Features Australia

A cry from the heart

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

The true extent of what we are all up against in the battle against Indigenous family violence has recently reared its ugly head even higher.

In the past week following my appearance on Studio 10, I have received a tirade of vile and abusive messages, mostly from Aboriginal men. One Aboriginal woman has asked why I ‘gotta only cry about the men giving me a hard time’ and ‘why don’t you mention us women too ya c–t?’. I have seen the elite urban Indigenous talking heads all come out condemning Kerri-Anne Kennerley and accusing her of racism — but not one of them refer to the abuse of women and children. In fact, they’ve downplayed it instead. And not one of them has come out to condemn the foul abuse I am being subjected to.

On social media, I have asked Aboriginal men and women, who I thought were decent community role models, to stand up and condemn these vile messages as acts of violence towards me. I asked them to do this, not only because I expected them to stand in solidarity with a ‘sister’, but also because these violent abusers were giving all Aboriginal men a bad name they don’t deserve. Two of these role models had accused Kerri-Anne and myself of negatively stereotyping Aboriginal men so I wanted to set the record straight. Instead, I was met with contempt and false accusations of being abusive myself. Or dead silence.

This response was disturbing not only because these role models, who are looked up to by so many, would prefer to shut me down; but also because there were so many who supported their stance.

This made me cast my mind back to moments when women, men and young people have reached out to me because of what they themselves have been through.

Many of them have lived in silence because the people they thought would stand in solidarity with them did exactly the same to them as what was done to me. They have been shut down and their trust utterly obliterated. They asked for help and instead they got venom atop of the trauma they’d endured.

I once stood proudly by the side of Marcia Langton and Josephine Cashman at the National Press Club to raise the issue of family violence to the nation’s agenda. I saw it as a pivotal moment for Aboriginal women where we stood together singing from the same songbook.

Everything changed two years later when I suggested on Twitter that Marcia please stop using colonisation as an excuse for the violent behaviour of our men, and pointed out that she’d never lived by customary law so it was not her place to deny the role traditional culture plays in the perpetuation of family violence in remote communities. After all, in the past, she stood by my mother many times, backing her up on this very point.

In response to what I saw as truth- telling, I and my family were the target of a venomous, personal attack in the form of an article published in the Saturday Paper. I believe it was designed to discredit us. My father was called a ‘white’ man, reducing him to simply a colour.

In the article, the author, an Indigenous woman, went as far as trying to use my experience as a domestic violence survivor against me, claiming my first husband was white and suggesting he was responsible for my trauma. Her first instinct was to have a dig at my expense as well as at the expense of my ex-husband and therefore our children based on what she perceived to be the colour of his skin. She was wrong about both accusations. My first husband was not the one who left me with six stitches in the side of my head, two black eyes and depression. Nor was my first husband white.

Clearly, getting the facts right wasn’t important to the author, who, ironically, had once stood in solidarity with her bush sisters, even going so far as calling on urban elite women of Aboriginal descent to stop attacking my mother, Bess Price. Now here she was trying to tear me down.

How this is supposed to further our cause is beyond me. The damage is done. I have been accused of encouraging the ‘extreme right’. I see the Saturday Paper article as a dog whistle to the extreme Left; telling abusers that I am fair game.

A fellow Indigenous town councillor once told me I had brought the online abuse I receive onto myself. She went on to stand alongside a group of local Aboriginal women, supported by imported white activists, who had set up a Facebook group with the express purpose of attacking me and damaging my reputation. Following this, she made false accusations in council chambers claiming that a male in my family had threatened her with violence. All these actions were designed to defame me and my family. Why? Because I had made my opinion on the whole Australia Day debate very public. And I am accused by these women of making Aboriginal men look bad.

This venom is crippling for so many within the Indigenous community — and has been for far too long. There is no solidarity. Every woman is on her own, unless motivated to bring another Aboriginal woman down. Before we can fix our appalling problems our people need to develop the ability to critically analyse ourselves and take responsibility for the role we each need to play in order to change the circumstances we live in. But how is that supposed to happen when asking these people to take responsibility ignites such a venomous response? A culture of abuse has emerged that is openly sanctioned by our ‘leaders’ and ‘role models’. We all have been made aware of the statistics that prove that these horrific problems exist. Yet somebody like me speaks out about the need to find answers, or even to publicly admit that we have these problems, and the result is the ongoing public displays of calumny and venom that flourish without condemnation. The deeply-disturbing reality is the cycle of violence, and the silence about it, isn’t going to stop anytime soon; while all the condemnation will be targeted at those who try to expose and change it. So I fear for the generations to come. Bullying is taking lives; look at the suicide rates of our kids. We’re supposed to be teaching our young ones not to bully — while adults are masters of it and thrive on it.

Are these the Indigenous voices that we want our parliament to listen to? I cannot support an Indigenous Voice to Parliament until these issues are resolved from within our own communities.

They are utterly fractured. There is no ‘community’ and there will not be one until we learn to listen to each other and support each other. How can we expect white Australians and governments to listen to us respectfully when we are so willing to tear each other down. We have got to stop being our own worst enemies.

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