Senate debates

Wednesday, 10 May 2023

Statements by Senators

First Nations Australians

1:43 pm

Photo of Dorinda CoxDorinda Cox (WA, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

Today I want to use my two minutes to talk about the ongoing Senate inquiry into missing and murdered First Nations women and children, which was first established in 2021. Since its establishment the committee has carefully considered how to move through this process with much care. It's not your average committee inquiry and nor should it be. We have moved slowly so we can take the necessary steps to ensure that families and communities feel that they have a safe space for this much-needed and difficult yarn.

Two weeks ago members of this inquiry sat down for a day and a half of hearings in Perth, on Whadjuk Noongar country, where we heard from families right across my home state of Western Australia about their experiences of racism, police neglect, lack of support services, and under-reporting in the media. We closed the hearings with a yarning circle and smoking ceremony.

In particular, I want to highlight the case of one young child, whose mother was the victim of family and domestic violence. In this instance, when police were called to the scene, she was treated as the criminal. In fact, she was arrested, alongside her father, whilst her abuser left free. Her abuser abducted her child, and police ignored the victim's father's concerns about the baby's safety. Shortly after, the baby was found in a roadhouse some 900 kilometres away, after being tortured, and tragically died shortly after.

This is one of the tragic and heartbreaking stories we heard as part of this inquiry's proceedings. I want to thank each of the families for taking the time to come together and talk to the committee. I recognise that it is not easy to relive such horrific events, but it's so important that we, as senators, hear these stories firsthand and connect with these families so that we can all fight for better outcomes for First Nations women and children. I want to acknowledge my committee members—the chair, Senator Scarr; the deputy chair, Senator Green; Senator Shoebridge; and Senator McLachlan—who joined us for this.