28 March 2023
The statistics are stark and confronting. One in three women globally will experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, most likely inflicted by an intimate partner. And more than 140 million girls and women alive today have experienced female genital cutting.
In this episode of ESG Matters, we look at the causes and risks of violence against women and girls. We highlight the barriers to preventing this, and we look for signs that progress can be made.
Ashurst pro bono lawyers Alison Elliott and Emma Minimbi hear a frontline account from Cindy Torrens, who manages the Throughcare team at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency in the Northern Territory. And they speak with Sean Callaghan from the Orchid Project, who conducts research into female genital cutting and provides data to organisations working to eliminate this practice.
Support is available
If you or someone you know is experiencing family violence, you can contact these organisations for support:
Hello and welcome to ESG Matters at Ashurst. My name is Alison Elliot, and I'm counsel in the Ashurt's Pro Bono Team based in Sydney, Australia. Co-hosting this podcast today is my colleague Emma Minimbi, who is a lawyer and a pro bono consultant. Emma co-manages the Ashurst Pacific Islands Pro Bono Practise from our Port Moresby office in Papua New Guinea. Hi, Emma.
Hi, Alison. Thank you for the lovely introduction. I'm really looking forward to this podcast, so. Yeah, let's get to it.
In Australia, we acknowledge at the start of meetings and gatherings that we are meeting on the country of First Nations people who are part of the oldest continuous living civilization on Earth and who never ceded sovereignty. I would like to pay my respect and acknowledge the traditional custodians of [inaudible 00:00:58] country, the land from which I'm joining this meeting today. I would like to pay my respect to elders both past and present, and to all First Nations people present today.
We are delighted to host this special episode of ESG Matters to mark 25 November: the International Day for the elimination of Violence Against Women 2022, and the 16 days of activism that follow. The theme for this year is Unite: Activism to End Violence against Women and Girls.
In support of this theme, this special episode seeks to raise awareness about the important work being done at the community level to address violence against women and girls. As of 2018, one in three women globally will experience physical or sexual violence during their lifetime, mostly by an intimate partner.
Gender-based violence includes physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and economic violence, perpetrated mainly by men against women and girls. The drivers behind gender-based violence include poverty, gender inequality, and patriarchal structures, stereotypes and gender roles, heteronormativity, cis-normativity, ableism, classism, racism, and the ongoing impact of colonisation. Emma, over to you.
Gender-based violence is a complex issue, and its elimination requires multifaceted approaches. We are privileged to welcome to this podcast representatives working to help eliminate violence against women and girls in different ways and in different parts of the world.
We have Cindy Torrance, who's the manager of the Throughcare Team at the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, NAAJA, in the Northern Territory of Australia. The NAAJA team supports prisoners transitioning from prison to living back in the community with casework, behavioural change programmes, and safety planning to prevent re-offending.
Finally, we have Sean Callaghan, who is the research lead at the Orchid Project in London, United Kingdom. Orchard Project conducts research into female genital cutting, and provides data to frontline organisations working to eliminate this practise.
Now let's start with Cindy from NAAJA. Could you please tell us more about the aims of NAAJA's Throughcare and Homeless Programmes, and what activities they involve?
Sure. NAAJA's Throughcare Programmes are a voluntary service providing strength-based case management support to Aboriginal Torres Strait Island to men, women, and children in prison or in detention in the Northern Territory. The key aim of the programme is to reduce recidivism and keep communities safe. NAAJA's Throughcare started in 2009 and 2018, '19 extended down into Central Australia to incorporate the Kunga Stopping Violence programme and another throughcare Office, which regionalized the service to ensure equal access to pre and post-release support for Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory.
This ensured consistent service delivery to people moving between the Northern Territories, Prison, and Youth Justice systems. The Kunga Stopping Violence Programme is a little bit different to the main Throughcare programme in that it delivers a four-week course to incarcerated women at the Alice Springs Correctional Centre. In this course, women are allowed to build trust and gain insight, skills, and confidence through the delivery of a trauma-informed violence prevention model, which was initially developed by Professor Judy Atkinson consultation with the Kunga Stopping Violence Programme. As at 2019, that programme or that course within the Alice Springs Correctional Centre is delivered solely by aboriginal women.
The Orchid Project conducts research into female genital cutting practise globally. Sean, could you tell us a bit about how and where female genital cutting is practised?
Thanks, Alison. Yeah, key to the research is the fact that FGM is not uniform, takes several different forms, which WHO categorise into four different types, and it happens at various different ages from just after birth in places like Indonesia and Nigeria all the way through to mid to late teens in places like Tanzania and Kenya. It's estimated that about 200 million women and girls are living with FGM globally. Some of those live in countries with really high prevalence rates like Somalia or Egypt or the ethnic Malay community across Southeast Asia where almost all girls are cut and others live in countries where it's much lower prevalence. But huge populations like Nigeria, Indonesia, and Ethiopia. FGM's also prevalent in migrant populations around the world with significant numbers in the Middle East Europe and the US, for example, where more than half a million women are affected. In fact, the research shows that FGM affects communities in over 90 countries around the world.
And what sort of data do you collect, and who uses this data?
We curate two types of data, situational data. Our country reports bring together data like prevalence and age of cutting and type of cutting, geographic distribution, et cetera. But we also create, so what data? We're looking at trends in the prevalence and combining that population growth data, noting shifts in age and type of cutting, exploring why communities cut, what beliefs underpin the practise in a particular community, what policies and programming is working to shift their practise and also document the legal and legislative frameworks in a particular country and how those can most effectively be applied to the practise. That data is used by local organisations and activists as well as global NGOs and donors and governments to guide and inform the interventions.
Cindy, how do you see the Kunga Centre care programmes working towards eliminating violence against women and the communities in which you work?
