Communities and Justice

I'm Aboriginal and experiencing domestic and family violence

When someone close to you hurts you, or uses violence or other ways to force you to do things you don’t want to do this is called domestic and family violence.

In Aboriginal communities it’s usually called “family violence” because extended family is often as close to you as a spouse and immediate kin.

The person hurting you could be your husband, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend or an ex or a brother, sister, mum or dad, cousin or extended family or kin.

Family violence in Aboriginal communities is not part of traditional culture yet it happens to Aboriginal women – and men too – at a much higher rate than to non-Aboriginal women and men.

The impact of things like colonisation, disadvantage, breakdown of kinship and culture and the removal of children from their families over generations and the resulting trauma have all played a part in what’s happening today. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with family violence.

The violence is not your fault. The person committing the violence is responsible for their behaviour – not you.

It's not just women's business

Aboriginal women face particular challenges in recognising and reporting abuse. You may:

  • not want to dob in a member of your mob
  • feel ashamed about what is going on
  • fear that the violence will get worse if you report it
  • worry that dealing with gunjies and the courts could mean losing control over your life
  • be scared about losing your children and or becoming homeless

The booklet, Our Dream – Stopping the Violence offers a lot of great advice and some good reminders including that:

  • domestic and family violence is a community problem, not just women's business
  • domestic and family violence is a crime
  • it's not your job to protect violent men
  • you can leave your man without leaving your mob

Teens and young women may also find this video, 'Young Black Chicks talk about safety relationships' worth a look. It's from the Indigenous Women's Legal Program Facebook page

Family violence doesn’t usually stop on its own so asking for help could be the best option for you and your kids. You have the right to feel safe and to be treated with respect by all the people in your life.

What is family violence?

Domestic and family violence is:

  • when someone makes you afraid of them
  • when someone roughs you up - punching, slapping, kicking, chocking, hair pulling
  • when someone destroys things you own or hurts your pets
  • when someone makes you have sex with them and you don’t want to
  • when someone calls you names and makes you feel bad about yourself
  • when someone says they ’ll hurt you or pretends to throw things at you
  • when someone won’t leave you alone and follows you everywhere
  • when someone keeps calling you on the phone or comes to your house when you’ve asked them not to
  • when someone won’t let you see your mob or let you leave the house
  • when someone won’t give you money to buy food and spends it all on themselves
  • when someone forces you to hand over money or possessions

Sometimes we don't know what a respectful relationship is like. We put up with abuse thinking it's normal.

Signs of a healthy relationship include feeling respected, safe, able to talk openly and even disagree with someone, like you are in control of decisions about your money, body, relationships and that you're free to follow your cultural practices, religion or spiritual beliefs.

What you can do

Talk to someone who understands

You can talk to a trained counsellor at a support service about how you feel and what you’re experiencing. They will listen to you and won’t judge you.

You can also talk to them about whether you want to leave the relationship or stay, or whether or not your man is the sort of bloke who would go to counselling himself – but counselling won’t work for you and your man if he doesn’t believe that what he is doing is wrong. Here are some support services you can call:

NSW Domestic Violence Line

The NSW Domestic Violence Line is free and open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for women and people who identify as female.

The trained counsellors understand the particular needs of Aboriginal women whether they live in the city or a rural or remote area. They know what you are going through and will listen and help without judging you.

DV Line counsellors can help you find a place to go and arrange transport for you and your kids to get there. They will tell you about other services too and can even help you contact police or a lawyer if you want.

If you are an Aboriginal man, NSW Domestic Violence Line staff will refer you to services for men. Or you can visit our page, I am a man experiencing domestic and family violence.

Aboriginal Contact Line

The Victims Services Aboriginal Contact Line is a confidential phone service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced family violence, sexual assault or any violent crime. It’s open Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm except on public holidays.

Aboriginal Contact Line - 1800 019 123
Open Monday to Friday between 8 am and 6 pm except on public holidays

Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer

If you decide to go to the police about a sexual assault, you can ask to speak with an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer or an Aboriginal support person in your local area.

Child Protection Helpline

If you suspect your child has been sexually assaulted, you can contact the Child Protection Helpline run by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) to make a report. If you would like to speak to someone in person, you can go your local DCJ Community Services Centre where arrangements can be made for you to talk to an Aboriginal Caseworker.

Child Protection Helpline - 13 21 11


If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or questioning (LGBTIQ+) and experiencing domestic and family violence, there is a range of support services available. Read more in I am LGBTIQ+.

Get help finding a place to stay

The staff at Link2Home can help find you somewhere to stay for up to 2 nights but will also tell you who to call to find a longer term place to stay. It is a free service.

Link2Home - 1800 152 152
24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Aboriginal DCJ staff work at the Housing Contact Centre Aboriginal Enquiry Line Monday to Friday. They can help you with your housing and rental issues. If an Aboriginal staff member is not available when you ring, you can leave a message and they will call you back as soon as they can. However, you can choose to talk to a non-Aboriginal staff member.

Housing Contact Centre Aboriginal Enquiry Line - 1800 422 322

Get an AVO: stopping the person abusing you

You can get an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order known as an ADVO or just AVO to stop a partner, ex-partner, or other person close to you from hurting you, harassing you or even from coming near you. You can do this by going to court or to the police.

If you decide to apply at court, you can get an interim AVO to protect you until court. An AVO is not a criminal charge but breaching an AVO is an offence.

The Wirringa Baiya Aboriginal Women’s Legal Centre has a factsheet explaining what’s involved in getting AVOs or you can talk to them by phoning:

If you do go to court to get an AVO, the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Services (WDVCAS) can provide lots of support. This includes explaining what’s involved in getting an AVO and helping you talk to your lawyer and the gunjies. They can also find a safe place for you to wait at court and, where possible, arrange for an Aboriginal support worker to be with you. The brochure Break your silence, Stop the violence explains a bit more.

The police can apply for an AVO for you. To help you feel more comfortable, the police can arrange for you to speak with an Aboriginal Community Liaison Officer or find an Aboriginal support person in your local area.

Police non-emergency line - 13 14 44 

Get legal help

You can receive free and confidential legal information and referrals from the staff at the Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line. The service specialises in family violence, sexual assault, parenting issues, family law, discrimination and victim’s support.

This service is part of the Indigenous Women’s Legal Program that delivers legal services in a respectful and culturally appropriate manner.

Indigenous Women’s Legal Contact Line
02 8745 6977
1800 639 784
Mondays, Tuesday and Thursdays, 10 am to 12.30pm

For more services, look under Aboriginal community in the DV legal contacts list.

Last updated:

31 May 2023