Understanding Indigenous Women’s Domestic and Family Violence Deaths through Coronial Court Records – Reflecting on enduring harms and emerging challenges
Dr Kyllie Cripps1
1School of Law, Society & Criminology, Law & Justice, UNSW, Kensington, Australia
In Australia, available data tells us that Indigenous homicide victims are killed more often than not by people known to them and that Indigenous women are more likely to be killed by their intimate partners. But little detail is publicly known outside of isolated media engagement about the lives of the Indigenous women who have been killed, the nature of the violence that they endured, who the offender was and how they were held accountable for the harms they inflicted, or indeed any kind of reflection on the systems that were or weren’t involved in their lives that may have helped to prevent the escalating harm and subsequent death. Whilst each Australian jurisdiction have processes for reviewing individually and collectively domestic violence related deaths they are challenged in saying anything substantive about Indigenous deaths by the small number of deaths each year in their individual jurisdictions. This research paper overcomes that challenge by reporting on an Australian national study of coronial records spanning the period 2000-2020 for 160 Indigenous women’s domestic and family violence deaths. The analysis highlights the differential vulnerability of Indigenous women to intimate partner homicides. This paper firstly, explores the nuances of accessing Coronial Court records to understand Indigenous women’s DFV deaths. Part two, reports the findings of the study – who are the victims, what kind of harms did they endure, what do we know of the offenders, and have they been held accountable. Part three reflects on our early findings as to systems engagement for preventing deaths. The paper concludes recognizing that Indigenous women play important valued roles in Indigenous communities, their loss has profound costs and consequences, to honor their memory we must learn from their deaths and improve responses to intimate partner violence, this research is a stepping stone towards achieving that aim.
Dr Kyllie Cripps is a Palawa woman, Scientia Fellow and Senior Lecturer. She has worked extensively with Indigenous communities for over 20 years in the areas of family violence, sexual assault and child abuse. She has led several major grants in these areas and contributed to the evidence base through empirical studies that have defined violence on Indigenous terms, identified the factors contributing to violence, as well as examined Indigenous peoples’ access and availability to services in the aftermath of violence. Her work has also identified critical gaps in current responses, supported community solutions and policy and practice change.