CEO of Djirra, Antoinette Braybrook came to Bendigo this week to open the latest branch of Djirra, which has offices across Melbourne and regional Victoria.
Formerly known as the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service, Djirra’s broad agenda includes raising awareness around family violence and encouraging the use of community engagement programs.
Djirra also aims to prevent family violence, provides legal services, holistic support and cultural and wellbeing workshops.
Ms Braybrook said that many Aboriginal women were afraid to speak up about family violence as the removal of their children was a real problem.
“It is this fear which silences women,” she said.
”And the statistics justifies that fear.”
“We employ lawyers and paralegals who make sure Aboriginal women are aware of their legal rights.
“We are there to protect them. Sometimes women are coerced into signing documents without the full knowledge of the content of those documents.”
When it comes to family violence, the interaction between Aboriginal women and the police is often very poor, according to Ms Braybrook.
“From my point of view there is a problematic relationship with the police.
“At the highest levels of management within the police force there is a cultural awareness of issues but at the station level, cultural awareness is something else altogether.
“We sometimes see a poor response when a woman complains. I know of a case where an Aboriginal woman had been choked by her husband about 40 times but the local police didn’t consider this to be assault.
“In cases like this racism is a driving factor.
“There needs to be an attitudal shift,” Ms Braybrook continued.
“Aboriginal women lose out on two counts.
“First they are women and secondly they are black women.
“That’s two strikes against them.”
Ms Braybrook said community education, and policy and advocacy were important tools to address racist attitudes.
The new Djirra office is located at 52 Queen Street, Bendigo. Visit www.djirra.org.au for more information.