So the job of the Kungas and the Throughcare programmes in the Northern Territory are delivering pre and post-release case management support. So the first part of our work commences in the pre-release phase. So two of our case managers in the top end are domestic violence or DV specific case managers. So the work that they do, they actually sit alongside participants and co-facilitate a psychoeducational programme within the Darwin Correctional Centre. The importance of that is that we're able to learn what our clients are learning. A lot of the people that we work with have very limited numeracy and literacy skills. So we have to start from the start in supporting the aboriginal people that we do in making sure that they are able to understand some of the things that we are wanting to make relevant into life back in community. Anybody can sit through a prison based programme, but making it relevant to real life situations outside of the prison in a post-release situation is imperative in working with people who have offences relating to violence.
So the way that we work with people in this space is supporting them, pre-release but that process, that phase of our work also allows us to engage with family and community back home prior to them coming back home from prison. So that gives us the opportunity to see where they intend to return to, whether or not they're actually welcome there and how we mitigate risk of somebody returning to community, especially if they've been in jail for a long time. A lot of cases they've been sentenced to periods for over longer than six months, which means that their offending is at the more serious end of the scale in terms of violent offending. So yeah, we need to see where they're going back to if they're welcome and what we can do to address any risk. And a lot of the communities that our people are going back to are very remote, which means that we have to sometimes identify what supports are available to them, where mainstream services don't exist.
So the other thing with a lot of the folks that we support are going back to communities where there's not a full-time police presence where there's no safe housing for women to stay safe. So our work in that space is around how we address safety. We also live in a tropical climate, so most of the year or four to six months of the year we're affected by the weather. A lot of the communities are cut off in that period of time, so we have to ensure that there are plans in place as to how someone's going to keep themselves safe in the absence of an immediate police presence. So that might be relying on family who are able to keep somebody safe, talking to them about whether or not there's locks on doors, if they've got credit in phones, if they've got adequate mobile coverage, all of those really important things that a lot of folks don't necessarily think about when they're planning for situations like this.
A lot of folks that we support also are defendants in domestic violence orders. So making sure that the people that we work or engage with understand what the rules are of that order and how long that order is in enforce, so ensuring that they understand the consequences of breaching those orders as well. So helping them to work out strategies, I guess, to avoid breaching any of those orders and where they might be able to go locally for some support. It might be talking to a family member. It might mean deescalating and going for a walk around the block, but things like that are really, really important in encouraging people to think about how they deescalate themselves in the absence of supports or in the absence of police and keeping at the forefront of their minds and what their responsibility is in keeping communities safe and keeping women and children safe.
Thank you, Cindy. That sounds like very important and practical work. We would now like to hear from each of our speakers on what you each see as the biggest barrier to ending violence against women in the work that you do. Cindy, can we start again with you?
Sure. The biggest gap in service that we have in the top end of the Northern Territory is the lack of culturally appropriate perpetrator or behaviour change programmes. A culturally appropriate programme does not exist in the top end. Central Australia have an excellent men's behavioural change programme, which is run by Tangentyere council. And again, anybody can sit through a prison based programme, but these are mainstream programmes. They're five days in length, so there's not a whole lot that we can expect will come from those except for really basic strategies, which is what we need in terms of how we support people. Going back to community. They may be really, really basic strategies, but they're what we've got to rely on at the moment and making those strategies applicable to the folks that we work with. And capacity building, individual capacity building is the way that I see us supporting people to reduce violence in that it's one person at a time. It's really that simple, I think, for us.
And for you, Sean.
Violence is so normal in so many societies, and we have to challenge the social norm. We have to challenge the gender norm. We have to challenge the denigration of women. Bottom line, men have to change. Society has to change, and until we do that, I just don't see a reduction.
It's clear that there is so much work to do to end violence against women and girls. It'd be great to hear from our speakers about what gives you hope in the work that you each do. Sean, what about you?
I think two things for me, when I see those norms changing, when I see people changing, and then the local partners, the amazing activists that I get to work with, they're the people that give me hope.
Thank you Sean, and Cindy.
The things that give me hope are education, educating the people that we work with about their own trauma and how that's affected them in their lives, and to hopefully reduce the effects on their own children. The other thing that gives me absolute hope is that our programme is voluntary, which means people work with us because they want to, and we work very much on a cycle of behavioural change. So we have that opportunity to engage as often as we need to, and we're there when somebody's ready to make a change in their lives. The beauty of the work that we do is, yeah for me, it's the most important job in the world. We get to see Aboriginal Torres Strait Island, the people at their absolute best when they're out of prison back in community. We're so privileged to do this work, and we get to see the most beautiful parts of the country in the work that we do in our pre-release work, and we're just so privileged.
Thank you to all of our panellists today for your valuable contributions. What we've heard today is that eliminating gender-based violence is complex and multifaceted. Gender inequality and gender-based violence occurs in all communities globally and across all socioeconomic groups. Listening and learning about these issues is a crucial first step to get involved. You might also build a capacity of people managers in your organisation to respond to gender-based violence or contact community organisations local to your businesses or home to find out about ways to get involved.
Thanks, Emma. If you would like to find out more about any of the organisations we have featured on the panel today, check out the show notes to this podcast. And if you or anyone you know is experiencing family violence, you can contact organisations for support. These include in Australia, calling 1-800-RESPECT or 1-800-737-732, in the UK, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 08-08-2000-247.
And a final thank you to our audience for listening to this edition of Ashurst's ESG Matters podcasts. To hear more of Ashurst's podcasts, please visit ashurst.com/podcast and to ensure you don't miss future episodes, please feel free to subscribe on your favourite podcast platform. While you're there, feel free to leave us a review or rating. Thanks very much for listening, and goodbye for now.
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