Historic inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women

Historic inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women backed by Senate

Dorinda Cox

Change is afoot to gain justice for missing and murdered Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children with the Australian Senate voting yesterday to hold an inquiry into the crisis.

Marking International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women, Yamatji Noongar woman and Greens Senator for Western Australia Dorinda Cox, tabled a motion to have the Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee investigate and report on missing and murdered First Nation women, receiving unanimous support. Cox had called for the inquiry in her first speech to the Senate in October.

In a statement, the office of Senator Cox said the inquiry was a “necessary” step to ensure Australia properly investigates and addresses “the systemic causes of violence including underlying social, economic, cultural, institutional and historical causes contributing to the ongoing violence and particular vulnerabilities of First Nations women and children”.

A former police officer, Cox said she has heard from countless families left behind, who are devastated by the lack of urgency to get to the bottom of their loved ones’ deaths.

“This is necessary because we have a justice system that does not take seriously the issues of missing and murdered First Nations women and children in this country, so this inquiry will ask those question for those families,” she said.

“It is devastating to hear from families who don’t understand why the system does not take these cases seriously… As a former police officer, I know there is a different urgency into looking for First Nations women and girls.”

“This is linked to family and domestic violence First Nations women face… which is why we want to understand the framework and social issues that lead to these cases so we can do better to understand how to protect these women and children.”

Senator Cox said she knows of 76 missing and murdered First Nations women across the country and the data around those cases are “inconsistent and ad-hoc” between each jurisdiction.

“We need to do better and this is why we need a national inquiry, so we can see the standard of practice and how we can work together to develop better systems. This is a topic that doesn’t get much media attention yet devastates the lives of those broken by it.”

In December 2019 Federal shadow minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney called for a Senate inquiry into violence against Indigenous women, likewise noting the same “lack of urgency” and imploring government to give the crisis “greater attention and consideration”.

“There is certainly a lack of urgency, a lack of recognition of the broader issue of violence in Australia and the amount of women who lose their lives,” she told the ABC at the time.

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