Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, has promised a funding boost for legal services helping Indigenous survivors of family and domestic violence.

With one third of Indigenous women experiencing physical violence from a partner – double the level for non-Indigenous women – Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) provides legal support to Indigenous Australians in remote and regional Australia who have experienced family or domestic violence.

In regional and remote areas, Indigenous women experience family violence at a rate 45 times higher than other women.

As Western Australia’s 16 Days in WA – Stop Violence Against Women campaign kicked off this week, Minister Wyatt said the Morrison Government is committed to delivering culturally appropriate services for First Nations women experiencing violence in the home.

“Access to holistic early intervention and prevention services as well as legal assistance to get through the most difficult of times, regardless of where a person lives, is critical to addressing the scourge of family violence in our communities,” Minister Wyatt said.

“It is a tragedy that Indigenous women experience disproportionately high levels of violence and the violence is often more severe in its impacts on families.”

FVPLS providers help educate community members on the legal and non-legal avenues they can take in relation to their situation.

The Minister said providers are community-controlled and have built trust in their respective communities.

The increased funding will be spread across 14 providers in 30 locations around the country and will provide core legal assistance and services through to 2023.

“Increased funding will be directed to FVPLS providers from 1 July 2020 to support frontline service delivery,” Minister Wyatt said.

Minister Wyatt also told NIT the Government is committed to “addressing the underlying drivers of violence over the long-term”.

“This requires community-led approaches to break the cycle of violence and prioritise the strengthening of Indigenous families,” Minister Wyatt said.

This comes after the successful Indigenous Legal Assistance Program (ILAP) was axed in the 2019-20 Federal Budget, despite an independent review highlighting its effectiveness.

When asked how community members can be assured the FVPLS won’t be scratched like the ILAP in future Budgets, Minister Wyatt declined to answer and said questions regarding the ILAP should be directed to the Attorney-General’s Office.

Community leaders are dubious the same fate won’t unfold for the FVPLS.

CEO of Djirra, the Victorian FVPLS, and National Chair of the National FVPLS Forum, the peak body for the 14 FVPLSs throughout Australia, Antoinette Braybrook said while providers welcome any increased funding into frontline services, funding beyond this remains uncertain.

“We’ve been told there’s a small investment into our frontline work, but there’s yet to be conversations with individual services … about what that means for their service,” Ms Braybrook said.

“Our funding for our national secretariat is still not confirmed beyond June 30 [2020], which provides a critical, national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children experiencing violence.”

Ms Braybrook also said the service providers have been without a funding increase for core services for over six years.

Although future financing for the national forum is unclear, Ms Braybrook is hopeful.

“We need to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women’s voices are front and centre on key issues.”

By Hannah Cross