This month I was privileged to visit a remote community in the Kimberley, 180km north of Broome in a remote part of Western Australia.
It was emotional and moving to share experiences with resilient, resourceful and incredible women from this area.
As we shared our very personal stories and shed tears together we understood how deeply the trauma of violence has affected our lives.
For too many Aboriginal women who live in remote areas, violence is all too prevalent. Violence has become so normalised it is difficult to comprehend that violence was never part of this culture. Disrespect of women and violence towards them has occurred since the colonisation of their land.
In these remote and isolated communities it is considered shameful to speak out and support services remain overstretched and very limited. Women too frequently do not have help available when they are in crisis and at imminent risk of being harmed.
Although there is pain, there is definitely hope and this tight knit community will work together to find solutions.
The collective spirit of these determined and courageous women shines through and by engaging with the men and respected elders in their community they see the possibility for change. But they need support to achieve this.
I met Francine amongst these women. She too is a survivor who escaped extreme levels of violence more than sixteen years ago and was forced to flee and return to the safety of her Country here in the Kimberley.
She has lived through five years of traumatic physical and emotional abuse and been forced in and out of safe houses whilst fighting to protect her children. Always hoping her partner would change.
Her last hospitalisation due to serious injury gave her the resolve and determination she needed to finally leave.
Her five children are grown up now and she is proud to say they are safe. Her ex-partner was sent to prison for the crimes he committed against her and has since passed away.
Although she doesn’t feel scared and anxious anymore she is concerned about the many other women in her own community who still suffer. She looks forward to the day they will be able to leave before it is too late.
Francine said that our time together last week has given her a voice. It has made her stronger. It has given her the courage to continue to speak out against violence.
She wants all women to understand that violence is not normal. That it is not OK.
She thinks raising awareness with women and children about what violence is and why it is wrong will help.
And she’d like to see a safe house in every remote community.
Women like Francine are the reason I get up every day. They inspire me to keep campaigning and continue to raise the issue of family violence far and wide.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised and ten times more likely to be murdered in family violence situations.
I am fortunate to have been given a national platform to share my story but women like Francine struggle to be heard. To be able to listen and share these stories of incredible strength and resilience is the least I can do, and to let them know that we seek to understand the many difficulties and challenges that they face.
And the Never Alone team
Ps. You can see more about my experience in Djarindjin here.