Indigenous women’s lives matter: Reflections on Coronial Inquests into Intimate Partner Homicides

Dr Kyllie Cripps1
1Faculty Of Law, UNSW, Kensington, Australia

In Australia, Indigenous women are more likely to experience violence than any other section of society. In recent years in response to horrific examples of Indigenous women’s deaths, Australian Coronial courts have investigated, wanting to know more about the circumstances that have led to these deaths. This paper critically examined 14 Coronial Court investigations from around Australia, analysing them thematically. The analysis highlighted the differential vulnerability of Indigenous women to intimate partner homicides.  In all the cases reviewed, it was evident that the women’s deaths, in most instances were entirely preventable. Evidence was also presented demonstrating that services including those within the justice system (Police and Department of Corrections) were aware of the women’s heightened risks but were unable to sufficiently coordinate themselves to provide wrap around support to minimise the risk of violence and to maximise the women’s safety. Consequently, putting the women in environments where their deaths were both predictable and inevitable.  The profound system failings at the intersections of law, policy and practice ultimately cost Indigenous women their lives.  This paper firstly, explores the nuances of the Coronial Court findings – demonstrating the similarities and differences present within the cases. Part two, interrogates the reported system failings, and part three considers potential improvements in system integration to prevent future deaths.  The paper concludes recognising that Indigenous women play important valued roles in Indigenous communities, their loss has profound costs and consequences, to honour their memory we must learn from their deaths and improve responses to intimate partner violence.


Kyllie is an Indigenous academic and Scientia Fellow in the Faculty of Law at UNSW. She has worked extensively over the past twenty years in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse within Indigenous communities. Her work has been largely focussed in the following areas: defining and contextualising Indigenous violence; the epidemiology of Indigenous family violence particularly through the quantitative analysis of administrative and national survey data sets; and empirical research reflecting on policy development, service provision and outcomes for Indigenous families and communities experiencing violence.


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