take 315 homicides for us to get the attention in our jurisdictions that these women and children need and that their families need? So look, let’s hope that the media surrounding with this story, the strength that those women and their families have, their families showing up and being interviewed and participating in these processes, their friends. If they can stand up and talk like that, hopefully we have a government who can listen to that.

LT: Tessa Snowdon there. She’s from the NT Council of Social Service and represents the domestic family and sexual violence sector. There is going to be a big bucket of funding for this national plan to end violence against women and children within a generation. That is the ambitious plan announced by the Labor Government. The Federal Government last week just less than a week before the horrific Four Corners aired on Monday night. This bucket of funding, it could be in the vicinity of $1 billion and those working in the sector are fighting very hard right now to make sure that the NT gets what we need from this funding.