Safety planning with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

  • Along with the general safety planning checklist and guidelines there are some particular safety issues to be aware of when supporting Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
  • These issues include concerns around privacy, attending cultural events, and applying for new housing
  • You can search our Service directory for specialist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support services in your local area.

Privacy and the community

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community can be close and interconnected. It is important to recognise that this can be the case in both small towns (such as rural or remote communities) as well as large cities.  With this in mind, it can be very difficult for members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to feel that their privacy is being respected or that they can maintain anonymity about their issues that are related to family violence. This means that maintaining their privacy and respecting their wishes in regards to referrals is of the utmost importance.

When working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples it can be important for your working relationship to have a discussion around privacy in a way that reflects the cultural distinctiveness of families and community. It is a conversation that is different to one that you would have with a non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as their needs and concerns will be different.

When providing a family violence service to Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples, have a conversation about the following:

  • Reassure and be clear with them that you won't contact other services, whether they’re Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services or not, without their specific permission and consent first
  • Tell them that you will check to see the consequences of identifying them as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander when referring her to other services – for example, if their information will be shared with staff in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unit
  • Be familiar with the process and procedures of the service that you are considering for referral pathways – for example, do they have a procedure where they automatically refer people who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander to a specific program or unit? If this is the case, find out who is in that team and talk to your client about whether this is something that they feel is appropriate or safe. Also, they may not want to be automatically referred on to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program.
  • Ensure that you respect their privacy outside of the service. Do not approach the person outside of your specific organised times as this may affect their safety

Attending cultural events

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities are central to identity, culture and lives. For someone experiencing family violence, this should never mean that they or their children have to sacrifice being a part of their community.

Everyone has the right to choose whether or not they or their family should attend a community or cultural event. If the choice is made to attend, it is important all of the risks are taken into consideration and that there is a plan around how to respond if any of these occur. This is to ensure that the event can be attended as safely as possible.

When working with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander client who is looking at attending a cultural or community event, you may want to ask them to consider some of the following:

  • Think about who else may be attending the event – for instance will the perpetrator be there or other members of his family?
  • Be honest if you think that you can be safe if you choose to attend – if you think it is too much of a risk after considering all of the factors then your safety should be your first priority.
  • Plan ahead – call family and friends that you trust to see if they will be there too which may help you feel safe. Ensure that you let them know any concerns that you may have and if appropriate, you could involve them in your safety plan too – for example, you could ask them to keep an eye on you or you could ask them to assist you to leave the event if your safety is at risk.
  • If you know the venue or are familiar with the location of the event try to incorporate this into your safety plan – for example, if you know there is only one driveway into the football ground ensure that you park your car outside of the ground on the street, or near the entrance point so you can easily get away.
  • When you arrive check if there is security and that you know where the security people are.
  • When you arrive you may want to look around the event to see who has attended – there may be people there who are either ‘safe’ people or ‘risk’ people that you may not have considered in your planning and may need to adjust safety plan accordingly.
  • If you don’t have a car and are arriving by public transport, ensure you have the timetables and information at hand to ensure you can leave when you need to and don’t get stuck. You may want to consider putting aside extra money for a taxi in case you need to leave urgently

Applying for new housing

If you are a support worker assisting a woman who is experiencing violence, it is important to be mindful of the inter-connectedness of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. You should ask questions about known unsafe areas.

For women applying for new housing, consider which areas are 'unsafe' and may place you at risk of the perpetrator discovering your new location. If you know where he lives or spends a lot of time, you could either request exemptions if you are applying for government or supported housing from those areas or just don’t look in those areas if you are looking for private rental.